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Drew Dowdell

2011 Saab 9-5 post show event

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SAAB Post Show Event

Only about half of any major auto show actually takes place on the convention center floor. To get a closer look at the action journalists are usually invited to after show events. I attended one such even hosted by Saab to show off more of the new 2011 Saab 9-5.

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The Car:

Before I get to any event details, let me talk about the car. The new 9-5 is simply stunning in person. It has a silhouette and roofline unlike anything else on the road today, yet it is instantly recognizable as a Saab. The interior feels at once retro 60's chic and ultra modern at the same time. While you can pick out the GM Epsilon II parts if you look closely, anyone unfamiliar with the platform won't notice any resemblance. Being that it does ride on GM's Epsilon II, it shares some of those strengths and weaknesses. The rear seat area is just as roomy as a Buick Lacrosse and slightly more comfortable with firm seats. The low roof edge and too large A-Pillar complaints remain. However, in the 9-5, the A-pillar actually curves towards you. It's a bit unnerving at first, but I'm sure with time behind the wheel it'll grow on you. I didn't get a chance to drive it, but you can be sure that as soon as it makes it into the press fleet, we'll have our name on the list.

The Speeches:

The event took place at Cooper's Classic Cars in New York. Below are my notes from the speeches.

First Speaker Mike Colleran:

Dealers in the U.S. are getting resupplied again. 9-5 is two weeks into production and a little ahead of schedule. Looking to be a little be more unique, a little bit more adventurous, a little bit more Saab. Next new car is the 9-4x, very important car for Saab, then the 9-5 Combi, and then the 2012 all new 9-3. Says there are pros and cons of being in a big organization like GM. Saab had access to leading edge technology, but had a 13 year old 9-5 and 8 year old 9-3.

Adrian Hallmark - Sales Director: Thirty years ago, Saab and Audi were in the same position. Looking at where Audi is today is where the potential of Saab lies. We will close the gap between Audi and Saab.

Third Speaker: Victor Muller - Chairman: Calls himself a car guy. Why would anyone else want to buy Saab when no one else would want it? "I was infected with Saabs when I was a kid. I lived over the Saab importer in Amsterdam. Fast forward to today. There was a perfect storm when GM was forced to reduce it's brands at the same time when no other companies were in a position to buy Saab." We bought Saab for the price of a wind tunnel. Other manufacturers are much more willing share technology these days, this is how Saab will remain independent. Saab is in a great position to become quickly profitable. Goal for cash profitability is 120k cars by 2012. Financially, Saab assumes that sales will level off, however, that doesn't take into account entry into new markets like Russia, China, Middle East, and Brazil. Spyker is used to producing cars with a premium feel. Saab will get much more premium feeling. In just two and a half years, today's 9-5 will be the oldest model in the lineup. The 9-3 will be more "explicit". Saab really needs a 9-2. Will be a tear drop shape with all the quirkiness that makes it a Saab.

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Given the investment, I still think SAAB should have been kept.

In one way I agree as a Muller as a SAAB fan browbeating of GM for neglecting SAAB but on the other hand he should think twice before doing that because if the 9-5 was the current/old turd bucket, 9-4x not even planned and 9-3 not on the drawing board if GM did not invest any in the past few years, did SAAB have a future that Muller envisions? I think Muller would have let SAAB off his hands like a hot potato.

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I saw and climbed around the 9-5 at LAIAS, and it truly is a work of art. This car is the single reason why I was so passionate for SAAB to live on, regardless of who were to own it. SAAB and America deserve this car to be on sale because it is simply fantastic, and I also cannot wait to test drive it.

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I saw and touched and looked in the 9-5 at the local autoshow.

Styling wise, it s unique. I think it lacks some presence, but that is seeing it stationary. Some vehicles take on a different presence in motion from a distance. The 9-5 might be one of those vehicles.

I guess ultimately it makes sense for a Scandinavian car to not shout 'look at me'. While I may prefer more dramatic styling, it is possible th design will remain fresh longer, and it is unmistakable as a Saab.

I like the 9-5 but it is slightly anonymous. It may not give the aura of a lux car and that may hinder it's ability to get higher transaction prices. The lack of a stick hurts. I think the center stack controls and buttons needs a redo. But other than that, I really like the 9-5.

To comment on the a pillar and visibility. I drove the lacrosse. The a pillar is brought forward quite a bit. While it obstructs your forward view in your line of sight you are used to, you adjust. What you gain in return is a wider field of vision out the front part of the side window. It's a bit of a wash. I thought it was cool to see things out the side window I had never seen before. I think a driver can adjust.

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Given the investment, I still think SAAB should have been kept.

GM didn't have the money nor the culture to manage something other than volume. I agree with the comparison between Audi and SAAB 30 years ago. Had GM nurtured SAAB the same way VW has nurtured Audi over the last 30 years, and who knows where SAAB would be today?

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Easily the best expression of SAAB DNA since GM acquired the brand. And simply the finest Epsilon II platform vehicle we've seen. A beauty.

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I'm glad to hear yet another glowing review.

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