Saab offers two engine choices. We drove only the high-level Aero, which is equipped with GM's imported-from-Australia 300-horsepower, 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6. The throttle mapping felt a little lazy on our preproduction cars, but if it doesn't change for production, drivers just need to boot the pedal a little further. The engine has plenty of grunt, but with inputs filtered through a computer system that then decides on requested boost, optimum valve timing, and throttle opening, it makes drivers miss the days of a simple cable connected to a butterfly.

Base level and Premium 9-4xs are powered by a 265-horse, 3-liter direct-injection V-6. While we didn't get a chance to drive either of these models, we can assume they are relatively quick, but a far cry from being considered fast. Both models are available in either front drive or with optional XWD all-wheel drive, which is standard on the Aero. All three models use a six-speed automatic transmission that offers up gears in smooth and orderly fashion. The transmission features an Eco Mode selectable at the touch of a center console-mounted button that saves the planet by upshifting sooner and providing a glowing green reminder of your commitment to the environment.

Saab is convinced that, although it shares platforms and powertrains with the Cadillac SRX crossover, very few consumers will cross-shop the two. That may actually bring a sigh of relief from Cadillac since the Saab version is substantially cheaper. The interior and exterior styling are unmistakably Saab, with Swedish quality and minimalism. The materials used in the interior look and feel apropos of the luxury class into which the 9-4x is slotted. The exterior will stand out in a crowd of German and Japanese crossovers, while still looking reserved and understated.

The driving experience may be unconventional for this category, but it might draw enthusiasts looking for more than just luxurious transportation. Saab has historically leaned on other companies for engines, platforms, or sometimes both. Though the 9-4x is shared, this time it might be Cadillac's version that feels more like a Saab under the skin than the other way around. The Swedish crossover may fly off lots like IKEA flat-pack coffee tables, but it still won't singlehandedly get Saab to its lofty goals of selling 80,000 cars per year. It might, however, keep things going until Saab's next big chance.


2011 Saab 9-4X
BASE PRICE $34,200-$48,900 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
ENGINES 3.0L/265-hp/223-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 2.8L/300-hp/295-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4250-4650 lb (mfr est)
WHEELBASE 110.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 190.1 x 75.0 x 66.1 in
0-60 MPH 7.7-8.4 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 15-18/22-25 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION CITY/HWY 187-225/135-153 kW-hrs/100mi
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.94-1.11 lb/mi
ON SALE IN U.S. Summer 2011