Saab has been in dire need of product for years and is finally getting it. But the company's upcoming compact sportwagon and midsize sport/utility are hardly homegrown.
We've told you how Subaru will soon help spawn Saab's new entry model and shown you illustrations of it as well. Above is a shot of the real thing, and it looks exactly like what it is: an Impreza wagon with a Saabified front clip.
The 9-2X Linear will be offered in 165-horsepower, naturally aspirated form, stemming from the Impreza 2.5 RS. Subaru's wildly popular WRX begets the turbocharged, 227-horsepower 9-2X Aero. Both will offer the choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Revised taillights and wheel treatments complement the new sheetmetal, and the interior gets the alumalook treatment and other materials upgrades. The 9-2X will be served in all-wheel-drive wagon form only.
Unabashed badge engineering though it is, it works. This car allows Saab entry into price points it hasn't been able to compete in for years and gives the brand something to replace the hatchback body style lost with the redesign of the 93. It even looks right. No, the ignition key isn't on the console, but who cares? The best news is that there's a tankerload of aftermarket performance hardware already available for this platform--doesn't a 400-horse Saab sportwagon sound cool?
The 9-7X will be the sixth nameplate off GM's midsize SUV platform.
Saab is one of the last companies to jump into the sport/utility pool. It's taking an inexpensive, low-risk dive off the board by copping its own version of the GMT360 platform (Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, ad infinitum, offering two rows of seats). Engine specs haven't yet been announced, but we expect the current Vortec 4200 I-6 and 5300 aluminum V-8 to carry on unabated. The 9-7X's emphasis will be on all-weather safety and performance, as opposed to ultimate rock-climbing ability.
Will a U.S.-built SUV that's clearly a Saab in name only fly with the buying public? That remains to be seen, but it doesn't particularly excite us. Saab management maintains that many of its most faithful owners have had to leave the fold because they need a sport/utility, thus the 9-7X could play an important customer-retention role.
The 9-2X comes to market this summer, while the 9-7X breaks cover at the New York Auto Show in April, as a 2005 model. There's nothing wrong with Saab raiding GM's global parts and platforms bin, but in the end, the products have to be right for what people expect from the brand. Time will tell if this badged and borrowed pair are correct answers to the company's product-development requirements.