Saab's Arctic Adventure
Independence Day is celebrated here on July 4th, with friends, family, fireworks, and a barbeque. But the folks at Saab are doing it a bit differently. You see, Independence Day has a whole different meaning for Saab; February marks its one-year anniversary since its separation from GM and to the shock of many outside the auto industry, they are still alive and producing cars. All they have to do is get the word out.
This is why we find ourselves in Kiruna, Sweden, a surprisingly large town of approximately 25,000 people inside the Arctic Circle. The current temperature: -44 degrees Celsius. At this point Fahrenheit and Celsius are the same; it's cold enough that an ice-cold beer tastes warm, nose hairs freeze together with each inhale, five layers of clothes aren't enough, and locals even declare it "a bit chilly". It's here where Saab has chosen to show us what it's been up to the past twelve months, and what is to come in the next. And also to reiterate the message that Saab is not dead. Although we didn't get to drive these three models, here is a small taste of what's to come.
Saab 9-3 Griffin
The 9-3 Griffin is the glorified placeholder in the 9-3 lineup until the new 9-3 arrives next October; Saab is introducing the Griffin range at this year's Geneva auto show. Both the sedan and SportCombi (wagon) body styles are available, in standard and Aero variants. The Griffin features a new front fascia and headlamps as well as an updated interior with higher-quality materials and greater refinement. The engine is the same turbocharged 2.0-liter that is found in the 9-5 that makes 220 hp; it's also E85 capable. Options include a manual or automatic transmission, and front or all-wheel drive (XWD).
Saab 9-3 Independence Edition Convertible
The Saab 9-3 Independence convertible is a limited edition car, as only 366 units will be built. That's one for each day away from GM, plus one more to start the second year on a fresh start. Each limited edition car has its production number etched into the rear side windows. The car wears a unique amber orange metallic exterior paint, and custom eighteen-inch wheels to set it apart from other 9-3s on the road. The interior features beige leather seats with orange accents, a carbon-fiber-look instrument panel, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Independence Edition will have the familiar turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that makes 220 hp. Buyers will have their choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Saab enters the ever-growing crossover segment with the new 9-4X. It debuted at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show and it was co-developed with the new 9-5 in the States. Saab claims it "really is a Saab car" but we can't help but notice the resemblance to the Cadillac SRX, both visually and mechanically. Behind the three-holed grille, a turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 engine making 300 hp routed through a six-speed automatic transmission; power goes to all four wheels via Saab's XWD system. The classy interior includes items like navigation, a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system, Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB ports, and rear seat entertainment.
We are anxious to see just how much Saab has separated itself from GM in the past year; we get to drive the 9-4X in May. The real test, however, comes when the new 9-3 arrives next fall. It must be good, and it has to sell well if Saab has any chance to live on independently.