For the first time in its history, Saab's name is on a sport/utility. The 97X enters the quickly growing mid-luxury-SUV segment and is another vehicle built off the GMT360 platform (shared with the TrailBlazer, Envoy, and Rainier). Saab describes the sport/utility as having the cargo and passenger space that SUV buyers want, plus the style, handling, and sportiness the brand is known for.

It'll come with such standard equipment as a 275-horsepower inline-six, leather-trimmed seats, all-wheel drive, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Like the Buick Rainier, the 97X comes with an optional 300-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8. Backing both 97X engines is the Hydra-Matic 4L60-E electronically controlled automatic transmission.

The SUV uses a double A-arm coil-spring front suspension and an electronically controlled five-link rear air suspension. Both setups were tuned for a firm ride, and, along with the vehicle's low ride height, are said to contribute to the sport/ute's sporty handling. The Saab's hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering was designed to quickly respond to driver input and provide a tight turning radius. Safety systems include dual-stage front airbags, a rollover sensing system, ABS, and head-curtain side airbags.

Saab wanted to ensure that this vehicle still had the look and feel of a Saab, even with GM's underpinnings and engines. The front end is trademark Saab, as is the driver-centric interior. In addition, the ignition switch is located in the center console, a Saab tradition.

While the new SUV is slated for the 2005 model year, a source at Motor Trend reports that the 97X is a placeholder--Saab is expected to replace this vehicle with a unibody crossover vehicle, possibly as soon as 2006 or 2007. But for now, this is Saab's answer to the MDX, RX 330, and FX35/45.