Saab History On the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept

Posted on 07. Mar, 2008 by in 2000-2009, 9-X BioHybrid, Designers

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Photo Credits: Etienne / Saabhuy.net

This past Monday evening at approximately 5:30pm at the Geneva Auto Show, Saab Automobile released a concept vehicle labeled as the Saab 9-X BioHybrid. The Saab 9-X BioHybrid is Saab Automobile’s 2nd, BioPower Hybrid vehicle release, following the Saab 9-3 BioPower Hybrid Convertible Concept that had its World Premier in Stockholm, Sweden back on March 30th, 2006. The Saab 9-X BioHybrid vehicle, also marks Saab Automobile’s 5th concept vehicle based solely on BioPower, following most recently, the Saab 9-4x BioPower Concept, the Saab 9-5 BioPower E100 Concept, the aforementioned Saab 9-3 BioPower Hybrid Convertible Concept, and of course the Saab Aero-X Concept.

Since this premiere of the Saab 9-X BioHybrid, I have been posting press material, photographs, interviews on camera, and even reviews by the media as well. After all of this, I have felt that it’s about time that I chime in on my thoughts on this new concept car by Saab Automobile.

As an designer for nearly 10 years now in the architecture industry in parallel to my developing knowledge with the Saab Automobile brand, I believe that I have been able to better understand what makes a Saab, a Saab, and vice-versa.

In the next few weeks, I am planning on attending the New York Auto Show in New York City, where I understand both the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept, Saab 9-4x BioPower Concept, and the Aero-X concept cars will be present. At this event, I will presumably get the chance to experience more of the 9-X BioHybrid in person and will be interested to see if my analysis below, at this time, changes.

Here is my detailed analysis of the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept Car in terms of technology & design, both inside and out:

On Technology:

BioPower: The BioPower 1.4-liter BioPower turbo engine is a very important inclusion in this segment, and all segments for the Saab Automobile brand. The right-sized engine, as Saab calls it, is as I am calling it, “right for this size”. This is exactly the right proportional powertrain for this segment, and it is important that Saab continues to move in this direction, especially since they have been holding this position as a leader with small vehicles that have been extremely capable in terms of “responsible performance” is concerned (ie. “More brains not braun”).

Hybrid: The hybrid system had to be used in this segment because, frankly, Saab has the technology now, and many of us were wondering if we would ever see it again since their earlier Saab 9-3 BioPower Hybrid convertible concept that premiered back in 2006. If you look at all of the patents that Saab Automobile have out in the European Patent office, you will see that their progressive and exhaustive work in this area, is critical to their survival and absolutely necessary for any future product deployment.

The nature of how the BioPower and the Hybrid technology compliment each other is really where Saab Automobile has strength, so I can only hope to see more and more of this.

Solar Cells: This application is really nostalgic for me as it harkens back to the first Saab concept car that debuted in 1985, known as the EV-1. In the EV-1, Saab applied this solar cell technology to merely cool the cabin. I really respect and appreciate how Saab used this technology again, but in a more progressive and practical application by the powering of the hybrid charging system. I hope that this technology reaches production, however, the solar cell idea in my knowledge, has never seen a production car in history. I think that solar cells have been used for almost 40 years now with automobiles in the research and development community, maybe Saab Automobile will break the mold and be the first? Remember, Saab Automobile has always been about industry firsts.

XWD: The exclusion of this technology even in “theory” with the Saab 9-X BioHybrid, came as a complete shock to me. I searched through every press release to see if I overlooked it and I realized that I did not. I think that Saab really missed the mark on this one by not including this in this concept vehicle, it’s inconsistent and an absolute requirement here. I also think that in this concept car, the production vehicle in this segment is really where Saab can excel, so therefore, it should be loaded with “all of Saab’s technology under one roof” so to speak, without question, including Cross-Wheel Drive. I hope that Saab Automobile’s leadership seriously reconsiders this omission of XWD with the 9-X BioHybrid. There can’t be any trade-offs in the areas of purchasing consideration with the general public, so let’s give it everything you have.

On Design:

Interior: I have not seen much of the interior as of yet and I don’t think it will do it justice unless it is in person. Given that this is a concept car, I think it makes more sense to wait until I get a chance for a better visual (ie. with my own eyes in person), in order to give my opinions. With that all said however, I can say that at first glance from the photos I have seen, the “ice block” interior lighting color appeared off. The green accent lighting does not coincide with Aero-X and should, the green hue is too light, and not the turquoise green we have been conditioned to expect. It seems like this color was changed for change sake, and with a lot of new design taking place, it would be nice to see some new consistency in certain “shared” design elements, even if new. I think that as much as I like progressive design, some consistency needs to be had, otherwise, it gets a little unstable and disconcerting.

Exterior: In terms of the exterior, the first thing that I zeroed in on was towards the rear end with the c-pillar design. There was no inclusion of the critical Saab design element of the “hockey stick” c-pillar and that is important, given that it has been an evolving staple of the Saab lineage since the very first prototype in 1947, the 92001. The tail gate here seems to be the first application of this idea, and I think it needs to be a true combi coupe hatch or at least a hatch like we’ve seen with the SportCombi that evolved from the Saab 9-3x concept car that debuted in 2002. We’ve been conditioned to expect this design, based off of the lineage continuation of it, so anything except that, is simply unnacceptable.

The front end of this powerful airplane on wheels, included a very well designed wrap-around windscreen seamlessly connected with the doors & door glass. The beltline that tied this effect together was a lot lower than I thought it was, and wonder if we’ll get to see a “true” clamshell hood like we’ve seen on the classic Saab 900, which was the last Saab model that truely represented a clamshell hood. I also really enjoyed the front-end of the vehicle design, and could appreciate the extension of the LED brow effect shown on the 2008 Saab 9-3 models, to more of a “unibrow” design. What is typically not acceptable with humans, can sometimes be acceptable with automobiles, if done “right”. I’ve never been a fan of the unibrow, but in this case, I must agree that it was very well executed on the Saab 9-X BioHybrid.

Wheels: The turbine wheel design evolution seems to be working, and the design acceleration seems to be paced well with the models it has been applied to, which by the way, have been showcased in all of the 5 BioPower concept cars by the way. I did not see too much of an evolution from the Aero-X concept car that first introduced us to the aircraft inspired turbine wheels and this is consistancy, which is a good thing. We are still adjusting to this idea, so I hope that Saab doesn’t depart too far, from where they are today with the wheel design.

These are my initial take aways on the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept. I see the Saab 9-X BioHybrid as a great design exercise that I hope will see production, but not in its present state. I hope that the aforementioned details that I have outlined, are considered at the absolute minimum, before the planning of the production version is complete. It is important that these design and technology details are addressed by Saab Automobile in the near future, as this much needed segment for the brand can’t come any sooner.

I look forward to the New York Auto Show as I mentioned, so that I can inspect the Saab 9-X closer for some even more detailed analysis on fit & finish, decision on material choices, feel, etc.

I leave you with a design charette that I did, as a new proposal to the current Saab 9-X BioHybrid’s c-pillar and tail gate design. I think that the Saab community will appreciate the historical Saab lineage roots that it includes.

Please feel free to share your comments below:

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Photo Credit: Saab History

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5 Responses to “Saab History On the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept”

  1. Saaboy

    07. Mar, 2008

    I like it! very much! I vote for a look similar to this if/when we get a model based off this concept :D. Hockey stick!!!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Andy Rupert

    07. Mar, 2008

    Sorry, but I’ve never appreciated the rear lights on the sport combis.

    Reply to this comment
  3. alvaro Isla

    07. Mar, 2008

    I love either one but the original look more distintive that the one propose by saab history

    Reply to this comment
  4. MaritSaab

    07. Mar, 2008

    Looks good. Much better than the Saab designed VW TDI look-alike.

    Reply to this comment
  5. alexdbad

    07. Mar, 2008

    Saab has never had a “hockey stick” until now- 9x biohybrid.
    (please look up images of hockey sticks)
    The old saab (so called hockey stick) tends to make the cars look old. Saab looks forward, and has to be progressive.
    Also it not so much about the angle if its going forward or rearward. Its about the radius at the bottom and the hard intersection at the top. If you want the car too look aggressive lean it forward, if you want it to look fast pull it back. Its a feature which is not necessary but makes certain people comfortable i guess. Saab is not about making people comfortable.

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