Live from the launch: Saab 9-5


It's intriguing times at Saab at the moment. The company has emerged from the quagmire of GM's ownership with a fresh-faced optimism that its new master can return the Swedish brand to the idiosyncratic roots that made it such a popular niche choice with people tired of the standard executive fare.

Spyker, the Dutch sports car maker has kicked off its reign by returning manufacturing to the highly efficient Trollhattan plant, and instigating an ambitious business plan to return the firm to profit.

Saab's head of PR and marketing described the process as starting a car company with a blank sheet of paper. However, before the blue sky thinking can begin, the manufacturer has the critical job of launching its new 9-5 – the final legacy of the GM era, and arguably the most important Saab in a decade.

The new car has been a long time coming (its predecessor is 13 years old) and looked like it may not make it onto the road at all when the axe hung precariously over Saab's head, but it's here now, and, boy, is it big.

The 9-5 uses the long wheelbase version of the same platform which underpins the Insignia and it lends the car some serious heft. The saloon lines up against the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A6 in terms of price, but is significantly larger than both.

This gives the 9-5 an old fashioned, 'bigger is better' kind of presence. The styling is chunkier and less delicate than its competitors, and should earn some admirers prepared to forgive its slightly awkward proportions.

Inside there is the usual Saab dash, square-jawed like a boxer, and beneath it enough matt black plastic to shame a Curry's superstore. It's presentable enough and feels hardy to touch, but the 9-5 falls short of the premium quality exuded by the Germans.

It's comfortable enough, though, and the car's high waistline and low windows make you feel a little more keyed in to the experience than you otherwise might in such a big car. In the back, there's legroom to spare and hidden within that not insubstantial rump is a predictably large boot.

Saab may have finally dispensed with a metal key, but diehard supporters of the brand will be pleased to hear that the new starter button can still be found next to your thigh on the centre console.

Come back tomorrow to find out what happen when we pushed it.