A bumpy gestation
The 9-4X is a five-seat crossover -- Saab's first -- and a sister car to the Cadillac SRX. The two were developed together back in the days when Saab was a member of General Motors' (much larger) family. But just when the 9-4X was about to launch (as a 2009 model, like the SRX), the General, as you may have heard, hit some rocky financial shoals. While the SRX proceeded to market, the 9-4X was put on ice and Saab was put on the block. A newly independent Saab is now finally ready to roll out its crossover SUV.
Breaking up is hard to do
Saab may be emancipated from General Motors, but the companies aren't completely free of each other, and that's particularly true than in the case of the 9-4X. The 9-4X is being built alongside the SRX at a GM facility in Mexico. Mechanically, the two vehicles are largely identical, sharing their base V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and available all-wheel-drive system.
Unlike some previous Saabs conceived under GM, such as the 9-7X SUV and the 9-2X station wagon (thinly disguised versions of the Chevrolet Trailblazer and the Subaru Impreza, respectively) this crossover SUV is not someone else's car that has been handed down to Saab. It was developed from the start to be both a Saab and a Cadillac. In fact, the vehicle chief engineer, Peter Dorrich, is a Saab guy.
And the 9-4X certainly looks like a Saab. It and the SRX each wear an entirely different suit of sheetmetal, and each gets its own greenhouse. The Saab's design is arguably the more handsome of the two, and looks right at home alongside the new 9-5 sedan.
No sign of IKEA
Inside, though, it's a different story, as one searches in vain for any Scandinavian design influence. The materials are fine, but the vast expanse of black on the dash is boring, relieved only by a bit of carbon fiber or wood trim.