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New Saab 9-5 pays tribute to brand's history

March 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
In the auto industry turmoil a couple of years ago, General Motors knew it had to shed some brands.

Saturn and Pontiac bit the dust and Swedish affiliate Saab came close to meeting the same fate.

But a Dutch company called Spyker came in and saved the day.

Now, we have the first new Saab from the rescued brand: the 9-5 sedan.

It's a luxury car on the larger end of mid-size, with a striking new shape that pays tribute to Saab's history as an aircraft maker.

One aviation-themed option is the head-up display and a night panel setting that blacks out almost everything except for critical displays if you're driving in darkness and want to avoid glare.

There's still an obvious GM connection here and there, mainly in switches and controls.

But there are traditional Saab touches, too, like the egg-crate dash vents, tall firm seats and little familiar things like the lower-case font on the turbo boost gauge.

Another Saab attribute through the years has been an eye toward the environment.

The four cylinder versions of the car wear a badge that says "BioPower." It sounds impressive, but all that means is the engine can run on 85 ethanol blend, a fuel you can't easily find in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the two liter turbo is small and efficient for a car in this class. The EPA rates mileage at 18 city and 28 highway -- not bad for a somewhat heavy car. Its carbon output is also fairly low.