Play­ing catch-up

Saab’s new flag­ship prom­ises a lot and looks great but is let down by its sus­pen­sion

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - PAUL GOVER

A NEW flag­ship is wav­ing the Saab flag again in Aus­tralia. The all-new 9-5 is the first new­comer since the Swedish brand was re­leased from more than 20 years of suf­fer­ing un­der Gen­eral Mo­tors, and comes with the prom­ise of value pric­ing, im­pres­sive qual­ity and styling that breaks away from the origami school of creas­ing in Euro­pean de­sign.

Now, if only they can get the ride and han­dling right.

The 9-5 is a good look­ing car that’s no­tice­ably big­ger than any pre­vi­ous model to wear the badge. Its bot­tom line which ranges from $71,900 – helped by a Lux­ury Car Tax break for an eco-friendly diesel en­gine – will help to get it on shop­ping lists against ev­ery­thing from theBMW5 Se­ries and Benz’s E-Class to the Volvo S80. Saab Cars Aus­tralia is plan­ning a slow burn on the 9-5, and the rest of its come­back plan for that mat­ter, only pre­dict­ing around 100 sales this year.

‘‘ Our brand is not some­thing we shout about. We want to talk to peo­ple in­di­vid­u­ally,’’ says Steve Ni­cholls, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Saab Cars Aus­tralia. He says the point of dif­fer­ence for the 9-5 is the way it looks.

‘‘ All our com­mun­ci­a­tions are based around de­sign. That’s the key mes­sage,’’ says Ni­cholls.

VALUE

The start­ing price s helped by a diesel that re­turns a frugal 6.8 litres/100km, but even the petrol-pow­ered Vec­tor is affordable (for the class) at $75,900. The flag­ship Aero Tur­bo6XWDis priced from $94,900 and in­cludes all­wheel-drive and most of the good lux­ury stuff, al­though a back-seat DVD sys­tem is an ex­tra-cost op­tion.

Good stuff on the Vec­tor in­cludes a head-up in­stru­ment dis­play and chilled glove­box in ad­di­tion to the usual satnav, Har­mon-Kar­don sound sys­tem, leather trim, bi-Xenon lamps and more. The top-line car is boosted by park as­sist, sports seats, cor­ner­ing head­lights, and more. Ev­ery 9-5 comes with key­less en­try and the start but­ton is in the con­sole be­tween the seats, the tra­di­tional lo­ca­tion for the ig­ni­tion key in any Saab.

TECH­NOL­OGY

When Saab was part of theGM fam­ily, the com­pany was badly ne­glected. That meant in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment was al­ways lim­ited, so Saab is play­ing catch-up.

Even so, its all-turbo en­gine phi­los­o­phy is sound, it prom­ises body strength and safety as good as any­thing in the class, and there is in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion – but not in the tur­bod­iesel.

En­gine out­puts are 118kW/ 350Nm for the diesel, 162/350 in the petrol four and 221/400 in the 2.8-litre V6, with all cars

AT Cars­guide we don’t be­lieve that gra­tu­itous flips off barely hid­den ramps are es­sen­tial to make a good car film. Gen­uine wheel-twirling skills, real sound and a half-de­cent plot all help get a spot in the top 10.

1 BUL­LITT

Steve McQueen, is babysit­ting a mob in­for­mant— be­tween squir­ing a young Jac­que­line Bis­set— in 1968 San Fran­cisco when he’s fol­lowed by the hit­men look­ing to get rid of the in­for­mant. The chase is still one of the long­est com­mit­ted to cel­lu­loid and fea­tures two clas­sic Amer­i­can mus­cle cars – a Pon­tiac GTO and a Ford Mus­tang, the lat­ter be­ing McQueen’s steed.

2 RONIN

Robert De Niro leads a surly cast through this 1998 Euro­pean heist flick that has plenty of car-based ac­tion within a de­cent plot. Any­one doubt­ing the film’s in­tent will soon be hooked by the pow­er­s­lid­ing Audi A8 limo on cob­ble­stone streets, with Peu­geots, old Mercs, Citroens and aBMWM5 all tak­ing turns to tear up the bi­tu­men.

3 THE BLUES BROTHERS

A long-time 1980 favourite that to­talled an un­told num­ber of Amer­i­can sedans, a mo­torhome and a shop­ping mall with its over-the-top car chases. Born out of a Satur­day

Night Live sketch, Jake and El­wood Blues lead po­lice, hicks and Nazis on a merry chase in the Blues­mo­bile. The car (one of 13 used in the film) was a 1974 Dodge Monaco sedan, with the 250kW 440 cu­bic-inch Mag­num squad car pack­age.

4 THE FRENCH CON­NEC­TION

Gene Hack­man, who won an Os­car for his role— one of five awarded to the 1971 film— chases a hi­jacked train through traf­fic-choked New York streets. One of the bet­ter, and cer­tainly the grit­ti­est, chases com­mit­ted to film as two cops try to in­ter­cept a heroin ship­ment com­ing from France.

5 THE BOURNE IDEN­TITY

The 2002 black-ops thriller with an am­ne­siac twist has be­come one of the most pop­u­lar ac­tion flicks around not least for its small-car chase through the streets of Paris. An el­derly Mini takes Ja­son Bourne and ter­ri­fied owner Marie Kreutz down nar­row stair­ways, through tight streets, smash­ing phone boxes, out- fox­ing the gen­darmes and de­liv­er­ing our hero to safety for the rest of the tril­ogy.

6QUANTUMOF SO­LACE

The open­ing scene of 2008’s sec­ond Daniel Craig ‘‘ Bond, James Bond’’ 007 ad­ven­ture sees an Aston Martin DBS en­gaged in a rol­lick­ing car chase with bad guys in Alfa Romeos. If you can’t stand see­ing beau­ti­ful Ital­ian or English ma­chines be­ing mon­strously scarred, look away now, Ben Collins (the re­cently re­vealed Stig) does a good job with the Aston as a 007 stunt driver.

7 THE ITAL­IAN JOB, (orig­i­nal)

Michael Caine and a stack of Minis are the stars of this 1969 caper film about a gold heist in Turin, Italy. The job is to steal $4 mil­lion of gold and in­volves a clever plan to dis­tract the po­lice while the crooks get away through the streets and sew­ers in their Minis. 8 GONE IN 60 SEC­ONDS The 1974 orig­i­nal and the 2000 re­make both have plenty of worth­while ma­chin­ery over which to drool. How­ever, when forced to choose one ver­sion, An­gelina Jolie and the mod­ern

‘‘ Eleanor’’, a 1967 Shelby Mus­tang GT 500, swing the bal­ance in favour of the mod­ern. The orig­i­nal film, which had ‘‘ Eleanor’’ as a 1973 Ford Mus­tang Mach 1, was fa­mous for de­stroy­ing 93 cars in its 34-minute chase scene.

9 SMOKEY& THE BAN­DIT

This 1977 film, di­rected by Hal Need­ham, did more for the Pon­tiac Fire­bird Trans-Am than theGM­mar­ket­ing depart­ment ever could. As ‘ The Ban­dit’ Burt Reynolds and Sally Field lead the authorities, in­clud­ing law­man Sher­iff Bu­ford T. Jus­tice (played by Jackie Glea­son) astray and away from boot­legged booze. Star­ring a trio of black 1977 Pon­tiac Fire­bird Tran­sAm

‘‘ Spe­cial Edi­tions’’.

10 DUKES OF HAZ­ZARD

The 2005 film ver­sion of the 1980s TV Se­ries did lit­tle to ad­vance the world of scriptwrit­ing or plot de­vel­op­ment but some of the driv­ing scenes more than made up for that. Raw footage from the mak­ing of the movie on YouTube is tes­ta­ment to the stunt driver’s skill.

Bond­ing: Daniel Craig and 007’s ubiq­ui­tous Aston Martin DBS. Above, a re-cre­ation of the ‘‘Eleanor’’ Mus­tang from Gone in 60 Sec­onds

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