For a time last year it seemed the Saab name would cease to exist. Embroiled in the troubles of its parent company GM, Saab looked like it would simply be swallowed up, leaving behind an illustrious history as well as many loyal owners high and dry.

But help came from Holland in the shape of Spyker, best known for its niche sports cars and a brief flirtation with Formula 1, which raked together $400m (£254m) to save Saab’s skin by buying it lock, stock and convertible.

What it inherited was an ageing line-up of cars which were reliable and, despite the GM influence, had survived with their reputation intact but sorely in need of an injection of new ideas and a lot of cash.

That seems to be coming through and the first example is the new 9-5.

In true Saab tradition, the car is not a huge departure from the old model, but the update is so comprehensive that it can now stand toe-to-toe with the competition, including BMW’s 5 Series and some of the better Audis.

In short, the 9-5 really looks the part. Externally, Spyker has paid real attention to detail paying homage to the aero engineering which became Saab’s trademark, while adding some neat touches such as the faint blue lights built into the boot and the aggressively-styled front end.

The result is that you feel you are getting into a really modern car that certainly attracted a great deal of attention in Oxford where, traditionally, there are many Saab enthusiasts.

The performance is right up there, too. The test car was fitted with the less powerful of the 1.9 litre diesel engines, but seemed quicker than the quoted 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds would suggest.

Although needing plenty of revs from a standing start, press the accelerator hard and the car surges forward, offering a comforting feeling of having plenty of power in hand.

This was particularly reassuring on the motorway with overtaking effortless and rapid progress at the legal limit easily achieved in a calm, unruffled manner.

So, as an executive crusier the 9-5 passes the test with plenty to spare and it is remarkably economical, too.

On a long journey North, the car returned almost 44 mpg at motorway speeds.

Other engine choices are available, including a high performance 1.6 litre petrol unit which will be introduced next year, while four-wheel drive is also an option on the torquey two litre and 2.8 litre models.

The interior is, perhaps, where a few questions could still be asked, with a lot of dark plastic and some switchgear carried over from the GM parts bin, although less than in the previous incarnation.

The test car was fitted with optional leather seats which were firm and supportive with full electric controls.

A satellite navigation system with a slightly bizarre voice was also included, and is currently being marketed as a no extra cost option.

But otherwise everything you could want is there, from the onboard computer to the sophisticated stereo and bluetooth operation for the telephone.

Cruise control is standard, along with automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers. All of which helps you to relax and enjoy the journey with as little stress as possible.

And there is plenty of space front and rear with a huge boot more than capable of swallowing a family’s suitcases on a weekend away. In that respect it easily trumps the German opposition.

In fact, it is difficult to find a weakness with the big Saab and it is keenly priced to make it a genuine alternative to its more ubiquitous rivals.

With its combination of space, sophistication and style, this car ticks all the boxes and, some would say best of all, it is unmistakably a Saab.