Saab’s sleek fu­ture

9-X Air sets de­sign bench­mark, writes STEPHEN OTTLEY

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Star’s Car -

TWENTY-FIVE years af­ter it un­veiled its first con­vert­ible, Saab will re­veal its drop-top fu­ture — the 9-X Air con­cept — at the Paris Mo­tor Show next week. A fol­low-up to the 9-X Bio­Hy­brid seen at the Geneva show ear­lier this year, the Air con­cept of­fers a fur­ther look at the styling fu­ture of the Swedish brand.

Though Saab is giv­ing away no de­tails, the 9-X Air is ex­pected to join the Saab pro­duc­tion line-up to sit un­der­neath the 9-3 con­vert­ible and carry the 9-1 badge. It will prob­a­bly fol­low af­ter the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the Bio­Hy­brid that is due in 2010.

A pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the 9-X Air would in­tro­duce Saab to the grow­ing pres­tige con­vert­ible mar­ket. BMW and Audi joined in this year with the 1 Se­ries and A3 Cabri­o­let re­spec­tively.

The new model is ex­pected to be un­der­pinned by the Holden As­tra plat­form.

‘‘We don’t rule out any­thing,’’ GM Pre­mium Brands spokes­woman Rebbeca Clout says. ‘‘Saab is looking at dif­fer­ent seg­ments and dif­fer­ent groups around the world.’’

How­ever, of­fi­cially no de­ci­sion has been taken to give the car a pro­duc­tion go-ahead.

‘‘From a global per­spec­tive it’s be­ing pre­viewed as a de­sign study,’’ Clout says.

The big­gest stand-out is its unique ‘‘cano- py’’ roof with rear pil­lars and a wrap­around wind­screen.

The de­sign­ers opted for a fab­ric roof rather than the more pop­u­lar metal ver­sion to save weight and im­prove packaging.

The wrap­around wind­screen, high

rear pil­lars and re­tractable wind de­flec­tor mean the four-seater cabin is largely free of wind buf­fet­ing when the roof is stowed.

‘‘Like the 9-X Bio­Hy­brid, this car is all about ef­fi­ciency in de­sign and per­for­mance, and that in­cludes the canopy top.’’ says the di­rec­tor of ad­vanced de­sign for GM Europe, An­thony Lo, who led the de­sign team.

Power is from the 1.4-litre tur­bocharged BioPower en­gine seen in the Bio­Hy­brid.

It uses E85 fuel and emits 107g/km while pro­duc­ing 147kW.

Canopy top: the Saab 9-X Air con­cept is a long way from the orig­i­nal and the con­vert­ible, (be­low).

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