2010 Saab 9-5 Aero XWD


The new 2010 Saab 9-5 Aero is as comfortable to drive as relaxing in the cozy confines of an IKEA Poäng chair. (Go on: pretend you don’t have one.) Unfortunately, with a base price of $49,165, this Swedish luxury sedan happens to be priced more like seats designed by Messrs. Eames and Saarinen. What you get with the Saab 9-5 Aero is a 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 engine, Saab’s all-wheel-drive system (XWD), 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters and, not surprisingly, some really comfy seats. Thankfully, wooden pegs and an Allen key are not included.

saab-9-5-2010-front_scr.jpgThat’s good to know, since you wouldn’t want to screw up the slick exterior of the 9-5. This is one seriously handsome car, and it should inspire plenty of customers to visit a Saab dealership for the first time. The cabin is equally uncluttered, though perhaps a little too empty looking for some people. I personally like the faux jet-fighter ambiance which, at best, brings to mind Saab’s roots in aviation. At worst, the dash is too dark, and could do with a few more bits of aluminum trim to liven things up.

The sports seats in the 9-5 Aero are phenomenally supportive and brilliantly designed. A little less inspired was the decision to place the chrome-ringed ‘Night Panel’ button high up and in the center of the dash. This otherwise cool little feature darkens everything but essential gauges during night driving. The only problem: I kept mistaking it for the starter-button which, true to Saab tradition, resides between the two front seats. With time, this wouldn’t be a hassle. Yet during a test drive by the uninitiated, some buyers might be turned off by the car’s quirks.

1205337_scr.jpgLike it or not, the Saab 9-5 remains a quirky car at heart. Friends of mine who happen to be devoted Saab fans shunned me for using the “Q-word” when describing the driving experience. “It’s not quirky, it’s a Saab”, they protested. Ironically, the new 9-5 was designed and engineered while General Motors was still in charge of the brand. Having been purchased earlier this year by Netherlands-based Spyker Cars, Saab has to appease its fan-base while drawing in new buyers. This is why the 9-5 rides such a fine line in a very crowded luxury car market.

The 300 horsepower V6 provided ample torque (295 pound-feet) when passing slower traffic, though so do the V6 engines in many cheaper family sedans. Saab estimates the Aero’s 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time at 6.9 seconds, which is peppy but not pulse-quickening fast. There is very little engine noise and the 6-speed automatic did well to keep up with my driving demands, especially when quickly switching from aggressive driving to a leisurely pace. The ride was nicely controlled, yet the brakes could use a firmer bite when really pushing hard on them.

1205334_scr.jpgA dial on the center console controls Saab’s “DriveSense,” which permits the driver to choose from three different chassis settings: Comfort, Sport, or Intelligent mode, which matches itself to your driving characteristics. I opted for the firmer ride and heavier steering of Sport mode for the majority of my time behind the wheel. The Aero also comes standard with all wheel-drive (XWD), ventilated front and rear disc brakes, ABS, traction control, stability control, front and side airbags, rollover sensors, and anti-whiplash front head restraints. Safety has always been a big part of Saab’s legacy, and the 9-5 is no exception.

One feature I loved is Saab’s “U-Rail” rear cargo divider. This sliding metal gate helps sectionalize the spacious 18.2 cubic foot trunk, allowing you to keep delicate cargo safe from heavier items. You’d probably also want to include the optional navigation system with eight-inch screen, CD/DVD player, and 40GB hard drive with MP3 playback – though this adds more than $2-grand to the price. If you want the handsome looks of the 9-5, but can live without the power of the turbo V6, a cheaper front-wheel-drive 9-5 is available. For $38,800, the base model comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

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