The new 9-4X crossover from Saab has started to arrive at U.S. dealerships, a significant entry to the emerging crossover market. The Swedish automaker said it has received over 100 orders for the 9-4X. Saab has a total of 199 stores in the U.S. After several delays, production of the 9-4X finally started last February in Mexico at a General Motors factory.
Saab worked with GM to develop this model. In fact, it is built on the same platform as the Cadillac SRX.
Saab was compelled to suspend production at its Trollhattan, Sweden plant when parts suppliers stopped shipments as they have not been paid yet.
Output is scheduled to resume in Sweden in the early part of August as Saab has already secured new funding from different sources, including automakers based in China.
The first 9-4X was sold last weekend in Cleveland at Saab North Olmstead. The 9-4X crossover has a starting price of $34,205 for the front-wheel-drive version.
Meanwhile, the all-wheel drive Aero models are priced at $48,835. These prices are inclusive of an $825 shipping charge.
Saab had not made a successful run of the 9-7X in the U.S. crossover market, likely because it didn’t have a lot different to offer from GM’s similar-sized vehicles like the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy. Saab has sold 158% more vehicles in the U.S. this year to 3,471 units. The 9-3 accounts for about 81% of this figure.
Saab will be officially unveiling the 9-4X during the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show and with this, expand the brand’s range of products to three car lines. The brand hopes that the 9-4X will function as the next important step in its rebirth as an independent premium automaker. It has a distinct design and comes with engineering values that it hopes to bring to the already growing segment that is the mid-size crossover.
Appearance-wise, it has Scandinavian attributes with some aspects clearly inspired by aircraft design. In terms of ride quality and handling characteristics, it is able to challenge the standards in this class. As a result, it serves as an alternative choice especially for those independently-minded crossover customers. As expected from a Saab model, it comes with an athletic personality considering that it has been constructed around a crossover body structure that is not just unique but one that had been actually designed for a purpose.
This is important as it offers excellent ride and handling properties. The driving dynamics that the 9-4X delivers is strengthened by the DriveSense adaptive chassis control, Saab XWD, and state-of-the-art all-wheel-drive system. Powering the 9-4X are two V6 engines, turbocharged or naturally-aspirated, that are both efficient and compact. The first is the 3.0-liter version, which has an output of 265 hp, with the entry-level model equipped with variable valve timing and direct fuel injection.
The second is the 2.8-liter variant with an output of 300 hp which has the twin-scroll turbocharger instead of the direct injection. This feature is in fact exclusive to Aero variants. These two engines are paired to an automatic six-speed transmission with an electronic adaptive control. In addition to delivering a sporty drive and displaying power, the 9-4X has the size and look of a model that’s a cross between the 9-5 sedan and the all-rounder 9-3X.
Whether on the interior or the exterior, it conveys that brand’s personality with orderly and clean designs and the signature themes. This can be seen in the windshield and its wraparound effect as well as the cockpit which is now more driver-focused. There is also cargo handling which allows for more flexibility and the ice block lighting theme. Taken as a whole, the bodywork of the 9-4X does not have any obvious unnecessary trim or decoration.
Instead, the lower body has a dark protective appliqué applied to it and there are no other protective body panels or even wheel-arch claddings. The use of the uncluttered lines and the powerful and comprehensive stance reflect the Scandinavian design philosophy of the brand. While it does have a unique face, it is comparable to the 9-5 sedan, and was inspired from the Aero X concept car, an award winning vehicle. It has that ice-block effect lighting motif with a three-port grille. Its windshield has been disguised and when combined with the door pillars, results in the trademark wraparound-effect.
Additionally, the utilization of a single glasshouse graphic highlights the standard cockpit look the brand is known for. For the exterior, there are also clear signs that this is indeed a Saab product. Some examples are how the headlamps are shaped with the hockey-stick waistline and the C-pillars complementing the rear screen’s wraparound-effect. Meanwhile the roofline has been lowered visually and extends to the spoiler in the rear which has also been integrated to the tailgate.
At the back, its lighting is moved forward by a signature that was first featured in the new 9-5 sedan. The ice-block bar has LED lights which go all the way to the lower tailgate and then cover the light units. The twin exhaust tailpipes are rhomboid-shaped and have been cleanly incorporated to the molding of the lower bumper. For the entry-level models, it will come equipped with the alloy 6-spoke 18-inch wheels.
The Aero models meanwhile will have the alloy turbine 9-spoke 20-inch wheels with the black mesh front grille. Saab Automobile CEO Jan Åke Jonsson shares that with the 9-4X, the appeal of Saab as a brand is widened. The 9-4X, he adds, allows the brand to enter the crossover segment, one of the fastest growing, with a car that echoes the values of the brand when it comes to driving performance and advanced Scandinavian design, among others.
CEO Jonsson continues by saying that the 9-4X is an exciting bundle and the brand is sure that it will not only appeal to current Saab owners but also to potential new customers. Sales for the 9-4X are scheduled to begin in May 2011 in North America. For Europe and other markets, it will start by August. Prices for the 9-4X will be released once sales officially start.