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Geneva show: Wagons-ho for Saab 9-5

Swedish hauler: All-new 9-5 Estate will join April's redesigned 9-5 sedan on sale in Australia in November.

Saab reveals new 9-5 Estate, flagship sedan set to join slimmer Oz 9-3 range

28 Feb 2011

SAAB has removed its Swedish security screen from the redesigned 9-5 SportWagon, which will make its global premiere at the Geneva motor show next week before joining the 9-5 sedan on sale in Australia by November.

While the first completely new flagship sedan from Saab in more than 13 years is on schedule for Australian release in April, its new five-door 9-5 wagon derivative – to be known as the 9-5 Estate here – will be followed late this year or in early 2012 by the all-new 9-4X crossover.

In the meantime, first shipments of Saab’s born-again MY11 9-3 range – including, for the first time, the 9-3X crossover - are about to hit a condensed national retail network of eight Saab dealerships.

Prices remain virtually identical to those worn by 9-3 vehicles imported before GM Holden relinquished its distribution rights last year after General Motors sold Saab.

New local distributor Saab Cars Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Saab Automobile AB, has confirmed it will also replace the newly available MY11 9-3 range with a facelifted MY12 model range that will also debut at Geneva on March 1.

Also confirmed to make its world debut at the Swiss extravaganza is an all-new concept car, designed by new Saab design director Jason Castriota, to preview the next generation of models from the newly independent Scandinavian car-maker.

38 center imageFrom top: Saab 9-3 Independence Edition, MY12 Saab 9-3 sedan and MY11 Saab 9-3 TTiD.

Set to take equal billing in Geneva alongside the 9-5 wagon, which is expected to sell in even greater numbers than the 9-5 sedan in some European markets, Saab says its ‘concept for future Saab design’ will feature all-wheel drive with an electric-powered rear axle and a ground-breaking Android-based car communications platform.

The 9-5 Estate is billed as the next step in Saab’s biggest ever new product offensive and wears the same Aero X concept-inspired face as the 9-5 sedan but adds a number of new cargo solutions, including an adaptable multi-fold floor, flexible U-rail load space configuration and under-floor stowage with a sealed wet storage compartment.

Powered by the same all-turbo petrol, ethanol and diesel engines as the sedan, Europe’s 9-5 SportCombi will come complete with Saab’s XWD all-wheel drive system, Saab DriveSense adaptive chassis control, adaptive cruise control, bi-Xenon Smart Beam adaptive lighting, keyless entry and starting, tri-zone air-conditioning and Pilot Head-up Display.

Unique five-door features include a wrap-around rear window, a belt-line that extends to a hockey-stick C-pillar, a spoiler for the programmable powered tailgate, which features a full-width ‘ice-block’ rear light bar and ultra-slim roof-rails.

Saab says that with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks lowered, the cargo bed is almost two meters long (1962mm) and offers an adaptable load capacity of up to 1600 litres (527 with the seats up), despite featuring completely flat and upright side walls. Four tie-down loops and a 12-volt power outlet are standard, while a U-shaped floor track carrying an adaptable telescopic dividing rail is optional.

“The launch of the 9-5 SportCombi is a much-awaited next step in the roll-out of our new product offensive,” said Saab Automobile CEO, Jan Åke Jonsson. “It will take Saab back into the large wagon segment where we have established a strong presence in many key markets with our previous offering.”

To be revealed in Geneva alongside an Amber Orange painted ‘Independence Edition’ version of the 9-3 Convertible, which will be limited to 366 examples globally but has not been confirmed for Australia, the revised MY12 9-3 sedan, wagon, convertible and 9-3X line-up features fresh interior and exterior styling, plus more powerful engines.

The upgraded 9-3 range will bring twin-scroll turbo, direct-injection and variable valve timing for turbocharged petrol models, while a fine-tuned 134kW twin-turbo diesel engine for the 9-3 wagon is claimed to return CO2 emissions of just 119g/km.

For now, however, Australians have access to a more slender range of 9-3 models for the first time since June 2010, after General Motors – which purchased Saab in 2000 – sold Saab to Dutch supercar maker Spyker in February 2010 and GM Holden abandoned imports of Saab cars in Australia via its GM Premium Brands division.

“We’ve tried the car-for-every-niche and niche-for-every-car type of approach and I think we historically got ourselves into some problems with a broader range,” said Saab Cars Australia managing director Stephen Nicholls.

“So in conjunction with our dealers, who we met with late last year when we told them what we wanted and they told us what they thought they could sell, we cut it down quite considerably.”

Opening the rationalised seven-variant 9-3 range is the E85-compatible Linear sedan at $46,900 – the same price it was last sold at in mid-2010 – alongside a non-E85 Aero version priced at $59,800.

Linear and Aero variants of both the Sport Combi wagon and Convertible cabrio are also on offer, the latter topping the all-auto MY11 Saab range at $79,900.

Mr Nicholls, who relinquished his role as Saab’s regional director for the Asia Pacific region to oversee the business in Australia and New Zealand, indicated to GoAuto that the 9-3X was forerunner to Saab’s first fully fledged SUV, the 9-4X.

“Obviously, SUV sales are booming in Australia, so we’re really looking forward to the 9-4X, but it might not get here until nearly next year,” he said.

Priced at $59,800 and now available in Australia for the first time, the high-riding 9-3X headlines a 2011 Saab range comprising just seven automatic 9-3 models – well down on when GM imported Saab cars.

While the rest of the MY11 9-3 range is virtually identical to the models previously sold in Australia, the 9-3X is essentially a 9-3 Sport Combi wagon-based crossover that carries a 35mm-higher ride height, extra exterior body cladding including matt-aluminium skid plates, a number of exclusive additions for the Aero-based interior and XWD.

Australia’s 9-3X is powered by a 154kW turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine Europe’s (manual only) E85 version and a front-drive 132kW 1.9-litre turbo-diesel configuration are not available here.

Saab’s MY11 9-3 models are now available via a condensed national dealer network comprising just eight retailers in Australia, plus a further 12 service outlets and one dealership in New Zealand.

For now, Saab is represented by just one dealer in NSW, in Artarmon, and also has sales outlets in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth - but not Tasmania, where its Port Melbourne-based distributor is searching for a location to replace the state’s previous retailer, which now sells Holdens exclusively.

2011 Saab 9-3 pricing:
9-3 Sport Sedan Linear2.0t BioPower (a)
9-3 Sport SedanAero 2.0TS (a)$59,800
9-3 Sport Combi Linear2.0t BioPower (a)$49,400
9-3 Sport Combi Aero1.9TTid (a)$61,300
9-3 Convertible Linear2.0t BioPower (a)$69,000
9-3 Convertible Aero2.0TS (a)$79,900
9-3X 2.0TS XWD (a)$59,800

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