First Drive: 2012 Saab 9-4X

It's true, however, that Saab has its own, cockpit-style dashboard, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, joystick air vents, and unique door panels, but none of it has that spare, modern Scandinavian look. Yes, the (pushbutton) ignition is between the seats. Those seats, though, don't have quite the same high-backed-bucket feel as those in other Saabs, although they do get points for their active head restraints -- something you won't find in the SRX. People space is good, front and rear, and the rear seats recline. There is no third-row seat available.

There's not much space to stash small stuff up front, outside of the under-armrest storage compartment and the two cupholders. The nav screen graphics are identical to those in the SRX, and the system's logic could be improved. Switches, though, are very well laid out. As in the Cadillac, the available mega-sized glass roof brightens the interior considerably.

Two models, two engines
The base 9-4X has a 265-hp 3.0-liter V-6 engine that makes 223 pound-feet of torque. With front-wheel drive, the base 9-4X starts at $34,205; the all-wheel-drive version is $36,700.

The Aero gets a turbocharged V-6 that nets 300 hp and 295-pound-feet of torque from its 2.8 liters. This same engine is found also in the 9-5 and, until recently, the SRX, but Cadillac has dropped it due to low sales. In the 9-4X, it comes standard with all-wheel drive, and it's priced at $48,835.

The Saab's long gestation was helpful in one respect: it gave the engineers time to rework both engines for better responsiveness. Indeed, the 9-4X Aero feels livelier than the last SRX turbo I drove, and engine noise is well suppressed. The turbocharger's boost is nicely integrated, making for linear throttle response. The factory-quoted 0-to-60 time of 7.7 seconds is not bad, but it can't match the Audi Q5 V-6's 6.7 seconds. Nor can the 9-4X Aero equal the Q5's gas mileage -- 18/23 mpg, versus to the Saab's 15/20 mpg EPA ratings. Blame the Saab's greater curb weight.

KilbSF
So it's a Cadillac? But a Cadillac not as good as the Audi (as opposed to the SRX). Is there an actual review attached to this, somewhere?

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