Saturday, October 22, 2011
2011 Saab 9-4X
Saab's 9-4X hits dealerships after three years' buildup. Shown in concept form back in January 2008, the five-seater finally puts the Scandinavian automaker into the luxury crossover segment. The 9-4X shares underpinnings with the Cadillac SRX from onetime parent company GM. As such, competitors include everything from the Lexus RX 350 to the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK and BMW X3.
Trim levels include the V-6 3.0i and 3.0i Premium, both with front- or all-wheel drive. A turbocharged 9-4X Aero tops off the lineup. The Aero comes only with all-wheel drive.
The spacious cabin provides comfortable accommodation for up to five adults and is defined by a signature Saab, driver-focused cockpit layout. The center console, center stack and main instrument display are presented within a single form that sweeps up around the driver. For the 9-4X, this is finished with wood or, for Aero interiors, a carbon fiber-effect trim.
Other subtle references to Saab’s aviation heritage include a selectable, aircraft attitude-style speed read-out, green illumination for the needles of the three main dials and traditional Saab ‘joystick’ adjusters for the mesh-style air vents. The ignition – a start/stop button – is, of course, located between the front seats, in true Saab tradition, adjacent to the shift lever.
Large, supportive seats include a standard, 8-way electrical adjustment for the driver and an optional electrical adjustment of the foot pedals. Rear passengers enjoy particularly roomy accommodation as rear space is not compromised by the presence of a third row of seats. They also benefit from an independent, three-way manual adjustment of the rake of each 60/40 fold seatback.
Ample onboard storage includes double-decked pockets in all doors, a two-tier front glovebox and a deep bin in the center console with 12-volt, USB and AUX connections. Rear passengers have additional storage in the rear face of the center console and the center armrest.
Infotainment includes two audio options, a seven-speaker or top-of-the-line, 10-speaker Bose system with 5.1 surround sound. The optional 8-inch touchscreen, hard disk-based navigation system includes a bird’s eye map view and 10 GB storage for ‘jukebox’ music files. Communication on the move is supported by an integrated Bluetooth hands-free phone system, which functions via voice command and steering wheel controls, as well as the infotainment panel.
In the rear, passengers can enjoy independent climate control, in addition to the standard dual-zone system, and select their own onboard audio/visual entertainment through a dedicated unit in the back of the center console. This has a video AUX input and two 8-inch screens in the rear face of the front seatbacks.
The outer surface of the 9-4X shares many styling cues with the 2011 Saab 9-5. Up front, Saab’s new signature grille is flanked by swoopy headlights fitted with adaptive xenon bulbs, with trapezoidal fog-light housings below. The windshield is dramatically raked, and the pillars are blacked-out back to the thick D-pillar, wherein the “blade” of the hockey-stick-esque body line kicks forward, giving the 9-4X an aggressive look. The rear hatch shares the 9-5’s “ice-block” LED-strip, which spans the license-plate recess and connects the taillights. The standard rolling stock measures 18 inches, while Aero models receive 20-inch, nine-spoke wheels that mirror the turbine look of the 9-5’s. Overall, the 9-4X has a sleek look that quite possibly bests all of GM’s mid-size crossovers.
The 9-4X sports styling cues similar to Saab's new 9-5 sedan, complete with black window pillars and side mirrors to give the semblance of a wraparound windshield. Up front is the automaker's trademark three-portal grille, and the headlights employ blue-tinted lenses under what Saab calls its "ice-block" theme. Lower portions of the bumpers are clad in gray.
Aero versions have mesh grille inserts, fog lights, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and 20-inch alloy wheels. Xenon headlights are optional on the 3.0i Premium. Both 3.0i and 3.0i Premium trims have 18-inch alloys. A panoramic moonroof is optional across the board.
In production trim, the 9-4X concept’s BioPower pretenses have fallen by the wayside, but the turbocharged engine has not. Just as with the Cadillac SRX, buyers will have their choice of a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter V-6 producing 265 hp, or the 300-hp, turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6, which will be exclusive to the top-spec Aero model. All-wheel drive is standard on the Aero trim and optional on the otherwise front-wheel-drive 3.0-liter. The Aero also includes Saab’s DriveSense adaptive suspension. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Expect performance to match the Caddy—a 2.8-powered SRX we tested hit 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, and a 3.0-liter all-wheel driver took 8.4.
Excellent safety complements strong performance, and the 9-4X benefits from more than 50 years of Saab experience in working with occupant protection. Saab crash testing and computer simulations are based on what happens in real collisions, on real roads. Many in-house tests developed by Saab are over and above those legally required or carried out by consumer test organizations.
The success of Saab’s work is reflected in surveys of real-life collisions by the US Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) and the Swedish Folksam insurance company, where Saab cars have consistently scored well, several times being ranked best in their segment. The Saab 9-3 and the new 9-5 sedan are also maximum 5-star performers in EuroNCAP crash safety tests.