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 kilometres, the equivalent of driving 12 times round the world, in their quest to find the best set-up. That meant optimising 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 tyres, as well as five powertrain options.
Customers will soon enjoy the results of their work. In many markets, the Saab 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 Saab 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 kilometres, 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."
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