2006 Saab 9-7X
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The fun-to-drive Saab 9-7X is a premium midsize sport-utility vehicle featuring proven major General Motors components but with key upgrades by this Swedish automaker.
Saab is late in introducing a sport-utility vehicle, which seems peculiar because many of its auto customers long have had an "active SUV lifestyle" that includes such activities as skiing, boating, camping and biking.
Saab found that 40 percent of its car owners parked an SUV in their garage and that nearly 30 percent of Saab customers who leave the Saab brand buy a four-door SUV. The fact that Saab long was partly owned by General Motors, which has had full ownership of it for several years, makes the lack of an SUV seem even more unusual.
Saab built airplanes, including the famous B17A light bomber during World War II, and continues to produce planes. It didn't begin making cars until the late 1940s and has sold them in America since the 1950s.
Seeking Wider Acceptance
Saab has done fairly well in the Midwest, which also has rotten winters, and hopes the 9-7X will help it do better in the Sun Belt area.
Saab has long been innovative. It has extracted lots of horsepower from small turbocharged 4-cylinder engines and even put heated seats in its rally cars some 50 years ago to save the weight of a heater so they would go faster.
Higher Sales Sought
Saab product manager Keith Coultrap says the automaker plans to sell up to 10,000 9-7X models in its first full year on the U.S. market in 2006. That would be a small number for a large automaker, but Saab is a fairly small outfit.
Shares Basic Design
For one thing, the lowered sport-tuned chassis of the 9-7X conveys the performance orientation and refinement of a Saab, rather than the ruggedness of a traditional SUV.
The 9-7X looks like a sporty Saab. It has the automaker's signature "3-hole" grille, low horizontal headlights that wrap into front fenders and rear quarter windows that appear to wrap around the back roof pillars.
The 9-7X also has distinctive 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels that hold Dunlop all-season tires specially designed for the 9-7X. The body sides have no extraneous items such as cladding, and there are unique vertically stacked taillights with a precision-crafted appearance. Even the roof rails visually integrate with the vehicle's upper contours, accentuating and extending the profile.
One puzzle, though, is the rather flimsy looking vertical cupholder that pops out from the dashboard and accompanies a conventional console cupholder.
The 9-7X has rugged body-on-frame SUV construction, stiffened chassis, advanced all-wheel drive, electronic stability control system and a limited slip differential.
Saab always has strongly emphasized safety, and the 9-7X thus has items such as side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor system. Knee bolsters offer lower body protection in a collision.
Fun to Drive
The 9-7X is powered by GM's 290-horsepower inline 6-cylinder engine (up from 275 in 2005) or a 300-horsepower V8. Both engines provide strong acceleration, although the V8 has more torque and thus added towing ability. It also has a fuel-saving feature that seamlessly switches to 4-cylinder mode during driving conditions such as highway cruising.
Estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway with the 6-cylinder engine and 15 and 20 with the V8.
The 2006 prices for the well-equipped 9-7X start at $38,520 for the base version and $40,520 for the high-line version. The arcane 2005 Linear and Arc 2005 model designations will be dropped, with the 2006 6-cylinder version just called the 9-7X 4.2i and the V8 trim level the 9-7X 5.3i.
Saab will be introducing more new models in the near future because GM wants to increase its sales to generate more money—and to make it more of a household word.