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Old 9-5 bows out as Saab rationalises range

New flagship: Saab's second-generation 9-5 is expected next year - all being well with the sale of Saab by GM.

Saab spring cleans local model range as it gets set for new era without GM

29 Oct 2009

SAAB Australia has reduced its model range by half, winding up the ageing 9-5 ahead of the all-new model next year and cutting no fewer than 27 variants from the remaining 9-3 range as it dispenses with many petrol-only low-end models in favour of its ‘flex-fuel’ E85 ethanol-capable BioPower powertrains.

The price-list shake-out, from an unwieldy 62 variants to a more manageable 34, comes as Saab parent General Motors gets set to sell the Swedish brand to Scandinavian super-sportscar maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB – a move that will force a new distribution arrangement for Australia.

Saab is handled here by Holden-based GM Premium Brands, which was established to distribute GM-owned niche marques that also included Hummer and, potentially, luxury American brand Cadillac.

That all came unstuck in the global financial crisis, with GM off-loading Hummer to Chinese company Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co, and Holden killing plans to import Cadillac when the world car market got the wobbles last year.

The model rationalisation by Saab Australia comes as no surprise, with Saab sales down 33 per cent this year to just 647 vehicles year to date – a monthly average of about 70, according to official VFACTS data. Of those, only 50 sales were from the venerable 9-5 range, which has been around since 1997.

38 center imageFrom top: First-generation Saab 9-5, Saab 9-3 Convertible, Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan.

The discontinuation of the current 9-5 line means Saab dealers will have to soldier on with only the Saab 9-3 in sedan, Sportcombi wagon and Convertible forms until the arrival some time next year of the new 9-5 and, possibly, the 9-4X medium SUV that has also been mooted for 2010 production.

Responsibility for importing and distributing Saab on behalf of the new factory owner also needs to be resolved once GM completes the Saab sale in Sweden.

In trimming the 9-3 list, Saab Australia has focused on deleting modest-performing, petrol-only model specifications, such as most of the base-engine 129kW Linear and Vector petrol variants, which have been selling in parallel with their 147kW 2.0-litre BioPower-engined counterparts.

The combination of front-drive and high-power 206kW 2.8-litre turbo V6 also has been put to the sword in the sedan and wagon, with Saab Australia’s product managers retaining only the all-wheel-drive XWD variants powered by this explosive Holden-made engine.

The V6 Aero Convertible, however, keeps the front-drive/V6 configuration, along with the distinction of being the most expensive Saab in the revised range at $90,800 for the manual and $93,300 for the Sentronic auto.

Most of the ethanol E85-capable BioPower and 1.9-litre diesel variants have escaped the axe, with BioPower flex-fuel engines now the norm for ‘petrol’ buyers – at the lower end of the power scale, at least. The BioPower engines can run on straight petrol if no ethanol is available, which in most parts of Australia, it isn’t.

The cheapest Saab is now the 147kW 2.0-litre turbo 9-3 Linear BioPower Sport Sedan with six-speed manual transmission, at $44,400 plus statutory and delivery costs.

Likewise, the most affordable 9-3 Sportcombi wagon and Convertible are the Linear models powered by this BioPower 2.0-litre engine, at $46,900 and $66,500 respectively.

At the top end, the demise of the limited-edition 9-3 Turbo X XWD – which topped $93,000 in both sedan and wagon guises – means the new performance flagship of the range is now the 206kW V6 turbo 9-3 Aero XWD, at $79,400 for the six-speed manual sedan ($84,400 for six-speed auto) and $81,990 for the similar-spec manual Sportcombi ($84,400 for auto).

While they were at it, Saab has taken the opportunity to hike prices on several top-end TiD Aero diesel models, ranging from a $1266 rise for the TiD Aero Sport Sedan manual (to $62,666), to a substantial $5346 boost – 6.6 per cent – for the Convertible TiD Aero (now $86,146).

No date has yet been announced for the arrival of the new 9-5, although most observers expect it to appear in 2010 to resume its flagship status.

This second-generation 9-5 – built on GM’s Epsilon II platform that also spawned the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and Buick LaCrosse – was unveiled at the recent Frankfurt motor show.

It will feature head-up information display, adaptive headlights (bi-Xenon ‘Smart Beam’), adaptive cruise control, adaptive chassis with real-time damping control (dubbed ‘Saab DriveSense’), tri-zone climate-control air-conditioning, dynamic parking assistance and keyless entry and start.

The engine range announced in Frankfurt appears to be similar to the current 9-3 offerings but with a bit more pep, starting with a 162kW 2.0-litre petrol and BioPower turbo four-cylinder to a 300kW 2.8-litre turbo V6 and 2.0-litre turbo diesel.

The turbo V6 – a first for the 9-5 – will be available only with the automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

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1st of January 1970

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