Such performance comes not from major suspension changes, but from attention to suspension detail and fine-tuning the parts that work to provide ride quality and handling.

"We used our suspension knowledge from designing the 9-3 sport sedan and 9-5 sport-combi [wagon] to tune the 9-7X chassis and suspension," said Per Janssan, chassis integration engineer Saab AB, as we smoothly but speedily exited a sharp uphill corner. The broken washboard surface (rippled from years of wear and weather) beneath the 9-7X's meaty P225/55R18 Dunlops may as well have been freshly paved blacktop.

As the miles rolled on, Janssan explained how engineers tuned the GMT360 platform to better fit the Saab ideal: an emphasis on driver-focused performance.

For example, they added a couple of small braces between the front subframe and chassis to stiffen the front frame, while also stiffening the front coil springs and shortening them by one inch. These refinements improved steering response and overall handling.

To improve body control and ride comfort, Saab completely reworked the Bilstein shocks, adding 70 percent more rebound control in V-8 models and 40 percent more in the I-6, at the same time increasing compression control by 20 and 10 percent, respectively. Firmer shock-mount bushings and a larger anti-roll bar (by 2mm) completed the front suspension mods.

Rear suspension changes include the use of natural rubber bushings for the body-to-frame mounts instead of urethane--again to improve body control and ride quality--along with stiffer upper and lower control-arm bushings that are part of the air-activated, self-leveling rear suspension.