Aero-X dreaming

CAUTION: Blogger engaging in dreaming and speculation ahead.


Initiated by an email from a Saab employee who shall remain nameless, spurred on by recent developments in Seoul, Korea, and totally inspired by the Blackbird Aero-X short film, please indulge me….

It’s fair to say that I’ve been quite critical of Cadillac in recent times. I think the push to drive them global is a ridiculous waste of money that could be invested in making Saab better.

One of the articles I covered in my anti-Caddy tirade was this one at Edmunds Inside Line, the relevant part of which for our purposes today is as follows:

The new Alpha platform is said to be the brainchild of GM product czar Bob Lutz. It is to serve as the base for a broad range of midsize rear-wheel-drive models for several GM brands, including Cadillac, Holden, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Vauxhall and possibly Chevrolet. According to GM suppliers, Alpha will use bits and pieces from the Kappa platform that underpins the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, as well as some elements of the larger Zeta platform.

Several years ago, GM provided a sneak peek at the Alpha on the Holden Torana showcar in Australia. The current thinking on Alpha is a flexible platform that can accommodate both rear- and all-wheel drive, as well as GM’s Ecotec four-cylinder engine family. The top engine choice is likely to be a twin-cam 2.4-liter inline-4, with a supercharged version available for performance-oriented models. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions will be offered across the range.

So, we’ve got a RWD or XWD capable platform in the works that’s possibly going to be used for a variety of brands, including Saab.

Could this be something that could be used for an Aero-X styled revision of a Saab Sonett in the next few years?


GM are spreading the platform love around, and this week even Daewoo have released their own version of the Solstice/Sky at the Korean Motor Show. It’s called the Daewoo G2X and like all it’s platform siblings it’ll be built in GM’s Wilmington plant.

The new Alpha platform’s supposed to incorporate elements of the Soltice/Sky/GT/G2X’s Kappa platform as well as some elements of the Zeta platform underpinning GM’s new RWD offerings.

Assuming it’ll be more Solstice-sized than Commodore-sized it might just be the right size for an Aero-X based Saab sports car.

So you lose the whole canopy bit but keep the overall styling. The Aero-X was such a huge hit for Saab in 2006 that they’d be absolutely crazy if they didn’t do everything possible to bring it to production as a signature model for the brand.

As people have noted in comments to the Saab Blackbird short film, Alfa Romeo introduced a similarly smouldering sports car with the 8c Competizione. This was meant to be a concept only as well in the beginning, but it will see a limited production run because Alfa see it as an important statement for the brand. It’s a car that inspires passion and 500 units of the 8c roaming around the world’s exotic locales will do wonders for the brand with Cuore Sportivo

Does this lens make me look fat?


It’s a totally indulgent thought, but wouldn’t Saab stand to benefit from bringing a halo car like this to the lineup?

I definitely think so.

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  1. I think they’d have to make so many compromises to make it production-worthy that it’d lose much of the appeal.

    Most non-SAABophiles were most impressed with the “canopy” and the instruments, two things that would likely have to be omitted in order to price the car low enough to actually sell.

    If you’re talking about a new Sonett to be sold in decent numbers then putting it on Alpha is a good idea.

    If you’re talking about a limited-run exotic like the Alfa Competizione I don’t think SAAB could sell all that many.

    Even if they based the thing on a Corvette platform, omitted the unrealistic canopy, put a traditional instrument cluster, built it out of steel instead of carbon fiber, and dropped-in a 400 horsepower (when run on E85) V6 twin-turbo engine it would basically be an underpowered Corvette/Viper competitor, wouldn’t it? Who would buy the thing?

    What people love about the Aero-X is exactly what it would have to shed in order to be produced.

  2. I’ll admit that I’ll miss the canopy style opening…. but I wouldn’t miss the instrument cluster…

    If all we would lose is the instrument cluster, and gain a traditional 6 speed manual… I’d soo buy it!! Never was a corvette fan, and there’s more passion behind the Saab

  3. The production of the 8C was one of the first Sergio Marchionne’s moves at FIAT Auto.

    It was not destined to production but… do you know what he did? πŸ™‚ He just took the required investment to make it happen from the marketing and publicity budget!

    He considered -very well, to my eyes- that the 8C could do much more for the brand than billboards and magazine adds.

    I just wish that they, at SAAB, can look ahead like he did. πŸ˜›

  4. Talonderial: these are the things I’m guessing they’d have to ditch to make a production Aero-X:

    the canopy (install traditional doors and a blacked-out A-pillar)

    they’d have to actually produce a twin-turbo version of the 2.8-liter V6 engine currently in the 9-3 Aero which would output 400 horsepower running on E100. That seems “do-able” since the BioPower 100 DOUBLED the horsepower running on E100, so the Aero-X would only need to generate 200 horsepower on gasoline to get 400 on E100.

    the instrument cluster

    the start/stop button under the cool switch that operated the canopy

    the seats. There’s no way SAAB could manufacture those thin seats in the concept and if the could they probably wouldn’t be very comfortable (not very SAABy)

    the rear tray thing

    the “turbine wheels” (you wouldn’t want to have to clean them anyway

    So what you’d get is a watered-down car roughly in the same shape as the Aero-X. SAABophiles would go nuts for the thing, but I don’t really see it bringing non-SAABistas into the showrooms.

    I’d rather see a 9-3 or 9-5 in the same shape as the Aero-X than a two-seater coupe, personally.

  5. Andy, I’ve always loved Alfas. They’ve had some styling ups and downs through the years but the classics are just beautiful to look at and fun to drive. Even nowadays, if I’m having a particularly bad day I start to look with envy at a MY1998-2000 Alfa GTV. Beautiful.

    Gripen – I could barely disagree more. I think they could do a production version of the Aero-X that would carry a lot of the original characteristics and they could Saabify those that they lose so no-one would miss them anyway.

    Roof – no brainer. Unfeasible. but that doesn’t mean the car has to look any different.

    Instruments – They could still do something with an emphasis on glass. Up close the cluster on the Aero-X isn’t as impressive as it seems anyway. It’s more like perspex and it’s fading and bubbling. Today’s modern technology and lighting could make for a great dash – all it takes is some invetment.

    The seats are very comfortable in that car. Very. I don’t know if they’d be economical to produce, but I was surprised by how comfy they were.

    Rear tray – wouldn’t miss it. Hopefully there’d be a useful trunk space under the hatch.

    I think they could make this with sensible modification and sell a bunch of ’em.

  6. Swade: we’ll have to agree to disagree than. πŸ™‚

    Seriously, was the Sonett II and III a good seller for SAAB? I don’t know. I’m tending to think not as there are hardly any left around. I’ve never seen one on the road though I know there are a fair number in the hands of collectors.

    An Aero-X would essentially be a Sonett IV. I just don’t know that there’s a market out there for such a car.

    But I don’t disagree with anyone that that film of the Aero-X is awesome and I’d love to see it used somewhere. I just don’t know if people would feel like they’re getting the “bait and switch” treatment if they saw it and then went to a SAAB dealer to buy it.

    Maybe some serious disclaimers at the bottom of the screen would do, or something?

    OT: It cracks me up some of the disclaimers I’ve seen on car commercials. For example, there’s this commercial for Lexus where they try to show that a Lexus can cover the same distance on the ground faster than one being dropped by helicopter from the same distance vertically can fall. The funny thing is the “don’t try this at home” disclaimer on the screen. But the thing is, they’re not trying to be funny with that disclaimer.

    There’s another one where they drive a Toyota pickup truck on a ramp that dead-ends at a gorge. The truck drives down this ramp and slams on the brakes just short of the end of the ramp (to show the truck’s stopping power due to largest-in-class brake disks). Yup, you guessed it: a “professional stunt driver on closed course” disclaimer. So what they’re saying is that I SHOULDN’T go out to the Snake River Gorge and build a long ramp up to it, then drive my truck and slam on the brakes just short of the edge? Oh, okay… πŸ˜›

  7. Gripen – I do think it would be more feasible than you are giving it… At least in the exterior. Swade pointed out what would be loss mainly…. I think the interior is less do-able, and more true to your water-downed statement.. but I could live with that as I’m not a fan of push-button starters and can live with a traditional analog display (less to worry about braking)

  8. No! not a rwd sonnet or Aero-X. i rather see a retro Sonnet IV (sonnet III styled) like Fiat did with the 500. its crazy goodlooking, if no sonett comes along i just maybe (maybe) buy a Fiat 500.

    about Aero-X, Xwd only!

  9. I posed the question earlier can SAAB make this car? I have looked around my old magazines etc but while SAAB stated very clearly that they would not build it, they did not say it was impossible either.

    In a CAR interview in 2006 the designer Anthony Lo was asked if the X was part of the SAAB 5 year plan. His response? β€œWe need a flagship car with a huge performance and a unique body, perhaps this concept car could inspire a new programme.”

    If they won’t build it (and I really hope they can), then use the Blackbird advert in cinemas, take the car to big events, get it in a great movie and make the car a SAAB icon, a design study for the range to aspire to.

    However, with reference to Grits plea for the next 9-5 to be a SAAB, the more I look at the X, the more I realise that it lacks many of the heritage items we get hung up on. Take the issue of the door handles on the 9-3. The current opinion is that GM is giving SAAB the royal screw job with BLS handles. On the X there are no door handles! The X is such a great piece of design it just does not matter. GM should not dumb down design to the lowest common denominator but items like handles and mirrors etc should not be the things that define a SAAB.
    One if the things I admire about BMW is their revolution then evolution model cycle. The latest 3 series looks nothing like a 1980 3 series but it is still a 3 series. I guess what I am saying is, I agree that SAAB should be SAAB but we should be looking forward, with the occasional glance backwards to make sure we are still on the right road. I see the Aero X as the perfect example of this – it looks nothing like a 99 or 900, it is a V6 with AWD but it is still a SAAB and we all love it.

    When Swade asked what the next 9-5 should be, perhaps the short answer should have been, after the Aero X the 9-5 and SAAB can be anything – if the design is right.

  10. The reason I used the Alfa as a comparison:

    Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione 450bhp, 50:50 weight distribution, 1400kg, 0-60 4.5 seconds, 500 to be built, price tag Β£100k each. Sound familiar? Its based on the new Maserati Coupe. If only GM and Fiat shared engines or someting so they could do a deal, oh thats right they do…

  11. If Saab did make a production version Aero-X, I wouldn’t really care too much about how many we could sell. The concept behind a halo car isn’t to drive sales to that specific car, but to drive sales and attention to the rest of the line. Lose what the public can’t see, keep what they can. Obviously a canopy won’t cut it, but the headlights, blacked out pillars, rear tray, dash – all that needs to stay. It can be done, and would be wildly successful for Saab. Not in direct sales, but for press, attention, excitement, and a new appreciation for what Saab can put on the road. Anthony Lo was right, Saab really needs this.

  12. I think I smell a campaign starting here. Saab, we want the AeroX, build it, or feel the wrath of the petition man.

    He wears a cape, and has a big ‘P’ on his chest. Build the Aero X, you know you want to :).

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