I’ve just spotted my first write-up of the Saab 9-2x in ages. It comes from Auto and Trucks Review and it notes the demise of the Saaburu in it’s very first paragraph:
This is basically a WRX with a nicer warranty. It’s gonna’ be discontinued in ’07, and the production has stopped. Snap one up now if you can find one (Jun 06). These are rare, fast, and very fun to drive. WIth the Subie drivetrain, upgrades are a breeze, and parts supply will never dwindle.
4.5 stars out of 5.
If only Saab had been so honest when the model began, we mightn’t have ever descended into the debacle that the 9-2x became as time went on.
For anyone that interested in a 9-2x, now is the time to get one. They’ll be discontinued at the end of this model year and from what I hear there’s some decent incentives still available from US Saab dealers to help them out the door.
I’ve given the 9-2x a fair beating on this site in more recent times, but let me say this: there was little wrong with this car except for the execution.
ATR correctly notes the following:
Acceleration, reliability based on subaru counterpart, ride, styling, handling, fuel economy (been avg. 27 – 30 mpg), awd, longer warranty, dealership experience, and saab enhancements to the interior and exterior as well as mechanical.
No options for MP3 Player or NAVIGATION. Also, no option for six shifts and paddle shifting.
You’ll get no arguments from me there.
Fundamentally, the 9-2x is a sound car. I’ve not driven one myself as they’re not available here in Australia, but the WRX on which it’s based is the stuff of legend here and as far as I can tell, it’s well reputed everywhere else too.
So what went wrong with the 9-2x?
Here’s the Saab press release from 2003. Do you see what I see?
Saab announces a cooperation with Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (Fuji) to produce a new performance-oriented all-wheel drive model — the Saab 9-2 — in Spring 2004. The new vehicle will provide Saab with a capable, dynamic entry below the new 9-3 Sport Sedan.
NEW YORK — Continuing with its biggest ever product offensive, Saab Automobile AB expands its product line further with the introduction of the new Saab 9-2. The 9-2 will be Saab’s entry offer and will help attract new, younger customers to the brand. It is targeted at customers looking for a distinctive, fun-to-drive car with the versatility to support an active lifestyle. As customers would expect from Saab, the 9-2 will feature excellent driving dynamics with its sophisticated all-wheel drive system and turbo performance as well as great versatility with its hatchback body style.
Leveraging the global resources of the GM Group, Saab Automobile AB is collaborating with Fuji of Japan to create the new Saab 9-2 model in cooperation with Subaru, Fuji’s automotive division.
"We see an emerging segment in the United States for a premium, small car below the Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan," says Peter Augustsson, President and CEO of Saab Automobile AB.
"The Saab 9-2 is a result of collaboration between two like-minded brands. We both have a special aircraft heritage and a successful history in rallying, and our cars are known as dynamic, safe and fun-to-drive. It makes a lot of sense for us to combine our strengths in creating the next Saab and bring it to the market quickly," says Augustsson.
Saab will offer two versions of the new 9-2, both five-door, all-wheel drive cars. The base Saab 9-2 will be equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, while the Aero version will feature a high performance, 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Initially, the vehicle will only be offered in the United States and Canadian markets.
"Both brands have this special flair," said Bob Lutz, GM’s Vice Chairman for Product Development. "It is such a natural fit for them to combine their talents and expertise to bring the first all-wheel-drive performance car into the Saab family — a car with great dynamic qualities and exhilarating performance."
The new Saab 9-2 will be produced in Fuji’s facilities in Japan, beginning in the spring of 2004.
Did you pick it?
Saab shot themselves in the foot with this release and the 9-2x was pretty much doomed from the get-go as a Saab model. Why?
Because the press release never mentions the direct WRX base. It talks about the 5-door body style, the AWD and the engine. All of them spell out Subaru and the market quite likely knew that this was going to be a WRX-based car, but they didn’t know the full extent of it until Saab launched the model.
Once that particular cat was out of it’s bag, along with Saab’s more expensive pricing, the car became the butt of many an industry joke and put Saab back another 5 years in terms of market perception.
The lessons for the future?
- Don’t go down this type of model development path again
- If you have to go down this model development path again, then make sure you differentiate the vehicles suffiently.
- If you can’t differentiate the vehicle sufficiently, then at least be honest with the public
All Saab had to say was that the 9-2x is a model-sharing exercise with Subaru, and that the 9-2x would be an enhanced version of the WRX with Saab exterior styling, better steering and suspension setups and a longer warranty.
The public knows what to expect and can look forward to it without fear of their expections popping like a party balloon.
After all, isn’t that exactly how the 9-2x is being written up now?
Spirited performance with manual transmission. Solid handling. Saab service (loaner cars, 2 year free service, and a 4 year warranty). Features and styling not available on the Subaru Impreza. Easy to upgrade and modify.
Do not overlook this vehicle if you can find one…especially an automatic. This unique cross-breeding between GM and Subaru will be one for the history books considering Saab’s roots are of Sweedish origin and the vehicle is manufactured in Japan while being sold as American since GM’s acquisition of Saab a few years ago.
It’s not regarded as a bad car by any means, it’s just that the marketing is regarded as a bad joke played by the company on the people.
If you’re after a 9-2x then go get the Aero model and enjoy yourself.