9-7x review from Newsday

This image should give you a bit of an idea.  The Saab 9-7x is a fairly big vehicle.  You Nortamericanos may see it as a standard size, but let me assure you that down here in Oz – this would make for a pretty big presence on the road.

I’d imagine it’d be the same in Europe too, where some countries tax you based on the displacement of your engine.  In addition to that, you’ve got some of the highest fuel costs in the world to contend with as your big V8 rumbles along the highway (and yes, I know it’s got a six available too).

The Saab 9-7x will be available in much of Europe quite soon (if not already), and given it’s December sales improvement, I thought it timely that Newsday have chosen to publish a review of the vehicle.

So what does our mate, Tom the Canteloupe, have to say?

Well, in short – It’s a Saab.  Mostly, anyway.

Tom bases his thoughts on a comparison with Saab’s other recent new release, the 9-2x.  As Tom observes, the 9-2x hasn’t been received well mainly due to the underdone nature of the makeover.

…..the (predictably) unenthusiastic response to the Subaru Impreza-based Saab 9-2X that debuted in the summer of 2004 suggests that warmed-over designs adopted from other carmakers won’t cut it with consumers.

Right on the money, I’d say (and no, I’m not in a 9-2x bashing mood – despite the recent evidence to the contrary).  So how does the 9-7x fare in comparison?

Is it a Saab or a Saabrolet? Let’s take a look.

The 9-7X is, overall, a nice job – comfortable, quiet, competent……..

……..So is the 9-7X really a Saab? I’d say it qualifies – certainly vastly more than the 9-2X does. It’s almost as much a Saab as the 9-3, which shares basics with several other GM models, including the Chevy Malibu and Pontiac G6.

OK, so I’m not giving Tom top marks for that last bit, but I think he pretty much echoes my thoughts on the 9-7x from what I’ve been able to gather so far.

A few interesting parts from the review:

Safety: Whilst the 9-7x has a boatload of safety features on board, Tom notes that the vehicle itself hasn’t been crash tested by the Feds or by the IIHS.  Apparently this isn’t uncommon for low-volume vehicles such as the 9-7x.  The Trailblazer has mediocre ratings for frontal collisions and 5 stars for side-impacts.

Economy: The 9-7x is EPA rated at 15mpg (city) and 20mpg (highway).  Tom averaged in the lower portion of that range in predominantly highway driving during the test.  As mentioned earlier, the higher-than-Joe-Cocker gas prices in Europe will worry a few people that look at this as a prospective purchase.

Styling: Whatever you think of it, there’s no denying that the styling, exterior and interior, is much better on the 9-7x than on the 9-2x (which does get points for exterior on the Swadometer, but lays an egg when it comes to the interior).  Tom notes the Saab cues inside the 9-7x and I guess his feeling of "Saabiness" was further highlighted when he drove the vehicle……

Ride: Tom notes the V8 that he drove as being pretty "peppy" and that the car feels more agile than your typical SUV, due to the quicker steering and chassis setup, being lower to the ground than the usual GM360 based vehicle.

It’s fair to say that the 9-7x is winning more reviewers over with each drive they take.  Which doesn’t mean a damn thing if it doesn’t win over new customers.  It’s certainly a market segment that Saab needed to get into given the oft-quoted stats about who leaves the brand for what.  The 9-7x seems to have carved itself a place as a low-development-cost, high-return debutante for Saab in the US.  As mentioned, sales are improving there after the first few slow months.  Here’s hoping that as the 2006 models continue to roll off the line in Ohio there’ll be a market for them on the other side of the pond, too. 

Though somehow I think the Middle East, with it’s cheap fuel prices, looks a little more promising.

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