Given all of the turmoil Saab went through in the past year it is amazing the company is still alive. At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the Swedish company has shown that it is reinvigorated and ready to flourish. Leading the charge of the new Saab is the PhoeniX concept.
The PhoeniX concept is an indicator of the direction Saab will be going with future powertrains, technology, and design. The platform and powertrain used by the PhoeniX are a preview of what will underpin the next-generation 9-3. The concept uses a 200-horsepower 1.6-liter turborcharged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
The concept uses Saab’s new eXWD (electric Cross Wheel Drive) system, with the gasoline engine powering the front wheels and a 34-horsepower electric motor driving the rear axle. Saab estimates that this powertrain setup will achieve around 47 mpg, and includes a start-stop system. The eXWD system can be set to maximize fuel economy, power, or all-wheel drive traction by vectoring torque across the rear axle and using the electric motor to assist the 1.6-liter under light driving. Expect to see the new turbocharged engine and the eXWD system on the next 9-3, debuting sometime next year.
The PhoeniX concept is also previewing Saab’s answer to in-car infotainment systems. Based on Google’s Android operating system is Saab IQon (pronounced like “icon”), a fully-integrated touch-screen multimedia system. Like many other infotainment systems in the automotive world, it incorporates navigation, multimedia, and diagnostic information into one system. Running the Android operating system allows IQon to be customizable with third-party applications, similar to a smartphone. Saab will provide an application programming interface (API) to developers that will include feedback information from the vehicle’s systems and driver inputs. The IQon system will also automatically connect to the internet upon startup, allowing for communication between the car and a Saab dealer or mobile device.
The car is the first Saab from newly-appointed design director Jason Castriota. Castriota is previously known for his work at Pininfarina on various Ferraris and Maseratis — including the one-off, Enzo-based P4/5 — and then as design director of Bertone and the Corvette ZR1-based Mantide supercar. The PhoeniX points the way forward for Saab design with futuristic interpretations of the three-port grille and ice-block headlamps, while recalling famous Saabs of the past such as the Sonett coupe and the original Ursaab.
Combining a chopped kamm-tail evoking the Sonett and the teardrop shape of the Ursaab, the PhoeniX introduces the world to Saab’s “Aeromotional” design language. Castriota’s look for the Saab concept feels as though the car has been shaped by the wind, with a tight-muscular skin flowing like liquid across the body. The trademark wrap-around windshield has been reinterpreted to create the teardrop look of the PhoeniX’s canopy, in a similar fashion to the Maserati Birdcage concept that Castriota also had a hand in designing. The front fascia of the PhoeniX evolves Saab’s tri-port grille into a laterally-stretched futuristic version, with a prominent body-color central wing containing the Saab logo and slim LED ice-block headlights on the far ends adding to the visually wide stance of the car. Stylized ripples flow across the hood from the grille to the blacked-out A-pillars adding to the sinewy look. The overall look is akin to a more muscular version of the 2006 Aero X concept. However, it is not all concept-car frivolity, as we will see the hood, grille, and headlight treatments on upcoming Saabs.