From time to time I read ignorant comments and tests of the Saab 9-5 where the writer says that the 9-5 is an Opel Insignia in disguise. They claim that the car is just another Opel, developed and engineered by Opel. Well, let me tell you, they are dead wrong.
So here's a page dedicated to sharing the lesser known facts about the development of the new Saab 9-5. As new information surface, the page will be updated.
Technical director Mats Fägerhag on the development of the Saab 9-5
For three and a half years Mats Fägerhag was at GM Europe. He was employed by Saab Automobile AB and was located in Rüsselsheim in Germany. He rejoined Saab in Trollhättan when Saab left GM. In an interview at the Saab Festival Dinner in July 2010, he revealed that during his time at GM Europe he was in the position to direct all the engineering work on the new Saab 9-5 to Sweden and Trollhättan. He could also reveal that both the front and rear suspension of the Saab 9-5 was purely developed by Saab. The all wheel drive, as we all know, was developed by Saab and also the front structure of the car and the interior safety systems.
One other interesting fact from the interview is that when Saab sets up the chassis of a car, they always start on ice roads and snow. And when the chassis works perfectly on ice and snow, then they go on to a high speed circuit to slightly correct the chassis so that it also works perfectly on asphalt roads.
70 percent of the new Saab 9-5 is uniquely Saab
According to Saab's Mats Fägerhag, 70 percent of the new Saab 9-5 was developed by Saab's engineers. It has also been reported repeatedly that 70 percent of the parts in the new 9-5 is unique for Saab and not shared with any other GM car including the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, Buick Regal and Buick LaCrosse. One example of the differences between the cars is the different HVAC systems.
High performance suspension
From articles in English automobile media, we also know that both the high performance front suspension, HiPer Strut, and rear suspension, H-arm, were developed by Saab. And it is no surprise that Opel chose to use this suspension in their top of the line Opel Insignia OPC and that GM used HiPer strut in the Buick LaCrosse.
Involvement in the development of the Epsilon II platform
From the book "Kampen om Saab" (The fight for Saab) we get to know that the vehicle engineering department of Saab was deeply involved in the development of the GM global mid-size architecture known as the Epsilon II platform. The Epsilon II architecture is of course the basis of the Saab 9-5. Amongst other things, Saab was responsible for the development of the brake system, the all wheel drive system, the passive and active safety systems and the front structure.
Development of Cross-Wheel Drive (XWD) with Haldex
It's a well known fact ever since the release of the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X, that Saab developed the all wheel drive system Cross-Wheel Drive (XWD) together with Haldex. This is a Saab version of the Haldex fourth generation all wheel drive and it was first available in the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X. Due to Saab's vast contribution to the development of the fourth generation of the Haldex system, Saab actually had an exclusive right to use the system with the rear electronic limited slip differential (eLSD) for one year before it could be sold to and used by other manufacturers. Since then, the Saab version of the Haldex fourth generation has also become available in other GM cars, e.g. the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac SRX.
The original Haldex system was invented by Sigvard "Sigge" Johansson, who worked at Saab's competition department.
To sum up
70 per cent of the new Saab 9-5 is unique to Saab. Yes, the car probably uses the same wheel hub and the same wiper motor as the Opel Insignia and the steering wheel and some buttons and switches are basically generic GM parts, but all the things that matters, the things that gives the car the Saab characteristics, are developed, engineered and made by Saab. In this post I have mentioned a few known Saab designs and contributions to the Epsilon II architecture, but there are many more. Both big and small. For instance, Saab was the global center of excellence within General Motors for structural design, electronic management systems, engine turbocharging, transmissions and electric drivelines, chassis development and safety systems, and Trollhättan was GM's R&D office on safety, manufacturing and fuel economy. I'm sure we will get to know more and more of the lesser known facts about the Saab 9-5 development in the months and years to come.
PS: If you have links that shed even more light on the development of the new 9-5, then please drop a comment.