Build Your Own 9-5 – The Summary

12 printed pages later…….

We’ve had some fantastic contributions to the post where I asked your ideas for things that Saab should be building into their next generation 9-5, which we’ve recently been getting suggestions is around 18 months away.

There can be no underestimating the importance of this car to Saab worldwide. It’s the flagship model and as such, speaks a lot about Saab’s future direction and capability.

I asked you, the people who know Saab the best, what you’d like to see in the new 9-5 and following is the best summary I can give of your responses. It may be in vain, but I hope Saab are reading this and ticking some boxes as they do.

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Performance
Whilst a number under 300 was mentioned occasionally, the general figure mentioned was somewhere in the order of 350hp. The feeling pervading all of this was choice – e.g. have a range of engine specs that can carry the vehicle through the spectrum from, say, 250hp through to 400+ for a high-spec model.

Whilst a reasonably quick re-scan of the comments failed to find a mention of the term “V6”, I think it’s generally accepted that the flagship vehicle needs a V6 engine at least in order to retain it’s credibility in the pecking order and deliver the smoothness expected of a vehicle in this class.

Acceleration at speed is more important than off the line. If the journos don’t get it then hit them in the head with a brick that has it carved in.

Turbo, Twin-turbo, direct injection, variable vane technology, cylinder deactivation.

Petrol, Diesel & BioPower.

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Handling
I don’t want to create another category, so I’ll cover this here: XWD

There’s a lot of support for XWD, but primarily as an option. People want to have that choice. It’s seen by most as a thing for the higher performance versions of the car. Though I’d imagine that if Saab could engineer the system so that it’s unobtrusive and retains the car’s economy ratings then there wouldn’t be a lot of complaints.

RJ mentioned the phrase “Amazing Handling” and with the addition of XWD and some licence given to those very capable Saab engineers, maybe this is a distinct possiblity. There was also a comment with regard to variable performance settings so that the driver can adjust the handling response.

There was also mention made of building lightness into the car – i.e. finding ways to keep it lightweight but retaining strength. In doing this maybe you can improve performance whilst maintaining economy and safety.

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Interior

This is perhaps the area that saw the most comment, which I believe is a valid indication of the renewed importance the cabin plays in the automotive experience. Remember, the exterior appearance is the hook, but the interior is where the owner will really experience the car. So….

Quality materials

Quality materials

Quality materials

Do I need to write it again??? OK….

Quality materials.

All points of contact need to feel good. Intelligent design and use of materials and lighting will be a definite winner for this new car.

There was lots of talk about technology, too. The main issue was connectivity and in the two main points of concern, it’s really important that Saab find a proper, workable solution that’ll stick accross multiple markets. Those two main points of concern are Bluetooth and In-Car Entertainment and the days of something working in one market and not in another have to stop. People in the US can quite easily find out that people in Europe have working Bluetooth – and it annoys them.

If Bluetooth is to be integrated, then try as best as possible to make it future proof. A standard called A2DP was mentioned, where there’s the capability of streaming music from the bluetooth device. This isn’t commonplace in phone/audio devices right now, but in the future….

A lot of suggestions were made for the inclusion of USB ports to allow the transfer of information from Personal Music Players to the In-Car system. This does pose some problems, however, in terms of drivers used and obsolescence. If an easily integrated solution can be found, though, it’d set a new standard.

Other items of importance:

* Aside from the connectivity issues, great sound quality for the audio system
* Interior build quality. Keep it rattle-free
* Heads-up display. If it’s practical and useful then it’s wanted.
* Night vision display (I’d suggest that being an option, but that’s just me)
* Heated/ventilated seats
* Utilitarian layout (even for this flagship model – BRING BACK THE HATCH)
* Chunky, tactile knobs
* More sturdy cup storage

One suggestion that I thought ws quite fascinating, but possibly also quite fantastic, was the idea of the entire dash being a display unit that’s capable of being customised according to driver preference. Want a style reminiscent of a 99 turbo – hey presto! Want something all in blue? hey presto! The variables are almost infinite.

My 0.02c
I’d be happy to have the Trolls at Saab sift through ideas like these (and many more, I’m sure) and make a call as to which ones are needed and which ones are “me too”. I’d like more of the former and less of the latter, but that’s just me.

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Character

I think most of us tend to trust the design department to come up with something that will be fitting for the brand. The Aero-X has built up a lot of good will out there.

The main thing apparent was an emphasis on utilitarianism. The design should be of sufficient quality as befits a flagship vehicle, but retain that functionality that’s been present in the best of Saab designs in years past. It needs to be unique, not an attempt at running with the bigger players.

It needs to retain and improve on Saab’s record for safety.

It wouldn’t hurt to draw on Saab’s heritage in the nomenclature, either – a 9-5 Griffin as a luxury range-topper and a 9-5 Aero as the performance range-topper.

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Whilst that’s a reasonably long wish-list, I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of it is quite realistic. Hopefully the brains-trust in Sweden is thinking along the same lines as their customer base.

I trust that what we’ll see in the next 9-5 will be sensational anyway, regardless of how many items from this list we can or can’t tick off.

My thanks to everyone that contributed. When the car finally comes and your feature is on it you’ll be able to point to this post and tell your friends “I told them to do that. They read that site all the time!”

He He.

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10 Comments

  1. If I can add one more plea to SAAB it would be give people choices. That is one thing that comes across from any threads I see relating to SAAB. We love the brand but a lot of us want different things in the cars.
    For example, I don’t see the virtual dash in the next 9-5 (it is coming though, I can honestly say every suggestion put forward by myself is either in production or in development) but why not have the dash lighting colour set with a selector in profiler? I had an aftermarket stereo with this feature that allowed me to blend the stereo display with the dash lighting so it is not difficult to do. I prefer green but lets give customers the choice.

  2. If you’re ready to pay $6000-8000 I’m sure there are plenty of aftermarket firms that would build one for you. I doubt we’ll ever see a dash like that in any car that has a retail price lower than $85-100k.

  3. Mats the reason manufacturers are looking at virtual instruments is because it is a cheaper option than the current analogue dials. I am not talking about the whole dash but the instruments and maybe a touch screen where the stereo would sit. I see it as 10 years away at most. Look at how fast car makers moved from analogue odometers to LCD once the first ones were installed. I mean for hardware its really only 2 LCD monitors with a hard drive and hard drives in cars are coming soon. I think Ford will be the first, working with Microsoft.

  4. When I mentioned the USB ports, it wasn’t intended so that people could plug-in their personal audio players. This would be extremely hard to implement given the number of different players out there. My USB suggestion (and the link to that article at USA Today) was to do like a lot of the aftermarket companies are offering now and have a USB port so one can plug-in a flash drive with their music on it. These flash drives are everywhere and are pretty cheap. I’ve seen them in a bin in the checkout line at Staples (an office supply retailer in the U.S.) for a few bucks each (of course, they were pretty low capacity, like 32MB). They’re also a standard. They’re like plugging in a small external hard drive. The thing is, this suggestion isn’t fantasy, it’s already out there and companies already have this on their head units. Delphi needs to get with the program and incorporate this into the GM stereos.

    As for the great idea about the instrument cluster being a customizable display, I thought of this just a few days ago too, but I hadn’t thought of the possibility of downloading gauge styles like one downloads wallpapers or ring tones. That’s a great idea. Where I got the idea for such a display was from the multifunction “glass cockpit” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_cockpit) displays in aircraft after reading the “buttons versus simplicity” arguments regarding the interior here and at SAABCentral. To add strength to the “simplicity” argument all modern aircraft are going to multifunction displays rather than waves upon waves of buttons. See this picture of the Gripen’s cockpit: http://www.aviation-fr.info/militaire/protos/gripen/gripen_display.jpg

    Another few innovations SAAB already had in concept cars in the past I’d like to see finally implemented is a solar panel system to power fans in the car to recirculate air in the interior on hot days so when you come back to your car after it’s been sitting in the baking sun in a mall parking lot it isn’t a hot box you’re stepping into (this was innovated on the SAAB EV-1 in 1985 and AUDI offers it as an option in both the A6 and A8). Another one I’d like to see is the glowing interior lighting seen on the Michael Mauer concepts (9X, 9-3X).

  5. I’m pretty sure the reason we didn’t get proper Bluetooth integration in SAABs in the U.S. is because we have OnStar (owned by GM) here. Why would they want to make it so you could use your own cell phone (through Bluetooth) in your own car rather than pay for phone service through OnStar? OnStar would be a really good revenue stream for GM if they could get more people to subscribe. It’s very overpriced.

    At the 60th Anniversary Media Event dinner I mentioned Bluetooth to the SAAB engineers and they told me about how difficult it is to implement due to each phone having a slightly different way they do Bluetooth and then they delved right into how great OnStar is. They claim that OnStar oftentimes has cell phone service in areas other phone companies don’t. I mentioned how much more expensive it is than just using one’s own cell phone though and one of the engineers had to concede that it is quite expensive and he wishes they’d bring the price down.

    The situation kind of reminds me of my cell phone provider, Verizon. For the most part I really like them and like their service, but I think the way they treat Bluetooth really stinks. They’ve only implemented parts of Bluetooth in their phones so that one can’t download pictures. If you have a camera phone you’re forced to e-mail yourself the picture from your phone because you can’t transmit it over Bluetooth to your computer. They do this because they charge you a flat rate each month for a certain number of e-mails from your phone. So basically you’re being charged everytime you take a picture with your camera and want to send it to your computer. With Bluetooth enabled to do this it’d kill another revenue stream. Much like SAAB with Bluetooth and OnStar in the U.S.

  6. Spot on with the summary, Swade!!

    If at bare minimum from this we end up getting XWD and some engine/suspension enhancements, then I can accept that…. I just fail to believe that the auto industry won’t combine engine technologies and mated gear ratios for some frivolous reason..

  7. My idea for a highly fuel savings car. We already know about the prius. I like the idea of revamping a small old car. Or using the frame of your choice. But here is the idea. Use and efficient electric generator and run electric power straight to an electric motor connected to the transmission of your vehicle of choice. My theory simple and possibly never realized by any. I

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