Bring on a new 9-5

You know I love the Saab 9-5, but there was a timely reminder today as to why it needs to be replaced with a new, bigger model – and soon.

That reminder came, of all places, from Chevrolet.

Over the weekend, GM let loose one of the worse-kept new release secrets with confirmation that the Chevy Cobalt SS would be following in the steps of HHR SS in getting a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine putting out around 260hp.

Now, you know I’m no techie, and I wondered about this, but Tedjs has confirmed with me that this is basically the same 2.0 litre Ecotec engine that’s in the Saab 9-3. The Saab version of this engine, in its highest trim, puts out 210hp from the factory. This new iteration in the Chevys is turbocharged and intercooled, just like the Saab, but also features direct injection.

For my fellow non-tech types:

With direct injection, fuel is delivered directly to the combustion chamber to create a more complete burn of the air/fuel mixture. Less fuel is required to produce the equivalent horsepower, especially at normal cruising speeds, of a conventional port-injection combustion system. Direct-injection technology works well with turbocharging and helps deliver a great balance of power and economy.

So what does this have to do with the Saab 9-5?

Well, it’s quite obvious that the Saab range needs to grow. It’s limited to two worldwide models at the moment but there’s at least two all-new models on the way, with the 9-4x and 9-1 in the pipeline to compliment eventual replacements for the 9-3 and 9-5.

It’s also quite obvious from this 2.0 litre Ecotec release that it’s capable of a lot more than the 210hp that Saab are currently getting from it. But a 260hp variant would put it right up there with the Saab 9-5 in terms of output. In other words, the 9-5 needs to grow, physically and in terms of output, so as to make room for the other models beneath it.

And for those asking why you’d spend the extra on a Saab when you can get the same in engine in the Chevy, well, you’d be in the Chevy, wouldn’t you? Call me snobbish if you like, but I’ll take Saab performance, design, handling comfort and safety over a single power output stat any day of the week.

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By the way, I think it’ll be fun to count the number of vehicles noted as being tested and proven at the Nurburgring from now on. So far we have the 9-7x Aero and the Cobalt SS. It’s the motoring equivalent of “99% fat-free.”

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27 Comments

  1. Swade – you bring up a very good point. But I’m also concerned about the 9-3.

    The Cobalt SS would have just about the same output as the current 9-3 Aero while keeping the 4 cylinder engine. This is exactly what a lot of people have been wanting in the 2.0T – 260 horses AND better gas mileage. Many people, including me, aren’t interested in 6 cylinders.

    This pretty much assures the MY09 9-3 will have the same engine as the Cobalt, no?

    Also, the new 9-5 has to trump the 9-3, so are we looking at a 300 hp base 9-5? This brings up a lot of questions indeed.

  2. I like how the press release mentions “GM Powertrain Sweden.”
    Who might that be?
    This is definitely a Saab engine, but the car is nothing like a Saab. The Cobalt is a nasty little econobox built to a rock-bottom price.

    I do agree with you that this engine should be in the 9-3. One unfortunate “GM effect” at Saab has been the idea that people want a V6. Let’s face it, Saab was at their prime in the 1980’s when they were selling V8 power with 4 cylinder economy.
    They can’t make that argument anymore now that they offer a V6.

    For every customer that Saab gained by having a V6, I’ll bet that they’ve lost more than one customer by diluting the brand image. Saab used to be the intelligent alternative (small engine, big power, FWD, hatch, etc), but I’m not sure that a new customer really knows what they stand for these days.

    Saab needs to offer a strong message once again. BFJ isn’t it, since most customers know that it’s just marketing hogwash. The car is obviously no more like a jet than any other car is.

  3. I’m not sure the 9-5 needs to grow in size. Unless they can build it lighter that’s just going to bring down fuel economy.

    I’d have no problem with the 9-5 having a V-8, if it was done right, not like the 9-7. How about a 3.5L turbo V-8 like Lotus used to have in the Esprit?

  4. As a said to Swade in an email today – 50% of BMWs are sold with 4 cylinder engines (the biggest 4 cylinder they do is 1995cc.) Big engines mean big headlines, sensible engines mean big sales. I have no problem with the V6 engines, its just that they are not going to secure the future of the company – the 260bhp engine will.

  5. Jon – Where can you buy a 4 cyl BMW? Not in the states.

    If there was a 4 cyl. one, or a diesel, I’d seriously consider one. Have I been out of the loop?

  6. This sounds like even more of areason to do a Hirsch job on the 2.3 in the 9-5 and boost it from 260hp to 300hp. They sell the kit right this munte. You just can’t buy it is the US.

  7. joemama
    [i]Also, the new 9-5 has to trump the 9-3, so are we looking at a 300 hp base 9-5? This brings up a lot of questions indeed.[/i]

    Here in Norway and several other European countries, they will have to offer a smaller engine than 300hp, that’s for sure.. The big seller here is the 2,0t 150hp/180hp (E85) base, and for the next generation, I can’t imagine Saab not providing anything under 200hp for some markets. This is not only because of the local taxes, but also because of the growing focus on the environment, and the need for “greener” engines.

    Regarding the need for the 9-5 to grow physically, I think it is important to note how eg. the new A4 has grown significantly, and the next 9-3 would have to do likewise. But with bigger mass, more weight and lower mileage will probably follow, so lightweight materials would be really helpful in reaching a good compromise between size/mileage/acceleration.

    Anyhow, even though the 9-5 is still great in many aspects, it is dated, and a replacement will be very welcome.

  8. I highly doubt that GM will let the base 9-5 come in at 300hp when the base CTS has 263hp. I expect the current top engine to be the new base. I hope they will offer a 6cyl. with about 350hp. After all the name of the game is selling cars. Why hold on to a tradition of 4 cyl. when most buyers (at least in the states) of a 9-5 size luxury vehicle want a 6 cyl.
    Hopefully the 9-5 won’t grow too much. Adding two inches to the body overall and then moving the axles further apart should increase interior space more than enough w/out sacrificing trunk space too much.

  9. Who needs the 260 hp output?
    I ‘d rather have the direct injection with the turbo in the “economic” version as a successor to the 150/175 hp version. just the way Audi now does with their 1.8T 160hp version.
    I’m constantely having the feeling that I’m spilling fuel unnessesarily.
    After all the, direct injection is already in the vectra from 2004!

  10. I agree with JC7222… I see the current engine in the 9-5 becoming the base model engine (with direct injection) and the aero model will pick up a stronger version of the V6 in the 9-3….

    Maybe even a twin twin-scroll turbo set up ?? That would be an awesome combination and a tongue-twister to promote too!!

  11. The success of the 93 does indeed beg some questions of its aging big brother which currently don’t have answers. Heres a simple one: bolt two V6 blocks together and make a 5,6litre V12. Turbo it for good measure and make it E85 compatible. Then drop it into a flagship like some of the recent CGI we’ve seen as well as new GT shape that takes the AeroX out of design la-la land and into showrooms. Run it at Le Mans then launch it.

    The four pots with added technology will always be the volume sellers, no argument there. Everyone from Fiat to Mercedes is working this way.

    It’d just be nice to have a halo model with some ridiculous numbers behind it and a driving experience to match.

  12. I remember driving a Malibu Maxx a while ago and feeling that the driving dynamics were familiar in a disconcerting way. (the Malibu is the 9-3’s redheaded brother who bears a striking resemblance to the mailman)

    But, the car was differentiated enough that I didnt feel cheated. I wonder how much importance people put on the engine in defining “Saabness”. I personally do not: the engine is only one piece of the puzzle. Would be interested in knowing others views on this. i.e. a 9-3 that was unique down to the last screw but cost twice as much vs using a lot of off the parts and focussing on key areas (at least you hope they focus ) to differentiate the brand.

  13. Hadn’t it already been established that the new 9-5 would be using this Ecotec block? I think the new 9-5 could use the same basic engines as the 9-3 uses currently, just tune for a few more horsepower in each instance.

  14. Rogan: I don’t think the next-gen 9⁵ will even be offered with a 4-cylinder. I don’t have any concrete info to support this belief, but Saab remains the only remaining contender in that class with a four-banger and they consistently get “crap” from the auto magazines due to it and it’s reflected in poor sales. When someone buys a $40K+ car they expect more than just four cylinders.

    Now that Saab will surely offer XWD on the next-gen 9⁵ they’ll surely start with a turbocharged V6 on the low end, and I’m thinking the possibility of a V8 on the high end.

    Maybe in select markets (Sweden) they’ll offer a 4-cylinder 9⁵, but I doubt it. Really, what’s the point of even having the 9⁵ if not to be a “bigger and more powerful” model to compete with the A6 and 5-series? Right now it’s like a slightly overgrown and expensive 9³.

    It’s too bad they closed-down that factory in Sweden that made the 2.3-liter I4 in the current-gen 9⁵. I think that would have been an excellent engine for the next-gen 9³.

  15. Joe Mamma, the 4 cylinder engines are the core of BMW sales in Europe and particularly the diesel. For most European car makers big engines are developed to get a few sales at home but to get more sales in the States. It is interesting to know that you can’t get a 4 cylinder BMW in the US.
    In Europe we tend to focus on output rather than cylinder count.

  16. V8 engines -you must be dreaming !
    V8 power with L4 economy is the way to go.

    BTW. what happend to the SVC engine that Saab invented back in 2001 ? Are they still developing or saving it for the right time ?

    Lets clear out some fachts regarding L4 gasoline engines in the 9-3 and 9-5 models.
    Ecopower is an Saab invention and trademark while Ecotech is a Opel trademark !

    All 9-3 SS models (except the non-turbo1,8) are equipped with the German made Opel 1998cc.engine. Separate ignition coils and no DI casette. motor- management Trionic 8.

    Engine is mounted the “wrong way” with the exhaust /turbo hidden behind ! the engine.

    The 9-5 models are still equipped with the real Saab Swedish made 1985cc. or 2290cc. engines.
    This means DI casette and motor-management Trionic 7. Exhaust and turbo in front of engine compartment.

    No doubt this is the better engine ! Wonder why Biopower engines only derrives from this engine type ?

    My wishes to Saab is to keep this engine type exclusive for the comming 9-5 models too.
    The recent 9-3 SS models are so GM / Opel influenced, and a low end model range so it does not deserve a Saab engine anyway ?

    Should the day come my 9-5 -produced in Germany- comes up with an Opel engine I am NOT buying it !

    And Saab – bring back the hatch !!

  17. just chippin’ in my 2c here…
    Al/any car released in Europe will have a in-line 4, although in-line 5’s are getting very common.
    Step up from that and you have the V6’s.
    The above is the core of any medium/large sized family car in Europe.

    The same company will then for the US market sell the same cars with V6’s – possibly as entry level even! – and offer a V8.

    For a fine example of the above, see Volvo.

    Can you get economy in a V8? yes, using that technology that switches off cylinders when you don’t need them. Will that be as efficient as a in-line 4? No, but that’s not the comparison to make.
    The V8’s are for the US market, and they – as stated above – will have a V6 as entry level, and that will be the comparison.
    So: can you get a V8 to be as efficient as a V6? Yes, unless the V6 is as smart as the V8 😉

  18. Another 0.0002c …

    I’d say the low end engine options should produce around 150 hp and the GM engines of this segment are turbo fours (diesel and/or gas).

    The ‘Holden’ V6 should have potential to produce reliably some 350-400 hp (turbocharged in a ‘stock’ state of tune) and thus be the base for the high-end engine options. If that is not enough, there is a need for a V8/10/12.

    BTW, the Nissan GTR shows nicely the potential of a turbo V6 (and what the Black Turbo could have been…)

    Should the current hp madness go on (as with a 580 hp Audi RS6 and likes), you will be needing more cylinders. Unfortunately the Northstar or SB Chevy do not look desirable 9-5 engines to me.

    About the DI Ecotec: Could it be the reason Saab is not getting the DI version that they are not (yet) optimized for Biofuel ??

  19. Riku

    in-line 4-cyl 2.0l easily gives 150-200 Hp depending on how you tune it. Alfa and Honda’s give around 170 without turbo in a 2.0l.
    The VAG (you know, Audi & Co) 1.8T has 5 valves per cylinder (total of 20 Valves) and can typically produce 170 or 180HP @ 5900 rpm stock and if you add a new chip from custom auto shops, you can get this up to 200 to 210HP easily. Fantastic small engine.

  20. ricu1100s:
    The DI casette is NOT on the Ecotech engines from Opel.

    Only Ecopower from Saab has DI casette.
    I think maybe the reason why it is the only Biopower capable engine is because of the DI casette’s unik feature of using the spark plugs as knocking sensors via ion current measurement !

  21. BS Aero Pilot,

    I meant the DI as in Direct (fuel) Injection of the Solstice/Opel GT 264 hp and Cobalt SS 260 hp version. (That’s what Swade wrote about, I believe ?)

    (Not the fragile Direct Ignition of the iron block engines)

    TrakDah,

    About 150 hp to start with as I wrote. That could even be a 1,6 twin-turbo rather than the current 1,8/2,0 LPT. Check out the 1,4 TSI of VAG. (btw, didn’t Audi already go back to 4 valves per cylinder in their current engines ?)

    Anyways, hopefully not a Honda style ‘power-at-9000-rpm’ engine.

  22. riku

    Confirmed on everything (the “new” VAG 4-cyl is booooooring)

    The Alfa I’m driving has 165Hp @6400 – and a nice exhaust note to boot 🙂 (Honda has 200Hp @7400)

  23. Saab needs to design the 9-5 for 5+ years in the future. By then V8’s will be parked in the same lot that holds the Ford Excursions.

    Saab needs to figure out where the 9-5 fits in the marketplace because what they are doing now isn’t working. Basically the 9-5 is overpriced, so they either have to drop the price or justify the price. I would suggest the former.

    For pricing, I would slide the 9-5 in just above the Honda Accord and well below the Audi A4 and Volvo S80(the 9-5 is the same size as the S80 but the S80 is expensive and a gas guzzler). The Aero version could be more upscale with a bigger engine and they could stiff those buyers the way Volvo does.

  24. Rod H.
    If they drop the price of the 9-5 to just above the Accord they would be pricing it like a 9-3. Then what? Drop the price of the 9-3 to Civic prices?

    The bottom line the U.S. is Saab’s top market. In the business of sales you sell what is in demand or you will be forced out of business. They must sell the 9-5 with more than a 4cyl. engine in the U.S. For those who must have the 4, they can offer that as the base engine…
    People do not forget that Saab is in business to sell cars. What would be the purpose in sticking to your guns if it hasn’t worked? That said, I love my 4 cyl. 9-5 Aero but I understand that cars in this class, in the U.S., will not be taken seriously w/out more cylinders. like it or not that is a fact.

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