Time warp: The final-generation Saab 9-5 entered production 10 years ago

The first preseries Saab 9-5 sedans rolled off the assembly line at the end of November 2009.

Saab was already on shaky ground when the replacement for the penultimate 9-5 sedan finally entered production, after its immediate predecessor spent 12 years on the assembly line—an impressive run even for a brand known for long product cycles. The predecessor of the last 9-5 was a mainstay, if not the flagship, of the brand since 1997. And by the time its replacement entered production in the last few weeks of 2009, Saab the brand had already seen Subaru and Chevrolet models dressed up in Saab sheetmetal. 

The 9-5 itself did not feature entirely unique underpinnings—the Epsilon platform was still shared with Opel, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Holden models—but it was still more of a Saab than the 9-7X or the 9-2X. The new sedan stretched Saab further upmarket, offering a plusher cabin and a larger footprint aimed at models the size of the Volvo S80 or the BMW 5-Series. A turbocharged 1.6-liter Ecotec inline-four was the base engine, offering 180 hp, but the range-topper was the turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 coupled with all-wheel drive.

The new, plusher 9-5 aimed upmarket, at a time when luxury sedans from Europe were not on most buyers’ minds. 

The 9-5 wasn’t the last Saab model to be launched — that honor goes to some 600-plus 9-4X crossovers that just made it out of the factory before the gate was unceremoniously shut — but it was arguably the last model that was a genuine Saab. The design was a gentle evolution of the outgoing 9-5, and it possessed a stately appearance and more presence than its smaller predecessor had mustered. The new sedan was taller and wider, and the high window sills gave the interior a more cavernous feel. It was clear to the automotive press that in presence and power, the new model was a segment above the 9-5 that it was replacing.

Series production began in April 2010 — just weeks after GM sold Saab to Spyker Cars, with the first 9-5s arriving at U.S. dealerships by mid-June. Saab had survived the previous two years of the auto crisis, but it now had a pricey new model in a segment that had taken a serious beating, and faced a shaky future for its production facilities under a new corporate parent. Consider that the 9-5 Turbo6 XWD tipped the scales at $48,490, which forced it to compete with sedans from Team Germany. The results were predictable.

The 9-5’s time on the assembly line was cut short, just as the automaker was beginning to come apart.

Ten years later, it’s still the 9-5 that enthusiasts remember as the last Saab model to debut, even if several weeks’ worth of 9-4X production still lay ahead in addition to a handful of 9-5 Kombi prototypes. And it is still a bittersweet sight to spot a last-gen 9-5 in traffic today, while they’re still out there. Of course, a lot of them are now in collector hands thanks to depreciation and some measure of bravery, amid the slowly fading prospect of finding a knowledgeable mechanic. But we can’t help shake the feeling that in another few years they’ll be nowhere in sight, except at Saab meets in the Northeast.

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