Saab presents its new flagship sedan, the 9-5. Saab 9-5 2011 has undergone more than 500,000 km of rigorous testing with various technical permutations to find the optimal setup. The end result is optimized two suspension layouts, front and all-wheel-drive transmissions, passive and adaptive chassis functions and two steering systems with different brakes, wheel sizes and tires, as well as five powertrain options. Saab has started taking orders for the 9-5 and the first deliveries are expected to start in later part of 2010.
Countdown to Launch: New Saab 9-5 Ready to Roll
- More than 500,000 km of chassis testing on European roads
- Handling, ride, refinement assessed across 250 measurement criteria
- Unique challenge of forest test track near Arctic Circle
- Customer order book already open in many markets
From the frozen wastes of northern Sweden to the baking plains of southern Spain, Saab’s chief test driver Peter Johansson and his small team of chassis experts have driven on some of the most challenging roads in Europe to fine-tune the dynamics of the next generation Saab 9-5.
Peter and his team clocked up more than 500,000 kilometers, the equivalent of driving 12 times round the world, in their quest to find the best set-up. That meant optimizing two different suspension layouts, front and all-wheel-drive transmissions, passive and adaptive chassis functions and two steering systems with different brakes, wheel sizes and tires, as well as five powertrain options.
Customers will soon enjoy the results of their work. In many markets, the 9-5 order book is already open and the first deliveries of Saab’s new flagship sedan will begin later this year.
The six-strong driving team focused on a core test fleet of 15 cars, including all the major technical permutations, and established a matrix for evaluating handling, ride and refinement across almost 250 measurement criteria.
While computer simulations can predict most of the car’s dynamic and acoustic characteristics, there is no substitute for getting ‘human’ real world feedback. To do that, the driving team honed the new 9-5 on real roads in Sweden, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy. From marble smooth to deeply rutted and potholed, from winding to straight, in wet and dry conditions, day and night.
Peter and his team focused on getting a true Saab ‘feel’ in the steering, the brakes, the way the car reacts and what the driver and passengers inside experience. As they clocked up the kilometers, they also checked the performance of in-car systems, such as the air conditioning, audio, lights, seating comfort and operating ergonomics.
“When you get in the car and drive, you feel like you are part of the vehicle. You feel directly connected to the controls and the car really becomes an extension of the driver,” says Peter. “This is why the new 9-5 is fun and so rewarding to drive. Throughout the development process, we focused on giving this car all the exciting driving characteristics you would expect from a Saab.
“The electronic systems such as the stability control, DriveSense adaptive chassis and our XWD system must all work together. The stability control, for example, must not get in the way of enjoying the benefits of the chassis and transmission systems.
“With this car, I should say you get that overall Saab feel through the steering wheel and the seat of your pants. We’ve developed the car to have predictable, neutral handling in most situations. When cornering under extreme loads, it is forgiving and easy to control with no sudden surprises.”
Ultimate test track challenge
Closed tracks, such as the Nurburgring Nordschleife in Germany and the high-speed bowl at NARDO in Italy, were also included on the test driving itinerary. But for extreme snow and ice testing, the team ventured where other manufacturers fear to drive, a 10 km forest track at the Colmis test facility in northern Sweden, just outside the Arctic Circle. It offers a challenging rollercoaster ride of dips, crests, hills and off-camber bends, with unforgiving boulders and trees lining the narrow roadside. Saab is the only manufacturer to use it for vehicle testing. “After every tuning change we always go to this track to see if the handling is OK,” says Peter. “If a change hasn’t worked, we know it will be exposed there.”
Throughout the chassis development program, the test team regularly held in-house evaluation sessions, where test cars were handed over to colleagues from other areas of the company. It was a further check to see that the adjustments being made were appreciated. Most of all, the team could be sure the car had all the responses and driving feel typical of a Saab.
“In this respect, we work a bit differently at Saab,” adds Peter. “We like to involve colleagues from other departments, particularly engineering and design, in these sessions. They’ve all played a part in the project. People can experience the results of their work and their feedback is important as we go through the fine-tuning process.”
Peter was responsible for integrating the latest fourth generation Haldex XWD system in the 9-3 range and this cutting-edge all-wheel-drive function is now carried forward into the 9-5. On a personal note, the new car also has special significance. Peter’s family ‘book-end’ Saab history: his grandfather made tools for the first Saabs produced more than 60 years ago, and his 77 year-old father Sigge worked in the Saab competition department. Now Peter has put the finishing touches to Saab’s latest product.
“I’m sure they would both be very impressed by what we’ve achieved with the new 9-5,” adds Peter. “Without doubt, it’s the most accomplished and sophisticated car Saab has ever made. I can’t wait for customers to get behind the wheel to see if they enjoy driving it as much as we do.”