Saab 9-3X First cross-over coupe

Posted on 07. Jan, 2002 by in 2000-2009, 9-3X


Photo Credits: Saab Automobile


Saab 9-3X – First cross-over coupe

Saab concept blends off-road performance with strong on-road appeal

Norcross, GA – Saab breaks new ground by going “off-road” for the first time with the muscular Saab 9-3X. As you would expect from a design team led by Saab’s Executive Director of Design, Michael Mauer, it does so in a very sporty, distinctive style.

Saab customers are confident individuals who demand a vehicle that supports diverse and active lifestyles. The sporty multi-dynamic Saab 9-3X concept was built with a focus on the needs of this demanding customer group.

Just as Mauer’s previous concept, the multi-dimensional Saab 9X, combines characteristic features of a performance car, roadster, wagon and pick-up within a single vehicle, the 9-3X now brings together coupe and cross-over formats. It is further evidence of Mauer’s belief in the arrival of a new automotive order; one where vehicles are no longer satisfy only one need. These multi-dynamic vehicles fulfill many roles. This unprecedented versatility is a cornerstone of the new design foundations established by Mauer’s bold concepts.

“The Saab 9-3X is where coupe meets off-roader. It is a sporty interpretation of the cross-over theme,” Mauer explained. “This means we have created a vehicle offering some off-road functionality that also looks good, in a sporty way, and is a real fun-to-drive experience on any surface.

“For Saab to be true to its heritage, we wanted to go off-road in a slightly different way. If you want a large, heavy sort of mud-plugger, there are plenty of products already out there. But if you want something truly distinctive with a strong sporty ethos, we think the 9-3X coupe format provides quite a unique solution.

The 9-3X design and its components are close to production standard and I am confident we could accommodate such a car within our current product program.”

Sporty Looks
The Saab 9-3X project team was led by the head of Advanced Design, Anthony Lo. His task was to ensure that the unique application of a coupe format did not conflict with the “real world” requirements for such a vehicle. “The car had to look desirable as a sporty coupe for the road,” Lo said. “But this is not a cosmetic exercise – the looks had to be backed up with true functionality. That is the Saab way.”

The Saab-signature wraparound windshield, the high, wedge-shaped waistline and strong, curving C-pillar instantly identify the 9-3X’s lineage. The disguised A-pillars, the clean, smooth lines and bold frontal styling are also characteristic of the 9X concept.

“We wanted to create a look that clearly links the two concepts,” Lo added. “The lines of the 9-3X are extremely clean and uncluttered and, despite the relatively high ride height required for this type of vehicle, we wanted to disguise the higher stance. Having a relatively long 270-cm (106.3-inch) wheelbase helped.”

Traditional features that typically denote a vehicle’s all-terrain capabilities would have no place in the design language of the Saab 9-3X. Three prerequisites were therefore necessary for the Saab 9-3X to achieve its exterior styling goals. There would be no roof bars or bumper appendages of any sort, no extra cladding down its flanks and no unsightly wheel-arch clearances.

The high stance of an off-roader is also effectively disguised by sporty, 20-inch alloy wheels shod with relatively low-profile tires. The increased wheel movement required for off-road driving is accommodated by the carefully shaped, flared wheel-arches. These are body-colored and defined only by a satin paint finish.

The front of the car is dominated by a bold interpretation of the traditional Saab grille. As with the 9X concept, the headlamps are located within the two outer openings. Powerful gas-discharge lamps are the preferred lighting system. A robust skid plate, protecting the engine oil pan, is neatly integrated within the color-keyed front bumper assembly.
At the rear, the coupe silhouette is accentuated by a steeply raked rear window and C- pillar profile. The rear taillights are mounted high for good visibility and appear to merge seamlessly into the smoked-glass rear window. The low-profile roof spoiler effectively stretches the lines of the car even further.

High-Tech Interior
“This car is intended for people with active outdoor interests, so the interior is designed to reflect this by being versatile, roomy and light, giving the cabin an airy feel,” Lo explained.

There is ample seating for four adults. The feeling of spaciousness is amplified by the twin glass panels that extend the entire length of the roof. The open feel is enhanced by pale green leather upholstery for the sports seating and interior trim, contrasted with dark seat inserts and upper surfaces of the dashboard fascia and doors.
Ventilation and soft interior lighting are provided through narrow openings in the dashboard and door trims, a theme first seen on the 9X concept. This contributes to the clean interior layout, eliminating the need for separate air-vent mountings and light fittings.

Stepping inside the 9-3X via its keyless entry, the driver immediately notices there are few visible knobs or buttons, because one of the design team’s priorities was to eliminate “visual clutter” from the interior, consistent with the clean lines of the exterior styling.

The dashboard breaks from Saab tradition by eliminating a wraparound, integrated center console. The twin-dial instrument display is set in a gently curving, relatively narrow fascia panel flanked only a by a rotary lights switch and the main display screen. The speedometer and tachomter dials, illuminated in light blue, are digital but use an analog-style presentation. A small oval display for warning information also sits atop the dashboard, close to the natural line of sight.

The elegant aluminum and leather-trimmed steering wheel features buttons on its twin spokes that control the entertainment system, phone, and gear changing mechanism for the semi-automatic transmission.

A long console over the transmission tunnel accommodates a starter button set in the side of a small pop-up tower as well as the selector lever for the transmission. The four electric window controls are located immediately aft of the starter button between what appear to be two grab handles. The one nearest the driver is, in fact, an electrically powered handbrake with a disguised button. A second display screen, for rear-seat passengers, is located at the back of the console.

The advanced “infotainment” functions of the 9-3X are based on an extremely powerful electronics network using fiber-optic technology with a capacity of 25 Mbits per second. In terms of multiplicity, this system already leads the automotive industry and will serve as a platform for use in the next generation of Saab cars.

A large, three-position knob – an “automotive mouse” – is positioned alongside the gear selector and provides access, via the main display screen, to the entire “infotainment” system.

The menu for the first position covers settings for all in-car comfort features, such as the automatic climate control, front seat positioning, and interior illumination. The second position activates “media” functions, including satellite navigation, radio, CD, TV, and DVD systems. The third position governs “office” functions, such as e-mail and other Internet facilities.

A large storage box at the rear of the console includes an outlet for connecting a hand-held PC, allowing the driver to access information, such as calendar, schedules, and addresses, via the main screen.

A small, drawer-like panel can be pulled out from the lower dash fascia to allow extensive custom programming of many systems such as default settings for the automatic climate control, anti-theft alarm, rain sensing wipers, clock/radio, and other information displays.

Innovative Versatility
The Saab 9-3X fulfills its mission as a platform for pursuing a variety of outdoor interests and sports by offering extremely flexible load-carrying abilities and plenty of useful storage. “This car should become part of its owner’s lifestyle, so we have tried to provide really useful features, not just gimmicks,” Lo commented.

An innovative refinement is the ability to store and charge up a mini camcorder and batteries in a customized pack mounted in the driver’s door pocket. The Saab 9-3X even includes an instant playback facility through both front and rear screens.

The Saab 9-3X also features further developments of the sliding floor and cargo-securing tracks, which first appeared on the Saab 9-5 SportWagon . Both front and rear seatbacks fold down into the seat cushions, giving flat, level surfaces for easy load carrying. In addition to four cargo-securing tracks running longitudinally down the rear floor, all four seatbacks are each equipped with a pair of tracks. This increases the options for securing loads safely when the seats are down, even allowing a custom-designed rucksack, for example, to be easily mounted for additional stowage when the seats are up.

The floor-mounted door of the split tailgate features a neat, mechanical linkage that automatically extends the rear floor when it is lowered. This facilitates loading bulky items and allows for an easy return of the floor before the tailgate is closed.

As an alternative to roof bars, the Saab 9-3X further extends the use of cargo-securing tracks. A pair of tracks is mounted in the central roof spine between the two glass sections so that custom-designed roof boxes, ski holders or bicycle carriers can be securely located when needed.

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