2008 Saab 9-X BioHybrid

March 4, 2008

The schedule of press conferences for the Geneva auto show is packed, with each brand getting only fifteen minutes for its presentation to the press. So it's no surprise that manufacturers want to use the evening before to draw attention to their new model. Last night, Saab chose to preview its Geneva news off-site in a big tent in the well known Parc des Eaux-Vives.

GM vice chairman Bob Lutz was present for a special preview of the 9-4X BioPower Concept that will be in the flashlights tomorrow. “Saab has a unique position in General Motors.” he said. “Its product line has been expanded and the two cars on the show are signalling the resurgence of Saab.”

The 9-4X BioPower Concept, that bowed two months ago in Detroit, will celebrate its European premiere and confirms Saab’s plans of entering the crossover segment with a dynamic-looking car inspired by Scandinavian values in design and with the environment in mind.

But on stage this night was the 9-X BioHybrid Concept, a forerunner of the new compact model that will likely be called the 9-1. The car arrived just in time from Turin, Italy, where it was built.

Although the front of the concept looks familiar as it has themes from the Aero X that was launched in 2001, the rear is something special. At first glance it makes you think of the Volvo P70, but soon you’ll see the unique lines. The concept has a shooting-brake silhouette, and the long roof provides more rear headroom and interior space.

When the bottom half of the BioHybrid's split tailgate is opened, an electrically powered cargo floor—coated with high-friction rubber carpeting—slides out. And up front, a Sony Ericsson–designed interface, similar to Ford's Sync, provides in-car wireless connectivity and incorporates streaming data, entertainment, and sat-nav functions, along with support for the simultaneous use of multiple devices.

The concept also explores the use of active aerodynamics for reducing drag and thus fuel consumption. Over 43 mph, the roof spoiler automatically extends to lengthen the roof line and an underbody diffuser is deployed from the bottom of the rear bumper.

The 9X BioHybrid shows a potential for efficient power from its 200-hp, 1.4-liter biopower turbo engine, backed with GM’s next generation Hybrid system with lithium-ion battery pack. On E85 fuel the concept can accelerate to 62 mph in 7.9 seconds and to a 134-mph top speed, and the CO2 emissions of 105 g/kg shows the potential of the package.

When asked, Bob Lutz did not want to confirm how close this concept is to production, nor did he want to give a time line for the production version. We expect it to be at least two years before we see the looks of the 9-X on the roads. It is highly likely that Saab wants to introduce the new model with the biohybrid system.

“We are definitely going to do lithium-ion. But it is not quite ready to introduce in a production model,” said Lutz. “That is about two years away.”

The 9-4 crossover will be arriving within a year, according to Jan Åke Jonsson, Managing Director of Saab Automobile. “The 9-X BioHybrid shows what we can do with respect to design of a compact car,” said Jonsson. “It also proves that we are dedicated to grow by means of extending our portfolio.”

In the past five years Saab has introduced four new models and six concept cars, including the prize-winning Aero X Coupe.

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