Those looking to maximize their mileage will want to check out the standard 9-4X, whose 265-hp 3.0-liter V-6 is the more economical choice, getting 17/23 mpg with all-wheel drive, and 18/25 mpg with front-wheel drive. Both engines use a six-speed automatic; the Aero adds shift paddles, although the gear lever needs to be in the manual shift gate before you can use them.
In Saab Country
Our drive in the 9-4X took us from Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown out into the quaint, historic northern Virginia countryside -- as well as the not-so-quaint northern Virginia countryside that has been overrun by the Toll Brothers and their ilk. On the drive's scenic parkways, feverishly expanding freeways, and gentle byways, the 9-4X Aero's chassis was pleasantly tied down. At the same time, it capably sopped up the few bumps we could find to throw at it, with decent ride comfort despite rolling on high-style, twenty-inch wheels. The Aero has the advantage of adaptive dampers, part of Saab's Drive Sense system, which also varies steering effort and throttle/transmission mapping. (Drive Sense is not available on the base car.) The system also includes selectable Sport and Comfort modes (with a middle-ground, Intelligent, mode due to be added for 2012), but we could discern no meaningful difference between them. In either one, the steering is firm with rather high efforts, and the throttle is not too aggressive.
We actually saw a fair number of Saabs in the D.C. area -- in the city at least, not so much out in the suburbs. The 9-4X should help Saab get onto the radar screen of suburbia's crossover-loving buyers. This pleasant-driving and attractive-looking vehicle may not cut a fresh swath through the new-car market, but it's a big deal for Saab. The ragingly popular crossover market segment is one the brand had to enter. Indeed, Saab execs figure that the 9-4X will become its number-two volume product (behind the 9-3) in North America.
Base price range: $34,205-$48,835
Engine: 2.8-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 2000-5000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 110.5 in
L x W x H: 190.1 x 75.0 x 66.1 in
Legroom front/rear: 41.2/36.4 in
Headroom front/rear: 39.9/38.8 in Cargo capacity (seats up/down): 29.2/61.2 cu ft
Towing capacity: 3500 lb
Curb weight: 4250-4650 lb
Tires: 235/55 R20
EPA rating (city/highway): 15/22 mpg