First Look: 2011 Saab 9-4x

The new 2011 9-4x is more of a Saab than the rebadged 9-7x SUV, but it remains to be seen how distinguishable the compact luxury crossover will be from the model on which it's based, the Cadillac SRX.

Certainly the 9-4x, which will make its debut at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, has an elegant design, but it takes more than just quality styling and an ignition switch located between the front seats to make a Saab. Whether engineers were successful in making the driving experience significantly different from the Cadillac SRX will be crucial to the 9-4x's identity and consumer reception.

As is the case with its platform, the 9-4x's engines are shared with GM's Cadillac SRX. A 265-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 is the standard engine, offered with a six-speed automatic and a choice of front-wheel drive or Saab's XWD all-wheel-drive system. The system, sourced from Haldex, varies torque between the front and rear axles as needed. The electronically controlled rear limited-slip differential can also transfer up to 50 percent of rear torque between the rear wheels to help maintain grip.

Step up to the 9-4x Aero model, and you'll find both standard all-wheel drive and a 300-horsepower, 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6. Saab estimates 0-60 mph acceleration times of 7.7 seconds, just a bit quicker than the all-wheel-drive 3.0-liter model, which does the same sprint in 8.4 seconds.

Although the EPA has yet to officially certify the 9-4x's fuel economy, expect the finalized MPG figures to resemble those of its Cadillac cousin. A base SRX gets 18/25 mpg city/highway, while an all-wheel-drive model with the normally-aspirated V-6 is rated at 17/23 mpg. The top-end turbocharged all-wheel drive SRX achieves a 15/22 mpg rating.

On base 9-4x crossovers, 18-inch six-spoke alloy wheels are standard. Aero models wear 20-inch "turbine-style" wheels, similar to those used on the new 9-5 sedan. The Aero model also includes bi-xenon cornering headlights and black mesh inserts in the front grille. Saab DriveSense is a technology exclusive to the Aero model. Real-time damping control helps the vehicle react to the driving style and current road conditions. Moving from the Comfort to Sport setting will provide a sharper pedal response and raised gear shifting points. The Eco mode essentially does the opposite to increase fuel economy.

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Better looking than it's cousin the SRX, and more Saab than Cadillac... considering the SRX is based on the Saab which was in development first, put on hold by the almighty General, then released well after the SRX was a hit and Saab was dumped (read GM wanted it closed) - I drive Saabs... drive one... make sure to get into some 35-40 mph traffic... see a hole in traffic...roll on the gas...grin ear to ear as all but something with a giant wing or price tag twice as much fades in the rear view.
The Saab 9-4X is a Cadillac SRX and the SRX is a 9-4X. That's good for Cadillac because the SRX is very Euro, but as you said in your article, where does that leave the Saabilac? Now that Saab is an independent company selling rebadged GM cars, the craziness of the old GM way is more apparent than ever. At one time, Saab had exceptional engineers and its cars were innovative, technically advanced, and had a character all their own (even if that meant a personal relationship with a mechanic). Now, there is nothing that makes a Saab a Saab but putting the key in the middle of the car (even that had a genuine purpose at one time). We won't see a geniune Saab until Saab's new corporate overlords create a brand new Saab from the ground up.

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