"The demise of Saab is one of the more painful episodes in the collective memory of car enthusiasts worldwide. Saab was always a manufacturer that did things its own way – and that sense of principle and engineering purity has left "
S60 and 95 – New Swedish Ambassadors
There are at least two key launches this year from Scandinavian manufacturers, and both of these are in the rather crowded ‘premium saloon’ segment.
After announcing their best first quarter for eighteen years, Volvo are throwing their hat in this competitive ring with the all new S60. Prices will range from £23,295 for the D3 ES (163PS) up to £36,745 for the top-of-the-range T6 AWD SE Lux Geartronic Premium. Orders can be placed now ahead of the car’s arrival in dealer showrooms in July, with first customer deliveries in August.
The design of the S60 is certainly sportier and more dynamic than most other Volvo launches of late- and the company are claiming that chassis, running gear and engine refinements will make this the most dynamic drivers’ cars they have ever produced.
This is probably in part due to the high level of criticism levelled in that direction of the latest manifestations of the V70 and the older S40s and S60s which were relative plodders at every level. The Desiel D3 and D5s will offer an admirable level of twist, horespower and economy, while the T6 updates the tradition of the T5 series of hot Volvos with seven second pullaway and a top end of over 150MPH.
The company are also making a huge feature of the disturbing Pedestrian Detection system, which purports to be able to recognise movement and act accordingly, whamming on the anchors if the human involved fails to react. We doubt this is a selling point to real drivers, as the thought that a computer combined with lasers and motion sensors override driver input with little warning is frankly, a little bit frightening.
The Saab 95, meanwhile, while offering a new lease of life to an increasingly broad and passionate Saab faithful, may not have put clea-enough water between it and its mediocre forebears. Sure, there are apparently a host of high tech new features. But the car doesn’t well, look that different from the last 95.
The innovation Saab claim is mostly under the skin. For example, there’s an aircraft inspired head-up information display (HUD), MP3/iPod integration, Harman Kardon audio system, DAB radio, adaptive cruise control, DriveSense adaptive chassis with continuous damping control, keyless entry and starting, dual-zone climate control, adaptive parking assistance, and XWD with electronic LSD – the all-wheel-drive system.
The all-turbo powertrain line-up carries forward Saab’s rightsizing engine strategy, focusing on responsible performance through the development of highly efficient and four cylinder turbo engines. Starting at 1.6-litres* (180PS) all transmissions are six speed and with diesel power, CO2 emissions as low as 139 g/km are also on offer.
But, then, Saab interiors were always a strong point, as were the drivetrain.
For us, there’s something lacking in the whole package, that difficult-to-define element that made Saabs like the 900 and the 96 solid but stylish cars and ones that could achieve cult status through their driver feedback and offbeat character. We would like to have seen a return to the innovations of apparent style rather than loads of invisible tech.
Wether either of these essential new launches gets these fine companies, both of which have a true heritage of producing memorable cars, back on track remains to be seen.
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