As part of an aggressive product development program unprecedented in the company’s history, Saab will unveil the new 9-7X SUV at the New York International Auto Show (April 9 - April 18). Expanding its model offering to four vehicle lines, Saab – the fastest growing European premium car brand in the American market – now is targeting one of the fastest growing market segments. The mid-luxury SUV segment increased from approximately 45,000 units a year in 1997 to 401,424 units in 2003. By the end of 2005, sales are projected to exceed 470,000 units.
As part of its product offensive Saab launched the redesigned 9-3 Sport Sedan and 9-3 Convertible models in the past 18 months. In December 2003, the company unveiled the Saab 9-2X, a unique and early offering in a car segment just emerging in the American market: the premium sports compact segment. The first Saab 9-2X models will go on sale in the U.S. and Canada on July 1, 2004.
The new 9-7X will bring unique Saab characteristics to this growing segment, including: sophisticated exterior and interior styling, premium design features and quality, a chassis tuned to deliver sporty and fun-to-drive performance and the ignition cylinder in the center console behind the gear lever. It will appeal to customers looking for a driver’s vehicle with the versatility of a SUV. The vehicle was developed from the award-winning General Motors GMT360 architecture. Regular production is scheduled to begin in January 2005, at GM’s Moraine, Ohio, assembly plant with vehicles available for sale in the first quarter of 2005.
“The Saab 9-7X emphasizes the ‘sport’ aspect of the sport utility vehicle nomenclature,” says Peter Augustsson, Saab’s president and CEO. “Like the soon to-be-launched Saab 9-2X models, it is very dynamic and is a vehicle that you want to drive.”
Market research conducted by Saab revealed that 39 percent of Saab customers in the U.S. currently have an SUV in the household. Furthermore, almost 30 percent of Saab customers who leave the Saab brand purchase a four-door SUV.
“The new Saab 9-7X will provide our dealers with a world-class SUV to satisfy existing customers and to attract new ones,” said Debra Kelly-Ennis, president of Saab Cars USA. “In 2003, with an increase of 26.7 percent, Saab was the fastest growing European premium car brand in the United States. Our unprecedented model offensive will help continue this strong momentum.”
The Saab 9-7X will be positioned in the $37,000 to $45,000 price bracket. Its high-performance version, incorporating a 5.3-liter V-8 delivering an estimated 300 horsepower, is destined to be an attractive offering among mid-luxury SUVs. Product content is characterized by comprehensive standard equipment, such as leather-trimmed seats, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, all-wheel-drive and a state-of-the-art sound system.
Design: Saab refinement for the exterior and interior at first glance
“The exterior and interior designs of the Saab 9-7X are in line with the vehicle’s dynamic road behavior and convey the sporty refinement of a Saab rather than the ruggedness of a traditional SUV,” comments Saab’s Executive Director of Design Michael Mauer. “For example, the interior features such Saab icons as the air vents with their distinctive sliding-plate design, the famed cup holder like that of the Saab 9-5, and a center console ignition key.”
The 9-7X reflects Saab’s sporty and functional brand character throughout its exterior design. Key features, such as Saab’s signature three-port grille, rear quarter windows that visually ap-pear to wrap around the D-pillars and brand-distinctive wheels, telegraph the 9-7X’s heritage even from a distance. Overall, the Saab 9-7X presents a very smooth, aerodynamic, sporty appearance, with an excellent body-to-tire relationship derived from the vehicle’s low stance in combination with its standard 18-inch wheels.
The 9-7X’s profile is clean and uninterrupted, without any large bumper offsets or protruding shapes and forms. The taillamps are vertically stacked with clear acrylic lenses, reflector optics and precision-detailed bezels combining to create a three-dimensional, jewel-like effect.
The Saab 9-7X’s cockpit-inspired interior is highly refined and driver-oriented. The instrument panel’s center stack and controls are angled toward the driver. Like the exterior, it features Saab-traditional strong, brand-distinctive design elements and cues.
Performance: Sporty and focused on the driver
Like all Saabs, the 9-7X is designed to be a driver’s vehicle. To help achieve its comfortable, well-controlled ride and responsive handling, the Saab 9-7X uses a uniquely tuned double A-arm front suspension with front coil spring and a five-link, electronically controlled rear air suspension. The Saab 9-7X has been developed to deliver responsive European driving charac-teristics and a low ride height, with firm front and rear suspensions, a thick front stabilizer bar and stiff upper control arm bushings at the rear. All shock absorbers are valved to help provide firm body control for confident handling. The P255/55R18 high-performance all-season radials were specially developed by Dunlop to provide road-gripping capability. A quicker 18.5:1 steering gear ratio, together with stiff mounts, is designed to help improve steering responsive-ness and precision. The steering gear is tuned for on-center feel and smooth operation. The front section of the frame is stiffened with braces to help make steering more responsive and precise.
The Saab 9-7X features standard on-demand all-wheel-drive. Traction and handling perform-ance are further enhanced by a standard preloaded-clutch limited-slip differential at the rear. Brakes are large, 4-wheel vented discs, with front aluminum dual-piston calipers, and 4-wheel ABS. There is a choice of two all-aluminium engines, each coupled to a standard elec-tronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. The 4.2-liter Inline 6 delivers 275 hp (205 kW) and 275 lb.-ft. (372 Nm) of torque. The 5.3-liter V-8 is rated at an estimated 300 hp (224 kW) and 330 lb.-ft. (447 Nm) of torque.
“The Saab 9-7X is an excellent example of Saab’s expertise applied to achieve sporty, driver focused performance,” says Kjell-Åke Eriksson, Saab executive director for future products. “Although it offers excellent versatility, it is still a delight to drive with minimal body roll and a firm but subtle, quiet ride.”
On top of its well-mannered vehicle dynamics, the Saab 9-7X features a comprehensive stan-dard safety package, including:
- Dual-stage front air bags
- Passenger sensing system
- Rollover sensing system
- Head curtain side air bags
- Front seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters
- Front seat belt buckle-up reminder.
Versatility: Lots of room for people and their luggage
Saab 9-7X customers are expected to pursue an outgoing and active lifestyle. With a wheelbase of 113 inches (2,870 mm) and an overall length of 193.4 inches (4,912 mm), the Saab 9-7X offers ample room for friends and family. It holds up to 41 cubic feet (1,161 liters) of cargo with the rear seatback up, and 80.1 cubic feet (2,268 liters) with the seatback folded down. A 60/40-split rear seat is standard in all 9-7X models, as is a trailer hitch receiver and hitch receiver cover. Maximum towing capacity when equipped with the V-8 engine is an estimated 6,500 pounds (2,948 kilograms).
Augustsson puts the launch of the Saab 9-7X in broader perspective: “The Saab 9-7X is a crucial addition to our lineup, providing customers with Saab’s driver-focused interpretation of an SUV and filling an important need in our growth strategy.”