Saab 9-4X: Swedish design made in Mexico

  • 03-Dec-2010 04:15 EST
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The 9-4X retains a clear Saab styling DNA, particularly at the front. Its styling and body structure positions it in looks and size between the 9-3 and the new 9-5.

Saab’s new Mexico-built 9-4X crossover—revealed at the 2010 LA Auto Show—is a close relation of the Cadillac SRX, using General Motors’ Theta Premium platform. Built at the Ramos Arizpe plant, chassis systems include Saab’s XWD all-wheel drive and electronically controlled limited slip differential (eLSD) with Haldex multi-plate clutch to vary front-to-rear wheel torque delivery. It also has DriveSense adaptive chassis control.

The 9-4X, seen in concept form at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, was in final development as GM’s ownership of the Swedish company ended. In production form, it is very close to the concept and forms a potentially significant part of the company’s recovery plan under Spyker Cars’ ownership, led by Victor Muller. Initially it is aimed very much at the U.S. market.

Its styling and body structure positions it in looks and size between the 9-3 and the new 9-5. The 9-4X retains a clear Saab styling DNA, particularly at the front. This identity includes a signature “helmet” windshield and A-pillar configuration.

Saab is at pains to emphasize that the 9-4X has car-like handling and that the body structure is free from the compromises of adapting an existing sedan or wagon format. Tracks are graded as wide, at 1622 mm (63.9 in) front and 1623 mm (63.9 in) rear. Ground clearance is 200 mm (7.9 in). The 9-4X has a Cd of 0.38.

Safety aspects are highlighted by a EuroNCAP five-star rating. Saab states that crash testing and computer simulations are based on what happens in real collisions, using findings of a database covering some 6100 real-life accidents involving Saab cars on Swedish roads over the last 50 years. Front seats get "third-generation" head restraints. Lighting includes active bi-xenon headlights that incorporate “town mode,” providing a flatter beam that better illuminates pedestrians. Body stiffness was a design target and Saab quotes a natural resonant frequency of 31 Hz.

Engine choice leads with a twin-turbo 2.8-L V6 gasoline unit producing 221 kW (296 hp) at 5500 rpm and maximum torque of 400 N·m (295 lb·ft) between 2000 and 4000 rpm. Although Saab has given no firm indication of a diesel being offered, it is really a must for meaningful sales in the European market, which it is slated to enter next August. The 2.8-L drives through a six-speed auto gearbox. The car has an “Eco” mode, which sees modified gear-shift management and a remapped throttle action.

The crossover carries five adults and has an adaptive cargo area; the front section of the trunk floor is hinged and can be opened, as Saab puts it, by “an aircraft-shaped handle” to reveal additional underfloor stowage. Load capacity with rear seatbacks up is 485 L (17.1 ft³). It is described as having a “cockpit-inspired” cabin. Saab is fond of referring to its aviation heritage although the link now is tenuous to say the least.

Front suspension uses MacPherson struts with aluminum lower A-arm, hydraulic ride bushings, and an anti-roll; rear suspension is independent and comprises a linked H-arm configuration, coil springs, hollow anti-roll bar, and isolated subframe mountings. Suspension components make extensive use of aluminum to reduce unsprung weight.

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