- Towing capacity
- Rich interior materials
- Inefficient, cramped cabin
- Pickup-truck handling
- Poor crash-test performance
A smart appearance can’t mask the 2009 Saab 9-7X's outdated GM truck design with vague handling, middle-of-the-road crash-test scores, and mediocre fuel economy figures.
Forged in an American assembly plant with either a six- or eight-cylinder engine riding in a truck frame, the 2009 9-7X is the nonconformist in Saab’s mode lineup. But it looks like a Saab—at least from some angles, if you’re squinting.
Because the 9-7X utilizes the same basic mechanical structure as the Buick Rainier, the fact that designers were able to create a Saab persona in the 9-7X is as impressive as it is surprising. From the side, though, the 9-7X reveals its heritage, and it's not so modern or alluring.
Compared to GM’s other SUVs, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy, the 9-7X is endowed with an interior that’s richer in textures and tastefully styled. Out front, the 9-7X’s grille fits right in with Saab's newer 9-3 range. For the 4.2i and 5.3i models, a special Altitude Edition is offered and includes DVD touch screen navigation radio and highly polished 18-inch alloy wheels; for the exterior finish, you can choose Carbon Flash and Diamond Silver Metallic. All models receive Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity.
Shoppers have a choice of two very different engines. Inside the 4.2i is a commendably smooth 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine with 290 horsepower, while the 5.3i is powered by a 300-horsepower V-8 powerplant. The 5.3-liter engine accelerates the 9-7X from 0-60 mph in less than six seconds, but burns a lot of gas in the process. The inline-six musters 14 mpg city, 20 highway, but the V-8 only manages a pitiful 12 mpg city, 16 highway.
A four-speed automatic transmission is fitted to both the inline-six and the V-8. Standard on both models is a fully automatic all-wheel-drive system with a limited-slip rear differential, as well as fully independent suspension with electronically controlled air shocks in the rear. On the road, the Saab 9-7X's ride gets busy, and the steering is vague and lacks any reassuring feedback in corners. The front seats are good for longer trips, but the second row is somewhat tight for adults, and there's no third-row seat offered.
However, the 9-7X possesses excellent towing capacity—ranging up to 6,600 pounds, which is enough to tow even larger boat trailers—and lots of low-end grunt to match.
Features such as an AM/FM/XM six-disc, in-dash CD changer with rear-seat audio controls are all standard equipment on the 2009 Saab 9-7X. An in-dash, DVD-based navigation system is available, as is OnStar turn-by-turn navigation, as well as other options, including a DVD entertainment system, an upgraded Bose audio system, and a power sunroof.
Safety remains an odd blemish—considering the 9-7X wears the badge of an automaker with a legacy of above-average occupant protection. The Saab 9-7X receives only three stars for driver front-impact protection, and four for the front passenger. In side impacts, the Saab 9-7X rates five stars, and it merits four stars for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2009 Saab 9-7X as "acceptable" for front impacts and "marginal" for side impacts. Standard features include anti-lock brakes, front and side-curtain airbags, and stability control.