Saab has always done things its own way, which has been both a blessing and a disadvantage for the Swedish automaker. Owners loved the cars because of their uniqueness, but that uniqueness also made Saab a well kept secret, keeping it out of the mainstream. While other manufacturers have traded unique styling for lower drag coefficients, Saab has managed to combine both in the new 9-5 Sedan and 9-5 Wagon. With its blend of comfort and performance, the 9-5 should be a welcome addition to many executive car fleets looking for something new and distinctive. Since its recent introduction to the U.S. market, the 9-5 has already found its way into several fleets. Walt Disney Co., for example, has already purchased 11 V-6-equipped 9-5s for its executives, and plans to add more. "The response has been phenomenal," said Vicky Dahlquist, senior buyer for Disney, who oversees all vehicle purchases for the company. "The executives I've given them to have been very pleased with it. They like the look; they also like the performance of the 200 horsepower engine." Likewise, Josie Sharp, fleet specialist for Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, is also pleased with the response from the employees who have driven the Saab 9-5 Sedan. "I have a demo vehicle right now that I've given to a couple of people to drive, and they think it's just a phenomenal vehicle," said Sharp. "It's quiet; it handles beautifully; and it's extremely comfortable." For Sharp, the problem isn't getting the Saab 9-5 to the employees; it's getting it back: "The president of one of our divisions, who had the Saab, was transferred back to Paris, and we had to have the car shipped back with him, because he liked it so much; he wanted to keep it." With that type of initial response from fleet administrators and drivers, the Saab 9-5 should break new ground for the company in the fleet business. "The Saab 9-5 and 9-5 Wagon offer versatility and performance for the fleet buyer," said Mitch Kamon, fleet sales manager for Saab. "In addition, the company is also offering aggressive fleet incentives to encourage potential buyers," Kamon added. Saab currently offers a $2,000 incentive on the 9-5 Sedan and Wagon.

Turbocharged Power

Saab engineers started with a clean sheet of paper, designing the 9-5 Sedan and Turbo as completely new vehicles from the chassis up. Changes to the suspension and interior have been significant, but it's the new asymmetric turbocharged engines that really make the 9-5 Sedan and Wagon entirely new vehicles. The Saab 9-5 Ecopower engines are designed to combine responsive performance, low exhaust emissions, and high fuel efficiency. Governed by a 32-bit processor which controls ignition timing, fuel delivery, and turbo boost pressure, both four- and six-cylinder engines are turbocharged to achieve high torque at low and mid range engine speeds. For the driver, this means quick acceleration and strong off-the-line response. The new Saab single-bank turbo 3.0L V-6 is the world's first asymmetric turbocharger design. With four valves per cylinder and dual overhead cams, the asymmetric Turbo V-6 develops 200 hp @ 5,000 rpm, and is matched exclusively with an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission with driver selectable sport, economy, and winter shift modes. The 2.3L Ecopower engine produces 170 hp @ 5,500 rpm and 207 lb. ft. of torque at 1,800 rpm. It is available with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.

Saab's First Wagon in 30 Years

Saab has also introduced a wagon version of the 9-5. Though it shares powerplants and chassis with the 9-5 sedan, the 9-5 Wagon is not an add-on. Unique from the B pillar to the rear, the 9-5 Wagon was planned, designed, and engineered as a wagon from the beginning. The 9-5 Wagon has many unique utility features, such as CargoTracks, its innovative new cargo loading system. In this system, two floor-mounted aluminum rails hold cargo securely in place with one-grip locks and load securing belts. Another feature unique to the 9-5 Wagon is its tailgate illumination system. To make loading and unloading easier in the dark, two lights automatically illuminate the entire loading area, both inside and outside the car, when the tailgate is opened. With 37 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, 72.9 feet with the seats down, the 9-5 has more than ample space for any type of cargo. An optional sliding load floor can support up to 440 lbs.

An Emphasis on Safety

All new Saab models are subjected to more than 40 different crash tests. Only 11 are mandated by government standards. The result is a car that recently received the highest rating of any car tested to date by the European New Car Assessment Program. The 9-5 has a host of safety features and innovations designed to minimize passenger injuries in the event of a collision. The Saab Active Head Restraint (SAHR) is a unique new safety system that reduces the risk of whiplash injuries. This safety feature limits the front seat occupants' head movement during a rear-end collision. The 9-5 also includes new dual-stage head and torso protecting side-impact airbags integrated into the side of the front seatbacks. When activated, the airbags inflate in two stages.

Comfort and Amenities

The interior of the Saab 9-5 is designed with a cockpit feel, which is not surprising considering Saab's aviation background. The night panel function of the dashboard, when engaged, blacks out the instrument panel so that only the speedometer is displayed. This feature allows the driver to focus on the road ahead without the distraction of any unnecessary lights. The ventilation and climate control system on the 9-5 lets the driver control the temperature separately from the passenger's side. The driver's area can be up to five degrees warmer or cooler than the rest of the cabin.