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2011 Saab 9-5

Anyone who follows the auto industry realizes this is one column which very nearly didn’t get written. As General Motors left its Swedish Saab division swinging in the wind for months while trying to decide what to do with it, different suitors came and went. Finally, at what was probably five minutes past zero hour, the Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker came along and rescued Saab from the abyss which had already swallowed Pontiac and Saturn (and which would soon also claim Hummer).

And now we have the first new model since the Spyker takeover. If you’re disappointed it doesn’t look like anything else Spyker sells, that’s because it was in the GM pipeline long before the sale. Had GM elected to hang on to Saab, we’d still be looking at the same new 9-5 that we are now. But that’s not a bad thing at all.

I last drove a Saab 9-5 in 2002. Looking back on that column I noticed I used the same headline as I did this week. And that’s one of the few things which haven’t changed from the last 9-5, which was in production for 13 years. The first thing I thought to myself as I walked up to the test car at Cappellino’s Saab dealership in Williamsville, was it seemed bigger than the old model. Checking the specs, it’s almost seven inches longer and three inches wider, with a 5.3 inch longer wheelbase. Still, it’s not huge. But climbing into the black leather driver’s seat of my Aero Cross-Wheel drive test car (more on that in a bit), I was impressed with the interior space. That seat, in perforated leather, had enough adjustments to suit most any driver. Yay! All of the controls are comfortably within reach, and they all make sense without having to get out the book. I must admit I found myself fascinated with the speedometer—all three of them: the usual round dial in front of the driver; a head’s-up display on the lower windshield; and an electronic drum-type readout in the center pod in front of the driver. The seat was firm yet very comfy, with high sides to hold you in place on those twisty roads you’re sure to go looking for to put the turbo through its paces. Like I did. I’m no speed demon, but I do get a kick out of knowing I can punch the gas pedal and get a “wow” response, and the 9-5 doesn’t disappoint. The Aero comes standard with a 2.8-liter V-6 Turbo which puts out 300 horsepower. (The base Turbo model has a four-cylinder, 220-horsepower turbo.) I also had a neat turbo gauge on the right side of the instrument cluster to amuse me on my drive.

Although I usually find myself in the front seat, I do care about my passengers, which is why you’ll always see me climbing in the rear seats to check the room back there. Even with the driver’s seat pushed back for my six-foot frame, I had room to stretch out in the back, with plenty of head room, too. The middle of the back seat has a pass-through to the trunk for skis, yard sale finds, or the occasional two-by-four.

I missed last week’s snow storm by a day for my test drive, but maybe I might have enjoyed it then. The Aero comes standard with Saab’s Cross-Wheel Drive system, which senses traction in wet and snowy conditions, and also can send more torque to the rear wheels on dry, twisting roads for better cornering. The Aero, in addition, comes with an electronically controlled rear limited-slip differential, which can shift torque between the two rear wheels.

What does one pay for all of this? The test car, with a base price of $49,565 was optioned out to $55,175 including delivery charge. (The Turbo starts at $38,525.) It was well worth the wait.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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