Concept car sees Saab rise from ashes

  • 14-Mar-2011 09:37 EDT

The Saab PhoeniX hybrid drive system incorporates front-wheel drive with an electrically driven rear axle. (Newspress)

Saab’s PhoeniX concept gave 2011 Geneva Motor Show visitors a glimpse into future thinking from the car manufacturer. Its powertrain is being developed for future Saab models, as are many of its other design and technical features. The concept also served to showcase Saab’s IQon infotainment system, developed using the Google Android operating system.

As with PSA Peugeot-Citroën’s Hybrid4 system, the PhoeniX drivetrain combines a conventional internal-combustion engine for the front-drive system with an electrically driven rear axle that uses energy recovered during regenerative braking.

A 1.6-L BMW-sourced four-cylinder gasoline engine is part of the primary power system. It develops 200 hp (149 kW) and uses a familiar suite of technologies including a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection, variable valve lift for the inlet valves, with variable valve timing for both inlet and exhaust. To reduce pumping losses, the engine dispenses with a throttle butterfly, and the degree of valve lift controls the air entering the cylinders. An electric stepper motor is used to adjust the position of a secondary eccentric cam on the inlet side of the engine to vary the degree of valve opening.

Other energy-saving systems include automatic stop/start, and the alternator and water pump disengage when not required. Mass savings measures include a high-tensile-steel fuel tank, which is 3 kg (6.6 lb) lighter than a composite tank of similar volume. The cost is said to be roughly half that of a composite tank.

The electric drive system, tagged eXWD by Saab, consists of a 25-kW electric motor alternator located under the floor and within the suspension members at the rear of the car. A 1.1-kW·h lithium-ion battery pack installed beneath the trunk floor stores regenerated energy.

The system provides three operating modes, selected from the IQon infotainment. These include default Eco, Sport, and Traction modes. In Eco mode, Saab estimates that the system can reduce fuel consumption by 15% on the combined cycle. Sport mode provides torque vectoring to the rear wheels to optimize handling characteristics. Extra power and grip are provided under full acceleration up to 50 mph (80 km/h), which is said to reduce acceleration from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) by 1.5 s. Traction mode provides extra traction in slippery conditions or on steep inclines.

The eXWD system is supplied by eAAM Driveline Systems, a company jointly owned by Saab Automobile and American Axle Manufacturing Inc. of the U.S. The joint venture was announced last September.

Saab says that the 2+2 PhoeniX is based on a new structure, which will be used on the next Saab 9-3 due for launch in 2012. The drag coefficient is said to be 0.25 thanks in part to the side-mounted "winglets" designed to help guide airflow management around the car by directing it from the side of the car across the rear deck to improve downforce without increasing drag. Expect to see the grille and bonnet forms on future Saab models.

Access to the minimalist-design cabin is via butterfly opening doors. A tailgate is disguised in the rear deck. The driver is presented with information on a headup display and through a second display shaped like a jet engine afterburner. Red instrument and cabin lighting includes LED light tubes at floor level.

The IQon infotainment system is angled toward the driver and is based around an 8-in color touch screen. Using the Android operating system, it automatically connects to the Internet when the engine is started. Entertainment, navigation, and application downloads are available through the system, which can be upgraded throughout the life of the car.

Test vehicles are already on the road evaluating the system, which is scheduled for launch in the 2012 on the 9-3. Saab says it will provide an application programming interface (API) to third-party software developers and provide over 500 sensor signals from around the car including speed and location data, engine data, temperature, and driver workload.

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