2008 Detroit Auto Show: Saab 9-4X BioPower Concept
What it Is
Saab 9-4X BioPower Concept Preview – Detroit Auto Show: Rumors of a new Saab crossover have abounded for months now, so much so that one company executive even quipped that it would be named the 9-4X just to meet public expectation. Turns out, he wasn’t joking. The 9-4X BioPower Concept, to be officially unveiled in Detroit, features all-wheel drive, a 300-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, and a specially designed ski storage compartment.Why it Matters
Saab sales are on a growth curve, and the Swedish GM division is trying hard to keep up with the latest trends. crossovers are king, but the only utility vehicle in the Saab lineup is the 9-7x, which is going the way of the dodo. With no utility vehicle, Saab misses out on one of the most popular and profitable segments of the market. The 9-4X will fill that gap, albeit with a smaller vehicle, and give the company a true crossover to boot.
What’s Under the Hood
The 9-4X Concept boasts a 300-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that burns E85 ethanol. Interestingly, the flex-fuel engine generates less power when running on gasoline, an indication that Saab is taking advantage of the cooler burning characteristics of ethanol to increase the boost. Saab says the engine is “right sized” for the vehicle, delivering plenty of power but with reduced emissions thanks to the alcohol fuel. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and Saab’s XWD all-wheel drive system.
What it Looks Like
We don’t know for certain how heavily disguised this is from the eventual production version, but we hope the apple doesn’t fall far from this concept’s tree. Widely rumored to be built on GM’s Theta platform, which also underpins the Saturn VUE, the Saab has a long, lean appearance to it, enhanced by the longitudinal accent line that extends under the side windows, then sweeps up the rearmost pillar. Otherwise it looks a lot like a Saab, a good thing given that we like the restyled 9-3 and 9-5. While no dimensions were given, Saab mentions that the cabin has four seats, reinforcing that this is a smaller vehicle than the one it replaces.
The 9-4X interior is inspired by the Aero-X, with a clear zone that sweeps up from the central console to the main display screen. Saab’s green lighting illuminates the instruments, while the steering wheel boasts aircraft-shaped trim, a nod to the company’s “born from jets” history. The interior is designed with just four seats, with a storage system fro skis and ski equipment inside the car. Boots have a special heated compartment under the floor, and the rear cargo deck features a sliding door with a fold-out ski holder big enough for three pairs of skis and poles. But where’s the love for snowboarders?
What Saab Says
Like many of today’s concepts, the 9-4X is actually a preview of a coming production model. Saab admits as much, saying that the concept “confirms Saab’s plans to enter the growing crossover segment with a dynamic, driver-focused vehicle inspired by Scandinavian design values and respect for the environment.” The release also quotes Jan Ake Jonsson, Saab Automobile managing director as saying, “This concept is a clear statement of what our brand is about. It is also an important next step in our plans to enter new market segments with distinctive product offerings.”
What We Think
While we don’t expect the nifty ski packaging to make it to production, and we are unsure about a 300-horsepower turbocharged four-banger, we still have high hopes for the 9-4X when it makes it to showroom floors. The concept looks good, and very buildable, with none of the fantasy details often found on concept cars. If rumors are true that the car will be based on the same platform as the Saturn Vue – in fact, possibly even built in the same plant – bodes well, as we think the current Vue is a fine little crossover.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Saab