Saab's Chevrolet TrailBlazer-based 9-7X SUV is now plying our roads, and the sky has not fallen, despite the predictions of diehard Saab fans who were horrified by the notion of an Ohio-built Saab truck. The 9-7X is not likely to go down as one of Saab's greatest, but it is the best iteration of the GMT360 platform that underpins the TrailBlazer, the GMC Envoy, and the Buick Rainier. It also is the most expensive, but it's loaded as standard, and the V-8-engined 9-7X is substantially cheaper than a comparably equipped Volvo XC90 V-8.
The 9-7X is not just a Chevy with different badging and options packages. Real, live, blond Swedish engineers with names like Kjell and Per ventured to the Ohio factory and performed some serious surgery on the GMT360, such as lowering the ride height by an inch, strengthening the frame, firming up the dampers and springs, quickening the steering response, and beefing up the brakes-welcome improvements all. There is still no mistaking the basic GM underpinnings, but body control is markedly better, and you can pitch this beast into a fast corner without much drama.
The 9-7X's exterior and interior both have smatterings of Saab design cues, such as the dashboard vents and the centrally located ignition key, but the overall effect is more GM than Saab, a situation exacerbated by the lack of Saab's usual superb seats, no doubt a result of cost constraints.
In a world where Porsche recently built its 100,000th Cayenne, there is no question that Saab needs an SUV. It's too bad the 9-7X wasn't conceived in Trollhttan, but such is the reality of GM's global operations. Those same operations, in fact, will produce the next Saab SUV, a variant of the new Subaru B9 Tribeca called the 9-6X, by 2007.