For 23 years, Saab's problem was that General Motors was trying to boost popularity for a brand whose equity hinged on its appeal to a small circle who like it for being rare and different. Now that a much smaller, even more idiosyncratic automaker, Spyker Cars NV, has bought and resuscitated Saab, it faces an equally perplexing problem. How do you convince loyal customers you're the idiosyncratic company you once were and offer up as proof your latest flagship, a model designed and developed during the GM years?
The car Saab
is counting on to relaunch the brand at its product-starved dealerships, more than 200 of them in the U.S., is built on GM's Epsilon II architecture. The top-of-the-range SAAB AERO
XWD (all-wheel drive) is the launch model and features a GM-supplied 2.8-liter turbo V-6 under its hood. If you're one of those loyal Saab
buyers, don't let the GM connection dissuade you. This is not a SAAB 9 7X
or Saabaru 9-2x, two recent SOBFIs-Saabs Only By Floor Ignitions.Replacing a SAAB 9 5
that was on the market for 13 long years, the new 9-5's high-tech features include keyless entry with a pushbutton start, which makes its placement on the floor symbolic, as you can't impale yourself on a push button.
Other modern, high-tech features include trizone climate control, lane-departure warning, 11-speaker harmon/kardon audio with 5.1 surround-sound, rear entertainment with two eight-inch DVD screens, a head-up display, and a parking assist system that doesn't steer for you. It uses lasers to find a street parking space at least one meter (about three feet) longer than the car and indicates when the driver has turned the wheel far enough while backing in. Sounds neat, though there was no opportunity to try that at the car's launch near Saab's hometown of Trollhätten, Sweden.