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The Saab brand is hoping for a major lift with the new 9-5, pitching it against luxury rivals like the Audi A6, BMW 5-series, Mercedes E-class and Volvo S80.
Saab says the 9-5 is the "flagship car" that signals the arrival of a slew of products, which includes a 9-4x, revised 9-3 and even a 9-1 due around 2013.
The car is pitched against the Audi A6, thanks to research showing that model as the second choice for prospective 9-5 buyers. Saab has matched the popular German car for CO2 emissions, with a 139g/km model, meaning 19% benefit-in-kind tax. CO2 reduction will continue through the car's lifecycle says Saab.
The most popular fleet model will be a 2.0-litre TiD 159hp model with manual and automatic sales equal. The manual offers a respectable 53.2mpg and a 139g/km CO2 figure. Be warned if you fancy the auto - CO2 climbs to 179g/km and economy drops to 41.5mpg.
Trims have been kept simple, partly in a bid to strengthen RVs. There is the more basic Vector SE and the top-end Aero, and that's it. Saab has made sure all cars have good specification, so the business driver's preference, the Vector SE, has iPod/MP3 player integration, front and rear parking sensors and heated front seats as standard.
Boot space appears ample yet is far from sector-topping. The Volvo S80 comes last with 422 litres, while the 9-5 falls just short of the BMW 5-series with 515 litres and 520 litres respectively. Audi A6 wins with 546 litres.
Costs are not yet available for the 9-5 but against other competitors the favoured 5-series remains the logical choice.
Next year, around 3500 9-5s are set to be sold in the UK, with 60% in the business car sector. Fleet boss Paul Adler says the segment is "dominated by user choosers" so "there is sufficient scope in the marketplace for Saab to co-exist with other premium brands."
The car certainly stands out against its German rivals. It's notably bigger than its predecessor (launched no less than 13 years ago!) and gives the air of a stylish executive car with a difference. Cabin space is ample and interior quality is good - maybe not as good as the Germans but up there nonetheless. Considering its 1725kg weight, the 9-5 rides and steers happily, and the emphasis is on comfort. Suspension is good (on Swedish roads at least), the manual gearbox is a positive and the diesel engine is quiet-ish.
So there are a lot of reasons to consider this car. It will be an uphill struggle to convince buyers to have confidence in Saab again, but get over this hurdle and the niche 9-5 could be a serious contender to the German segment dominators.