A Mexican plant operated by Saab's former parent, General Motors Co., started to produce the Saab 9-4X crossover this week. The model will start selling in the U.S. in May while it will go on sale in Europe and other markets this August. The 9-4X is derived from the same platform as the Cadillac SRX, which is built in the same Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, factory.
Before the vehicle, an Ice Pearl metallic Aero model with a 2.8-liter, V-6 turbocharged engine, is shipped to Sweden for display at the Saab car museum, there will be a media test-drive event in the U.S.
There were delays in the development and launch of the 9-4X but it is expected to have a significant role in Saab Cars North America's U.S. sales and marketing efforts in 2011. It is the first crossover in the Saab lineup since the 9-7X was phased out in December 2008.
This gives the Swedish brand an entry in one of the fastest-growing market segments in the industry. Last year, demand for the Cadillac SRX, BMW X5, Lexus RX and other premium crossovers surged by 25%, outpacing the U.S. market's overall gain of 11%.
Saab Cars North America predicts that U.S. sales will reach 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles this year. Notably, Saab has never doubled or tripled sales year-over-year in the U.S. Its largest percentage increase was recorded in 1983, when Saab’s sales were 43% higher than in 1982.
The new Saab 9-4X comes with a front end that is inspired by Aero X concept car, as marked by a deep, three-port grille and 'ice-block'-effect lighting themes. Its single glasshouse graphic helps highlight Saab’s traditional 'cockpit' look while masked windshield and door pillars help create the brand’s hallmark wraparound-effect.
The new Saab 9-4X is also easily recognizable as a Saab thanks to a number of brand elements like the shape of the headlamps, strong C-pillars, a wraparound-effect rear screen and a 'hockey stick' waistline. This new offering from Saab features a roofline that is visually lowered and extended by a rear spoiler adjoined to the tailgate. On the other hand, the rear of the Saab 9-4X features a lighting signature first seen on the new 9-5 sedan.
The light units are wrapped around with a LED-lit 'ice-block' bar extending across the lower tailgate. Moreover, twin rhomboid-shaped exhaust tailpipes are neatly incorporated into the lower bumper molding.
Its clean and neat bodywork features a dark protective appliqué on the lower body, although customers would notice the absence of protective body panels and wheel-arch claddings. Entry-level versions of the Saab 9-4X are provided with 18-inch six-spoke alloy wheels while Aero models are specified with 20-inch, nine-spoke 'turbine' alloy wheels and a black mesh front grille. Inside, the Saab 9-4X is large enough to comfortably accommodate five adults.
It features the signature Saab, driver-focused cockpit layout, with the center console, main instrument display and center stack laid out within a single sweeping form. This element of the interior is finished with wood on Saab 9-4X, but comes with a carbon fiber-effect trim when the Aero version is availed.
Of course, the Saab 9-4X still has a number of subtle references to Saab's aviation heritage: the aircraft attitude-style speed read-out; traditional Saab 'joystick' adjusters for the mesh-style air vents; and green illumination for the needles of the three main dials.
Likewise, as per Saab tradition, the ignition (start/stop) button is located between the front seats, just adjacent to the shift lever. Furthermore, the interior of the Saab 9-4X is fitted with large, supportive seats with a standard, 8-way electrical adjustment (driver’s seat), with electrical adjustment of the foot pedals offered as an option. The rear cabin ensures comfortable and spacious accommodation even with the presence of a third row of seats.
These seats feature an independent, three-way manual adjustment of the rake (60/40 fold seatback). Interestingly, the interior of the Saab 9-4X is gifted with a number of onboard storage like double-decked pockets in all doors, a deep bin in the center console -- with 12-volt, USB and AUX connections – and a two-tier front glovebox. The posterior part of the cabin features extra storage in the rear face of the center console and the center armrest.