Live from the launch: Saab 9-5 on the road


Despite sitting on new seats in front of a different dash atop a modified chassis, the 9-5 does feel remarkably like the Vauxhall Insignia in the first few hundred yards of road, as we said in our first blog on the new Saab.

Saab will shudder at that comparison, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. If nothing else the Insignia must have made a decent template for the manufacturer's engineers to tinker with.

The 9-5's suspension has been retuned and it returns a slightly more comfortable ride than its GM sibling. It's not class-leading (it feels worst on dodgy town road surfaces) but thanks to better refinement it makes long journeys a breeze.

We drove several different versions of the 9-5, including the 157bhp 2.0-litre TiD diesel, the 216bhp 2.0-litre petrol and the range topping 296bhp 2.8T XWD.

The latter adds Saab's upgraded all-wheel drive sports chassis, but subtracts some of the standard car's agility thanks to the extra weight. The turbocharged engine is smooth and willing, but frankly we preferred the bite and flexibility of the smaller petrol engine.

Of course the oil burner is likely to be the biggest seller, and it doesn't let the side down. It might be slower than the rest but it hauls the saloon's bulky 1,725kg body around in satisfactory manner and is capable of up to 53mpg.

It's tempting to summarise the 9-5 as a big Insignia with better sound deadening, but that would severely understate Saab's efforts. They have succeeded in making a very large car feel poised and manageable, and the enhanced sense of comfort is welcomed.

However, it's difficult to call the car a step in the right direction. There is too much GM DNA in the blood to make the 9-5 special in the way the brand's fans will yearn for it to be, and it isn't good enough to make the German manufacturers flinch.

Think of it this way; the 9-5 is the best car Saab could have hoped to build while suffering the GM hangover. It should prove a rock steady foundation for the new company to build on over the next five years. Where does Saab go from here? Over to you, Spyker.