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Future models - Saab - 9-5

Saab set to tweak flagship 9-5

Wagons ho!: The new Saab 9-5 SportCombi wagon will make its showroom debut in Australia in the fourth quarter of this year.

New Saab SportCombi to join revised 9-5 sedan in fourth quarter launch for Australia

17 Jun 2011

SAAB’S flagship 9-5 sedan will get a fine-tuned chassis and fuel-saving idle-stop when the 2012 model is launched alongside the new 9-5 SportCombi wagon that makes its showroom debut in Australia in the fourth quarter of this year.

Those models will be followed in the first quarter of next year by Saab’s first SUV, the 9-4X, rounding out the range in Australian showrooms.

Despite cash-flow hassles that have stalled production in Sweden and boardroom bids to secure a Chinese manufacturing partner, the planning continues at Saab Australia to deliver the full arsenal of models to local customers.

Saab Australia managing director Stephen Nicholls said some of the changes to the UK-spec 9-5 range, such as standard satellite navigation, were already available on the Australian models.

He said Saab distributors in Europe tended to specify their cars more lowly, with a longer list of options because they could build and deliver in a couple of weeks.

“With the longer lead times, we tend to load the cars a bit more with standard features so we don’t have to do that,” he said.

Mr Nicholls said the Australian 9-5 Aero already had the adaptive DriveSense suspension and XWD all-wheel-drive system as standard, unlike the British models that would get these as standard from the 2012 model that arrives in UK showrooms in the northern autumn.

38 center imageLeft: Saab 9-4X.



“They are talking about some tweaks to the suspension and I believe we are getting those,” he said.

Advanced features such as XM satellite radio would not be considered, as it is not available in Australia.

The revised 9-5 – announced in the UK this week – appears to address a couple of teething problems with the all-new car that was launched in Australia in April, particularly the ride quality on uneven roads.

According to Saab GB, Saab chassis engineers have made the latest 9-5 range more fun to drive.

“Extensive testing and development work on UK roads has achieved greater ride refinement, particularly on rough surfaces,” the company’s media release says.

The entry-level Vector variant gets revised front spring rates, damper settings and bushings.

Idle-stop and other improvements are said to cut CO2 emissions by an average of 4.7 per cent across the petrol and diesel ranges in the UK.

The 9-5 manual models available in Europe also get a gear shift indicator in the main instrument display – irrelevant in Australia where all 9-5s are offered with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Mr Nicholls confirmed that the forthcoming 9-5 wagon would be called by the European SportCombi name in Australia – not SportWagon, as in the UK – and would be launched at the same time as the revised MY12 9-5 sedan in the fourth quarter.

The SportCombi, which was unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March, will command a £1200 ($A1837) premium over the sedan variants in the UK.

In Australia, the SportCombi is expected in the same all-turbo Vector and Aero levels as the sedan, with choice of four-cylinder petrol or diesel engines or Australian-made 221kW V6.

Barring on-going production delays at the Trollhattan plant in Sweden, where Saab is struggling to pay its bills for components as it reorganises its ownership structure, the refreshed and enlarged 9-5 range should now arrive ahead of the Mexican-made 9-4X.

When the Saab 9-5 sedan was launched in April, Saab Australia was not sure earlier this year if the SUV would roll off the ships in late 2011 or early 2012, but the latest delivery projections suggest the first quarter of 2012.

Mr Nicholls said: “We don’t expect to launch 9-4X until around quarter one next year. It is evolving all the time but that is the latest we have.”

Production of the petrol-only 9-4X has already started in left-hand-drive guise for the North American market at General Motors’ Ramos Arizpe plant where it is being built alongside the related Cadillac SRX.

Saab Automobile last week signed a memorandum of understanding with small Chinese auto-maker Youngman Automobile to create a three-way Chinese Saab manufacturing and distribution joint venture with China’s largest dealer group Pang Da.

The deal still hinges on approval from the Chinese and Swedish governments and other parties, with reports out of China suggesting Youngman will have a tough job convincing Chinese authorities that the deal should go ahead when the central government is trying to reduce the proliferation of manufacturers.

At the same time, Saab is attempting to get permission in Sweden to sell its factory and lease it back to help ease its cash-flow problems that continue to play havoc with parts supplies.

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