And the 9-5 still looks like a 9-5. As the press release states, "Saab's designers have done little to alter the basic appearance of the new 9-5 range. Instead, they have concentrated on updating features to keep the appearance contemporary without compromising the original's design integrity." Other companies, less sure of themselves, have carried out redesigns by adding superfluous scoops, slots and vents, or by redrawing the same car with a ruler instead of a French curve. Not Saab. Details at front and rear have been tightened up, and lighting equipment enhanced in both appearance and performance, but Saab saw no reason to mess with the basics of what is still a great-looking car.

The front bumper, now a one-piece molding, has been extended forward 20mm to smooth and enhance the car's aerodynamic appearance. To a wind tunnel it looks identical, with Cd of 0.29 for the Sedan and 0.31 for the Wagon. The bumper cap is now integrated with the grille area, though the openings are unchanged in shape. As well, it joins the front fenders more cleanly, giving greater solidity to the car and emphasizing the form of the clamshell hood. The rear bumper has received similar refinements.

Saab knows its customers appreciate good design, and knows this does not end when cars are parked. Thus, it draws on a Scandinavian heritage of spare elegance, cultivating a design ethos in which automotive design is one element in a broader design environment. The S and SE model designations are replaced with architectural terms, Linear and Arc. In the U.S., the lineup is slightly different than elsewhere and much simpler: Linear models are powered by the base 2.3L Ecopower, with leather upholstery, walnut wood instrument panel fascia and unique 16-in. alloy wheels. Arc models boast the 3.0L V6 Ecopower engine, with perforated leather upholstery on ventilated seats, walnut fascia and 16-in. five-spoke BBS wheels. Aero models continue to be powered by the 2.3L HOT engine exclusively, with leather upholstery on sport seats and 17-in. ten-spoke BBS alloys. Instrument panel fascia is aluminum, similar to a trim option called Vector in other markets, but metallic-look instrumentation is added. The Aero is the only model on which the exhaust tip is visible, emphasizing the powerful drivetrain.

Most xenon headlights use an HID bulb only for low beams, with a halogen source, better suited for on-off cycling, providing high-beam illumination. The new Porsche Turbo broke new ground with a bi-xenon lighting system in which both low and high beams were illuminated from a single HID source, a movable shade shutting off the high beams when they were not required. This technology is now an option on V6 and Aero 9-5s, doubling light output versus the old halogen system. Additionally, the position of the shade is adjusted to effect a self-leveling system, avoiding blinding oncoming traffic with changes in load or road surface.

Saab is proud of its aircraft heritage. The Aero is the ultimate expression of Saab, in much the same way that M cars are the essence of BMW. Knut Simonsson, director of Global Brand Management, pointed out the very first Saab was built by aircraft engineers who knew little of car design. It was light and it was streamlined, with good performance on limited power. The cars have changed, of course, but in a very real sense the first Saab was the first Aero. Today's Aero, like all 9-5s, is still unique and individual. It stands tall among its peers, while in many ways that matter, it stands alone, without peer. Clearly, Saab understands the simple wisdom of the celebrated Dr. Korpi, whose ten rules include the following: A difference, to be a difference, has to make a difference.

Vive la difference!

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