Engineers who are working on the redesigned Saab 9-3 are focused on making it low-cost and versatile. It is being developed on a re-engineered, flexible platform that may also be featured on the next-generation 9-5 sedan and wagon and the second-generation 9-4X crossover, which is set to arrive later this decade.
The next-generation 9-3 is slated to start selling in the fall of 2012. Saab Automobile CEO Jan Ake Jonsson said that since the company will be able to “get as much as [it] can get out of one architecture,” then this is an “excellent solution” for it as a small carmaker.
Jonsson said that Saab will be able to build all of its cars in one plant, cutting the investment in one facility since the components can be shared among different models. Internally, this platform is dubbed as the Phoenix.
The current 9-3 was developed on a front-wheel-drive platform designed by General Motors, which owned Saab at that time. In February 2010, GM sold Saab to Spyker Cars NV.
Last summer, the current-generation Saab 9-5 went on sale. The first-generation 9-4X is expected to start selling in May. Both share GM platforms. If Saab does commit to a decision, it will take five or six years for the 9-5 and 9-4X to switch to the Phoenix platform.
The 'aeromotional' design theme featured on the Saab PhoeniX Concept draws inspiration from the carmaker’s Saab's aviation heritage. This theme also borrows expression from Ursaab prototype designed by aircraft engineers that gave birth to its first generation of cars. At first glance, the Saab PhoeniX Concept seemed to be shaped by the wind as evidenced by its liquid-like skin and a teardrop cabin that resembles a dark ice block erupting from the center of the vehicle’s bodywork.
Running across the hood to the disguised windshield pillars are two prominent ripples. The rear end, meanwhile, is marked by a dark screen seemingly bursting through the outer skin of the rear deck. This tapering form is inspired by the teardrop rear styling of Ursaab, while its 'sawn off', kamm tail hints of the Sonett, which is Saab's first coupé. Up front, LED headlamps are located at the tips, seeming invisible to the naked eye.
These headlamps flank Saab's signature three-port grille, which has been stretched to adhere to the car’s low, frontal styling. A body-colored central wing has been rendered more pronounced. These new grille and hood forms could be some of the styling themes that would be adopted in Saab’s future production cars.
Aerodynamic elements, meanwhile, include roof-mounted 'winglets' that allows the concept to cut into the air as efficiently as possible, redirecting airflow from the sides across the rear deck, thereby helping to reduce lift forces for better stability sans any increase in drag. Fascinatingly, the Saab PhoeniX Concept is specified with butterfly-opening doors for better ingress and egress.
These doors have no visible handles or mirrors that could upset airflow, with small cameras on slim stalks guaranteeing ample rearward vision. Inside, the Saab PhoeniX Concept features a 2+2 cabin layout with a minimalist appearance. The cabin features 'stripped out' feel of a race car, thanks to the shell-like seats as well as metalized interior sections resembling the exposed network of a rollover cage.
Interestingly, the Saab PhoeniX Concept offers a reinterpretation of Saab's traditional, driver-centric instrument layout. Now, a circular pod -- shaped like the afterburner of a jet engine -- is placed in front of the driver presenting data along with the head-up display.
In addition, the vehicle’s eight-inch touch-screen is as accessible to the driver as the steering wheel. Saab's advanced IQon infotainment and communications system is housed in a separate module angled at 45 degrees to the driver. Saab IQon is a vehicle communications platform underpinning Google's Android operating system.
Derived from pioneering 'open innovation' with third-party service providers and applications developers, Saab IQon is basically an embedded computer platform that could link to the Internet as soon as the car's ignition is switched on. Functions like audio and entertainment streaming, on-board music storage and online navigation is accessible through its touchscreen.