The all new Saab 9-5 Sedan is a unique expression of the power of modern Scandinavian design. Pure and perfectly formed with a powerful presence, this premium sedan defines the future of Saab’s design language.
“BY USING SCANDINAVIAN design principles, we bring a sense of purity to the look of this car,” explains Simon Padian, Saab’s Brand Design Chief. “The organic shapes we use are clearly the work of a human hand, rather than appearing to be designed by computer. Scandinavian design is engaging to the eye and natural-looking, and that makes it different from a more mechanical, hard-edged approach seen elsewhere in the premium sedan segment.”
On the road, the striking design of the new 9-5 is certainly going to turn heads.“The new 9-5 takes Saab’s design language forward, making it more expressive by introducing an evolved vocabulary that communicates our brand values in a progressive, more impactful way than before.”
Eye-catching design, powerful performance and driving excitement summarise the overall feeling of the new 9-5.The inspiration for this shift in emphasis has been Saab’s widely acclaimed Aero X concept car, revealed in 2006 as a signpost to the future of Saab design. Its bold front-end styling,‘wraparound’ window graphic, clean body surfacing and ‘ice-block’ lighting themes are all key visual elements in the powerful looks of the new 9-5 Sedan.
“We pushed the boundaries of Saab design with the Aero X concept,” says Simon,“and the new 9-5 shows how we are implementing this confident look into our products.”
Naturally formed sculpture
Viewed from any angle, the naturally formed sculpturing of the new 9-5’s body shape conveys power and purpose.The Scandinavian design ethic applied by Simon and his team requires shapes that are clean and simple yet engaging, bound by strong lines that are natural and fluid. Such design purity gives the new 9-5 its powerful persona – a head-turning visual presence.
The designers have also allowed the full power of aircraft-inspired design to flow, giving the 9-5’s body a fuselage-like shape.“Saab design has sometimes been described as ‘understated’,” says Simon.“This view is certainly challenged with the design of the new 9-5, where we’ve taken new ideas and themes from our concept work to tell the story of our brand in a more striking way. Compared to the looks of the previous 9-5, we’re talking revolution here, rather than evolution.”
Attention to detail
A number of features contribute to the design story of the new Saab 9-5. Door mirrors may seem an odd place to start, but, in this case, they were instrumental in shaping the overall design of this car.“The upper part of the mirror casings are black, rather than body-coloured, because the mirror unit occupies the same visual space as the windows,” explains Simon. “We didn’t want any interruption to the wraparound window graphic, which makes such a bold statement.”
As with the Aero X, this striking feature of the new 9-5 creates the impression of a cockpit. A much larger Saab logo and wing profile in the centre of the deep grille reflect the new 9-5’s air of confidence, while the sweep of the front end and headlamp units on each side mirrors the curve of the wraparound windshield.
Light has always been a prominent feature in Scandinavian design, with contrasts of light and dark and ambient light, as well as a closeness to nature.“The ‘ice-block’ theme in the lights is a detail that adds to the car’s distinct Scandinavian character,” says Simon.“The blue hue in the surface of the headlamps gives the impression of looking through ice that’s floating in water.”
Saab makes a bold statement with the front of the new 9-5, combining this striking signature lighting with its unique three-hole grille, creating an overall dynamic and powerful impression.
The ‘ice-block’ light theme is continued at the rear where the proportions of the new 9-5 energise the entire design. Here, the defining features are large, sweeping rear pillars, linking the sloping roof to a wide, flat rear deck, creating a muscular and powerful rear stance.“We’ve been even bolder with the design at the back of the car than at the front,” says Simon.“We wanted to create a really strong, dynamic identity from the rear, emphasising that this is a car that’s rewarding to drive.The strong pillars contribute to this.”
To balance the frontal styling, the rear windscreen has been inspired by Saab’s car heritage.“We inverted the shape of the rear screen of the classic 900 sedan, which leads your eye down the rear edge of the C-pillar and sweeps around the rear,” continues Simon.“We deliberately wanted to avoid the cliché of a coupé-like look for sedans.We’ve stretched the three-box sedan proportions but kept a defined trunk line – this is a sports sedan that makes a powerful visual statement. It doesn’t need to look like a coupé or a hatchback.”
Such fresh exterior design required a similar treatment for the interior.The cabin of the new 9-5 brings together traditional Saab design elements and high-tech capabilities to create a driver-focused cockpit environment that communicates Saab’s ‘fun to drive’ appeal.The ergonomically designed seating and layout are combined with authentic soft-touch grained surfaces, adding to the luxury premium feel.
“We have always been inspired by the cockpit of a jet aircraft, and the design of the new 9-5’s instrument panel takes this a step further,” adds Simon.Traditional Saab cues – such as the driver-focused layout, floor-mounted ignition, green instrument illumination, tactile rotary controls and the joystick-controlled air-vent design – are given a fresh, more sophisticated look.
“With our Scandinavian design influences, you could say we’re seeking to simplify the design, while retaining elements of interest.Things don’t have to be complicated to be interesting. In visual terms, if it is done right, less is more,” says Simon. Examples of this approach can be seen in the way the single air-vent zone replaces several separate openings in the instrument panel.
Simon points to a design detail that helps imbue the feeling of premium quality.The trim line that surrounds the combined centre stack and instrument panel has an organic shape that varies in width and thickness to match the curvature of the surface.“This is the same as the form language that we’ve applied to the exterior,” he says. “It looks very balanced, with a crafted, quality appeal.”
Inside and out, the new 9-5 sheds new light on the power of Scandinavian design. Sophisticated and sporty, form is in harmony with function and the result is a car with a design profile that stands out in the crowd.This, after all, is not just another premium sedan, it is a Saab premium sedan.
Article from Saab Magazine 2009-01 – Photos by Alex P