Saab's unofficial peek at its new small car
What it Is
Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept Preview – 2008 Geneva Auto Show: There are two important things to know about the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept that was shown at the 2008 Geneva Auto Show. First, you will see a production version of this car in the near future. It will be called the 9-1, compete with the Volvo C30, and here’s hoping the rearmost pillars are a bit smaller. Second, the Hybrid part of the equation is GM’s next-generation mild hybrid, which will make its way into the company’s non Dual-Mode hybrids in the next couple of years.Why it Matters
We’ve longed for a small, sporty Saab since the demise decades ago of the funky little Sonnet. While this is a cruise ship compared to that little thing, we love the idea of a sport model from Saab, and can’t wait to see the finished product. The hybrid technology is also interesting. We’ve driven GM’s current “mild” hybrid cars a couple of times and been disappointed with the performance. This promises greater mileage savings without penalty, always a good thing.
What’s Under the Hood
The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid powertrain packs a wallop: 200 horsepower. Saab doesn’t say how much the gas engine makes versus the electric motor, but either way that’s plenty of juice for a sporty coupe. It also says that carbon emissions will be admirably low, and that the fuel is an E85 ethanol blend.
What it Looks Like
Despite a similar concept, the Saab 9-X BioHybrid looks very unlike its closest rival, the Volvo C30. The 9-X sports a long roofline, low stance and very Saab nose. The car also features active aerodynamics. The rear spoiler extends at speeds above 43 mph, and an underbody diffuser deploys at the same time, both to help aid fuel efficiency.
To say Saab has hewed to an interior design theme is a gross understatement: From behind the wheel, many modern Saabs are almost indistinguishable from their 80s counterparts. However, the 9-X is a stark contrast. This is the first modern Saab interior that looks different. The instrument pane sweeps out from the door polding, and three-dimensional graphics on the dash are, as Saab puts it, “’Frozen’ in ice,” a design theme carried over from the Aero X concept from a couple of years ago. The four-seater cockpit is just what Saab needs, and we hope to see some elements of this theme carry over to production cars soon.
What Saab Says
Saab calls the BioHybrid a “vivid vision of what a future compact car from Saab could look like.” with Anthony Lo, director of Advanced Design at GM Europe adds, “This car is all about efficiency in design and performance.” He goes on to say, “This car shows how our concept work can be carried forward into a compact format. It has a number of features which we will be developing further, such as the new driver-focused theme, the importance of clean, uncluttered surfaces and the easy, seamless connectivity inside the car.”
What We Think
Rumors of Saab’s return to the small car market have abounded for years, but now the company looks like it’s close to actually going through with it. We can see this in production: Add door handles, outside mirrors and less futuristic looking wheels and you’re there. We expect the interior to be toned down a notch or twenty as well. Either way, if the 9-X is a crystal ball, we like its vision of the future.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Saab