Saab banks on 9-4X

A chunky SUV cross­over is go­ing into bat­tle, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THE most im­por­tant new model in Saab’s come­back plan— the SUV cross­over needed to bat­tle back in the US — is fi­nally pub­lic.

The 9-4X is re­vealed as a chunky five-seater that is more like a sedan than a four-wheel-drive, with a tur­bocharged 2.8-litre V6 en­gine and Saab’s own all-wheel-drive sys­tem.

It will be shown for the first time at the Los An­ge­les Mo­tor Show next month and is set for Aus­tralian sales at the end of next year.

The 9-4X sits on the same me­chan­i­cal pack­age as the Cadil­lac SRX, which means it was de­vel­oped while Saab was still part of the Gen­eral Mo­tors fam­ily and be­fore the com­pany’s sale to Spyker of Hol­land.

It will be part of a Saab lineup in Aus­tralia that runs from the ex­ist­ing 9-3 to the com­ing 9-5 sedan and wagon and then the 9-4X.

‘‘ It’s the same plat­form as the Cadil­lac SRX. It’s is co-de­vel­oped with the SRX, in the same way as the Porsche Cayenne and Volk­swa­gen Touareg,’’ says Stephen Ni­cholls, Saab Au­to­mo­bile’s re­gional di­rec­tor

We be­lieve the de­sign­ers have done a great job in mak­ing it look like a real Saab.

for Asia-Pa­cific. ‘‘ We be­lieve the de­sign­ers have done a great job in mak­ing it look like a real Saab — and it also drives very much like a pas­sen­ger car.’’

The 9-4X is sized be­tween the 9-3 and 9-5, de­signed for five pas­sen­gers, and has a lux­ury fo­cus in the cabin.

The frontal de­sign is sim­i­lar to the all-new 9-5 and Saab prom­ises a cock­pit-style dash lay­out with ev­ery­thing from Bose sound with hard-disk stor­age to Blue­tooth and USB con­nec­tions.

Full de­tails will not come un­til the LA show but the me­chan­i­cal pack­age is based on the 224kW en­gine, with 200mm of ground clear­ance, fully in- de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion and the usual com­bi­na­tion of ABS-ESP and airbag safety sys­tems.

Ni­cholls says the ex­act tim­ing of the 9-4X in Aus­tralia has not been fi­nalised be­cause of the em­pha­sis on the US.

‘‘Amer­ica is in­tended to be more than half the an­nual up­take,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s go­ing to be around Au­gust or Septem­ber be­fore it goes into pro­duc­tion in right-hand drive.

‘‘It will be to­wards the end of the year be­fore we see it in Aus­tralia — or might even slip into the early part of 2012.’’

Ni­cholls says Saab is push­ing ahead with its re­turn to Aus­tralia as a fac­tory op­er­a­tion, with deal­ers al­ready plac­ing or­ders for 9-3s to be de­liv­ered early in Jan­uary.

‘‘It’s a rolling start. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.

‘‘For next year we’re look­ing at the 9-3, the 9-5 sedan and later the 9-5 wagon as the mod­els we’ll be sell­ing.

‘‘Hope­fully we’ll be able to get the 9-3 first sup­plies to the deal­ers in the first week of Jan­uary — and seven deal­ers are al­ready com­mit­ted.’’

High hopes: more like a sedan than a four-wheel drive, the Saab 9-4X has a tur­bocharged 2.8-litre V6 en­gine.

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