Crucial model due next spring

Saab will finally unveil the all-new 9-5 at this autumn’s Frankfurt show as part of its drive to become a successful independent car maker.

As well as the 9-5 saloon — shown here in its final production form, and due next spring — Saab engineers are putting the final touches to the 9-5 Sport Combi estate and the 9-4X SUV, which is aimed at the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. Both cars are due later in 2010.

Although the new 9-5 shares its Epsilon 2 platform with the Vauxhall Insignia, the Saab has a longer wheelbase and unique styling inside and out.

The 9-5 will be offered with two different types of suspension — standard and premium — as well as four-wheel drive. Engines will range from a turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 to a four-cylinder diesel that emits less than 140g/km of CO2.

The car goes into production early next year, replacing the 13-year-old first-gen 9-5. However, before that can happen, finding a new owner is an overwhelming priority for Saab. Sources are confident that a deal with a new investor will be signed and sealed by mid-June.

Saab will be formally abandoned by owner General Motors in January 2010, and the firm is currently in Swedish bankruptcy protection. Saab has already finalised a detailed business plan for the future that will see it launch four new cars (9-5 saloon and estate, 9-4X and the recently launched 9-3X all-roader) in 18 months.

A further facelift is scheduled for the current 9-3 range, too. Saab sources have told Autocar that the company will be able to prosper with just two platforms: Epsilon 2 (which underpins the 9-5) and a Saab-modified version of the Delta platform that is found under the new Vauxhall Astra.

Both the 9-5 and new 9-3 will be built at Saab’s Trollhattan HQ. The new 9-4X will be built by GM in Mexico, alongside its sister car, the Cadillac SRX. However, company insiders say the real volume will come from the next-generation 9-3, which will directly compete with the Audi A3 and VW Golf.

Potential investors have already been shown a full-size model of the car, which is expected to be launched in late 2011 or early 2012. Saab says it will be able to survive as a small ‘niche’ player because of its ‘á la carte’ purchasing plans. It benefits greatly from its new contract with GM, which means it can use the Epsilon and Delta platforms without paying a licensing fee.

Saab says it can engineer an entire car in-house, thanks to its extensive development capabilities. These lie in crash safety, refinement, all-wheel drive design, turbocharging, and hybrid drive and alternative fuels.In future, Saab says it is likely to buy components from suppliers and rival manufacturers, rather than developing unique solutions.

Sources say Saab — which will not execute its own base engine design — has already talked to Peugeot-Citroën and Mini about using their drivetrains. Any deal could see the 1.6-litre Mini Cooper S turbo engine used in the new 9-3.

A lot of smaller components, such as premium-quality door locks that meet Saab’s own specs, will also be bought off the supplier shelf, saving huge amounts of development money.

Hilton Holloway

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