2011 Saab 9-5 Reviews

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Saab 9-5 Sedan earns Top Safety Pick 2011


by RobinM on June 16, 2011


News just in from Saab

The Saab 9-5 Sedan has earned the highest rating for crashworthiness in the United States.  The "Top Safety Pick" is awarded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, www.iihs.org), a research and communications organization funded by auto insurers in the US.

IIHS performs full tests for front impact (offset) and side impact crashes. Seat/head restraints also undergo a simulated rear impact conducted on a sled to assess protection against whiplash injuries and the roof structure tested to assess vehicle rollover protection.

Vehicles are rated as "Good", "Acceptable", "Marginal" or "Poor" in the various categories. To receive the "Top Safety Pick" award, cars must achieve the highest rating in all four categories and should also be fitted with ESP®.

"We are very pleased with the 9-5's performance. IIHS is an independent body and the results of their tests are easily accessible and objective information for car buyers. It is therefore important for us to achieve good results in this type of testing," says Per Lenhoff, Head of Safety Development at Saab Automobile.

"Our main priority, however, will always be to protect real people in real accidents, not just to do well in crash tests. It's the core of our Real-Life Safety philosophy," continues Per Lenhoff.

Saab's Real-Life Safety philosophy is based on the fact that no collision is ever the same. Saab safety engineers continuously study how Saab cars behave in real collisions on public roads. The results of these studies are the basis for continued development of both design and safety solutions in cars as well as of Saab's in-house crash testing methods.

The Saab 9-5 Sedan has already received the highest rating, five stars, in the crash tests conducted by the European New Car Assessment Programme, EuroNCAP.


Update: Here's an image of the 9-5 underneath the IIHS's roof crusher. I'd hate to see the after.


2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo4 Premium Sedan

    Posted on May 18th, 2011 ninarussin No comments

Mid-sized sport sedan with all-turbo engine line-up

By Nina Russin


2011 Saab 9-5 Sedan

Saab is to the Swedish car world what Porsche is to the Germans: a niche manufacturer focused on performance. While Saab shares Volvo's safety focus, the automaker has more specifically targeted driving enthusiasts who enjoy its uniquely Scandinavian designs and small, peppy engines. The 9-5 mid-sized sedan is Saab's bread-and-butter car, appealing to the largest segment of its buyers.

The newest model which rolled out last fall competes against European sport sedans such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. There are four available grades in the United States: two four-cylinder turbo front-wheel drive models, and two all-wheel drive V-6 sedans. All grades come with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection.

The test car is the 9-5 Turbo4 Premium: the more upscale of the four-cylinder grades. A modified two-liter 220 horsepower engine can run on E-85: a renewable fuel.

Base price is $43,435, not including the $825 destination charge. A technology package adds a heads-up display, lane departure warning, xenon headlamps, automatic headlight leveling and park assist ($2490), bringing the price as tested to $46,750.

Aviation heritage meets modern technology


2011 Saab 9-5 Sedan

The 2011 9-5 is based on the Aero styling concept, melding design cues from the classic Saab 900 model with a twenty-first century perspective.

Product planners maintained features unique to Saab based on the automaker's aviation history, beginning with its driver-focused cockpit. The exterior design incorporates traditional Saab features as well, such as its hockey stick beltline, wrap-around headlamps and tail lamps, and a low-slung roof.

Saab's styling department has traditionally utilized lighting inside the vehicle as a design element. The newest 9-5 continues this tradition with a two-panel panoramic sunroof, green-on-black gauges, and the Saab night panel which darkens gauge cluster displays to minimize driver distraction.

As the owner of a 2002 Saab 9-3, I noticed other similarities between my car and the newer model. The ignition button is in the center console, in the same location as the former key slot. The purpose of locating the ignition key away from the steering column was to prevent knee injuries in the event of a collision. Now it's more of a heritage feature.

Air vents have the same knob control as older models, which I think functions particularly well. The seat design is also similar: simple but with excellent lower lumbar support.

Designers have maintained Saab's classic grille design and wrap-around headlamps. The 18-inch wheels on the test car are a nod to modern automotive styling, and also enhance performance.

There are also some obvious departures from former models, which make the current car feel more American in this journalist's opinion than it does Swedish. For example, the greenhouse or glass around the car is rather narrow.
    Narrowing the greenhouse reduces the amount of ambient light which can enter the interior: a decidedly un-Swedish concept. The dual-panel sunroof makes up for this, but it also adds a significant amount of weight as compared to a single pane of glass. Curb weight on the test car is 4150 pounds, which puts it on the heavy side for cars in this vehicle segment.

The D-pillars are thicker and more angular, which gives the car a masculine feel. While this is an attractive design feature, it does limit visibility in the rear corners. So does the rather steep rake of the rear glass.

Test drive in the California desert

On a recent media program, I had the opportunity to drive the Saab 9-5 between Los Angeles and Palm Springs: a distance of about 150 miles. The route included some moderate highway traffic in the Los Angeles area, as well as some time on surface streets around Palm Springs.

While I'm not thrilled about the additional weight which the sunroof and accessories add to the chassis, the sedan has the tight steering response European sport sedans embrace, with a well-tuned suspension and firm, linear braking.

A blind spot monitoring system illuminates LEDs in the side mirrors when vehicles in the adjacent lanes pass through blind spots to the rear of the sedan. A wide, deep windshield provides excellent forward visibility. Cornering to either side is a non-issue as well.

Lane departure warning which comes with the technology package alerts the driver if he is drifting out of the lane without signaling. It's a useful feature on long road trips, where sections of the freeway become monotonous.

Eighteen-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires provide an ample footprint, which is noticeable on curving roads. The sedan had excellent steering response on the section of the 60 freeway which passes through the canyons east of Los Angeles.

Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior, making it easy for passengers in both rows of seating to converse.

Driver-focused cockpit seats up to four adult passengers

Designers make it clear that the Saab 9-5 is a driving enthusiast's car through the use of bolstered bucket seats in both rows, and by tilting the control panel in the dashboard slightly towards the driver. Two-position driver's seat memory allows multiple family members to share the driving.

The heads-up display enables the driver to monitor vehicle speed without taking his eyes off the road. Formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel enable the driver to flick through the gears on challenging roads. Redundant audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls, also on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.

Tech-savvy buyers will appreciate the sedan's keyless start, satellite radio, USB and auxiliary ports. Bluetooth interface is standard. Dual-zone climate control, along with heated and cooled front seats keep passengers comfortable in temperature extremes.

Because of the tall floor tunnel, two adults will be more comfortable in the second row than three. A fold-down armrest adds cupholders in back and a writing surface. A pass-through extends the cargo floor for longer items.

Standard safety

The Saab 9-5 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Standard OnStar automatically notifies the police and emergency medical personnel if the car's airbags deploy.

Saab builds the 9-5 at its assembly plant in Trollhattan, Sweden.

Likes: An attractive sport sedan with a Scandinavian interior which favors the driver. Turbocharged engines enhance gas mileage and minimize toxic emissions.

Dislikes: Narrow greenhouse reduces ambient light inside the car and visibility around the perimeter. Dual-panel sunroof adds weight to an already heavy chassis.

Quick facts:

Make: Saab
    Model: 9-5 Turbo4 Premium Sedan
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $43,435
    As tested: $46,750
    Horsepower: 220 Hp @ 5300 rpm
    Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 2500 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 18/28 mpg city/highway

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2011 Kia Optima Hybrid

            Posted on May 24th, 2011 ninarussin No comments

First drive


By Nina Russin


2011 Kia Optima Hybrid


The Optima Hybrid sedan is the third and final chapter in the marketing strategy for the Kia's flagship model. The Korean automaker unveiled its hybrid prototype at last year's LA Auto Show; a move that came as no surprise to journalists familiar with the company's business model.


Kia has closely emulated Toyota since coming stateside seventeen years ago. Not only do high fuel economy cars fit well with the company's value-pricing strategy; alternative fuel models give Kia panache among more affluent customers who believe that "green is good."


Priced from $26,500, the Optima Hybrid uses a lithium-polymer battery pack produced by LG Chem to power the electric motor. The 30 kilowatt electric motor and a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine give the gasoline/electric powertrain 206 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque. Peak torque is available as low as 1400 rpm.


There are two grades: the base model with standard 16-inch wheels and low rolling resistance tires, and a Technology package which includes 17-inch rims. The Technology package adds $5000 to the hybrid's base price. All models carry a $750 delivery charge.


The Optima Hybrid carries 10 year/100,000 mile warranty for all components, including the battery. The replacement interval for the battery pack is 10 years or 150,000 miles: significantly longer than some competitive products.


Standard comfort and convenience options on the upscale Technology grade include dual-zone climate controls, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, push button start, a power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar control and a rearview backup camera.


Lithium battery is lighter and more compact


2011 Kia Optima Hybrid


Not only is the lithium-polymer battery lighter than nickel-metal hydride units, it can also hold its charge up to 25 percent longer, according to the manufacturer. The Optima's battery pack, which is positioned between the rear seats and trunk, weighs 94 pounds. Its compact dimensions enabled designers to include a small pass-through from the trunk: something not found in competitive models.


Test drive in Palm Springs


Last week, I had the opportunity to take the Optima hybrid for a 30-minute test drive in Palm Springs, California. The route included surface streets in town, and the tram road to the north. The tram road, which rises in elevation about 3000 feet, was the perfect test for the Optima's low-end power and acceleration.


Designers differentiated the hybrid exterior from other Optima models with a unique grille color and trim which extends around the headlamps and side panels. The sedan is five millimeters lower than other Optima models, and has panels under the chassis to enhance aerodynamic performance.


The rear decklid sports a functional spoiler. Fuel economy, according to the manufacturer, is 36 miles-per-gallon around town and 40 on the highway.


Optima Hybrid Energy Meter


Except for an energy meter display on the center stack, the hybrid technology on the new Optima is essentially invisible to the driver. A single power control unit operates the electric motor. Regenerative braking recharges the battery during driving. A clutch between the gasoline engine and electric motor controls the operation of both components.


The big advantage of gasoline/electric hybrids, as compared to conventional gas-powered cars, is their acceleration off the line. Electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds. As a result, the Optima Hybrid handles like a much more powerful car than its horsepower and torque numbers would indicate.


Although the Optima Hybrid comes with a continuously-variable automatic transmission, drivers can opt to shift the car manually. This makes a huge difference on steep grades, such as the tram road. The sedan literally sailed up the road, passing everything in its path with ease.


The electric power steering system is well tuned to the car, providing good feedback at all speeds. A 35.8-foot turning radius makes U-turns a possibility on wider suburban roads.


Although the Optima Hybrid is heavier than either the naturally-aspirated or turbocharged sedan, it's well balanced, thanks to the rear-mounted battery pack. Front-to-rear weight balance is 59/41: the same as the naturally aspirated sedan. The fact that the hybrid is not particularly nose-heavy reduces its tendency to push in the corners when driven aggressively.


Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.


Spacious interior


Kia Optima Hybrid Interior


The placement of the battery pack behind the rear seats means that there is very little impact to space in the passenger cabin. The Optima's attractive interior easily accommodates up to four adults.


Tech-savvy drivers will appreciate the energy monitor display, which includes a fuel economy graph. The quiet interior enables passengers in both rows to converse easily, or enjoy the standard satellite radio. 


A dual-pane panoramic sunroof, which comes standard on the Technology model, brings an abundance of ambient light into the interior. Other comfort and convenience features include an Infinity audio system, leather trim, heated and cooled front seats, driver's seat memory and illuminated scuff plates.


Kia is modifying the Optima seats to be less rigid based on early customer feedback. The hybrid is the first model to get the softer seats. All models will have these revisions by 2012.


The trunk is shorter than it is on other Optima models, due to the battery pack. However the pass-through makes it possible to load some longer items such as skis inside the car. The trunk is large enough to hold groceries or luggage for a weekend road trip. A temporary spare tire, which comes standard on other Optima models, is an option on the hybrid.


Standard safety


The Optima Hybrid comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and hill start assist.


The Kia Optima Hybrid begins arriving in dealerships this June.


Likes: An affordably priced hybrid sedan with excellent fuel economy, and a high level of comfort, convenience and safety features.


Dislike: Small trunk


Quick facts:


Make: Kia
            Model: Optima Hybrid Technology
            Year: 2011
            Base price: $26,500
            As tested: N/A
            Horsepower: 206.2 Hp @ 6000 rpm
            Torque: 195 lbs.-ft. @ 1400-4250 rpm
            Zero-to-sixty: N/A
            Antilock brakes: Standard
            Side curtain airbags: Standard
            First aid kit: N/A
            Bicycle friendly: No
            Towing: No
            Off-road: No
            Fuel economy: 36/40 mpg city/highway (estimated)