Saab drivers are a loyal breed. Once you had made the leap, ditching your German BMW 5-series for these tasty Swedish models, you were probably hooked for life. Quirky looks, a reputation for safety and a legendary rally history all added to the Saab reputation. However, with intense competition in its class, competing against not only BMW but popular models from Mercedes, Audi and fellow Swedish marque Volvo, Saab can no longer rely on customer loyalty and a cult following to sell its cars. The new Saab 9-5, with its spacious interior, array of gadgets and safety features including the brilliant yet simple Active Head Restraint system, designed to prevent whiplash, show that Saab is trying hard to beat off the competition. Buyers can choose from a 2.0 litre engine producing 150bhp or the bigger 2.3, giving 170bhp.
Both are turbo-driven, and judging by its performance on a short test drive, if the 9-5 was any faster it would probably take-off. We particularly enjoyed pushing the 'S' button on the gearstick, followed by pressing the accelerator pedal to the floor as fast as possible. The 'S' definitely doesn't stand for slow! With icy-cold air-conditioning and an incredibly loud CD player as standard, plus a nifty retractable drink holder that appears from nowhere out of the dash, there are plenty of gadgets to play with. Our only dificulty was trying to find where to put the key to start it up when we first got in. Strangely, the ignition is positioned below the gearstick next to the bottom of the seat. Obviously Saab still wants to retain a little bit of its popular quirkiness.