9-7x: Born from Vettes

Gotta credit Jalopnik for that headline. How I wish I’d thought if it.

Naturally there’s been some mixed reaction to the announcement of a 6-litre Saab, and I can fully understand why. It does seem to go against type a little, doesn’t it. But then again, the 9-7x always has. The whole idea of a Saab SUV was born out of necessity rather than a real desire for one in the brand portfolio, I’m sure.

Be that as it may, I’m pretty sure that this will find its market in the home of the SUV. I guess we’ll see in the 9-7x sales figures over the rest of the year and beyond. Perhaps it’ll turn out to be the touch of agro that Saab needs. The press release alone is getting pretty widespread coverage and aside from the initial questioning of the brand fit, it seems to be getting an OK reception.

Part of the reason for that is the LS2 engine, which is a pretty well respected donk. Having a Corvette heritage isn’t going to lose you too many fans over there.

Of course, there’s the issue of price. At $45K the 9-7x Aero is around $10K more than the Chevy Trailblazer SS, which uses the same engine. Commenters have already noted this and wondered why anyone would pay it.

That’s a question that’s a bit difficult for me to answer from here where we don’t have 9-7x’s or Trailblazers. The only 9-7x I’ve seen in person was in the rear carpark of the Saab Museum in Trollhattan. Perhaps someone who’s seen both together can comment as to the interior quality of the two vehicles.

In terms of ride, the 9-7x has, since it’s inception, been consistently described as the hands-down best of the platform siblings. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, this isn’t just a badge job and relocation of the key. Saab guys actually worked on tuning the ride of this vehicle and made some pretty extensive modifications. If you’re unfamiliar with the extent to which the basic platform was modified, I highly recommend that you check out this post and have a look.

I’m looking forward to reading the reviews of this one.

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22 Comments

  1. Some one (Churchill probably) said the UK and the US were divided by a common language and I think that is a neat way to look at the different markets – am talking world wide, not just US.

    Saab are a world car maker and not all markets have the same needs or wants. I would love America to embrace 4 cylinder turbos (I appreciate that in such a huge country may do btw) but until they do Saab needs to offer that market something

    The issue of is it cynical marketing ploy and the thin end of the wedge are different matters and as I can’t buy the car I cant really comment

  2. Although th e9-7x is on the identical platform as the Trailblazer, there are some rather significant differences.

    Fit and finish is significantly better on the Saab. The way they tuck the exhaust in, and the way the body molds fit. The trailblazer looks unfinished and crappy next to a 9-7x.

    They also retuned the suspension on the 9-7x, making it lower and better handling than the unimpressive road characteristics of the trailblazer, but it probably lost some of its offroading capabilities.

    The interior is also much nicer in the 9-7X.

    Compare the 9-7X ( http://www.automobilemag.com/auto_shows/naias_2005/0501_naias+2005_saab_9_7x+front_interior_view.jpg ) to the trailblazer ( http://jpowell.tripod.com/saab-9_7x/trailblazer-interior.jpg )

    Essnetially, the 9-7xs improvements are mostly Aesthetic, but also in th ehandling arena.

  3. He also said the word “Ghoti” is a direct phonetical spelling of “fish” — Pretty neat.
    See here.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to see one of these babies in the wild.

  4. It’s a difficult thing. I now two things a true for me at the moment:
    1) SUV is not a part of Saab’s heritage and identity.
    2) A huge engine just for the sake of it is not Saab.

    But… What is in an identity? In 1975, the thought of a Saab looking like the 9000 ten years later would probably be unthinkable. Ask a BMW addict in 1990 if BMW should produce a car like the X7 and that person would laugh. So, things change and a brand must somewhat stay with it’s time to be able to compete. Just clinging to what once was is not possible if you want to survive. As Clint Eastwood put it: “adapt, improvise, and overcome.” 🙂

    The problem was that Saab was lacking models and were loosing customers. This was a cheap way to attract a group of customers at the right moment. And the reason for that problem was that everyday buyers just started to need a car like the SUV. Why? Don’t know. Probably clever (or cynical) marketing.

    There is a market for big cars like the SUV, and there will be 20 years from now. Certain people do need it, and it’s very suitable for some situations. There are people who want a huge engine no matter what they have to pay for the gas. The question is if Saab should make those cars.

    It will always be a question of what is “acceptable” to hard-core fans, and what is considered out of the question with the brand image in mind. Some probably think Saab should never ever produce an engine bigger than 2 liter. Others think that the hatchback is the only acceptable design. But the fact is that not enough buyers feel the same, and we run the risk of soon having an imaginary brand with the perfect pure-bred car – but it doesn’t exist because buyers wanted something else.

    And what we think is “true” something, is usually everything except what is available today. 20 years ago, a true Saab was probably something looking like all old Saab’s including the 99 and OG900. Today, a true Saab is probably something looking like all old Saab’s including the NG900 and OG9-3. And so on…

    The engineers at Saab have adopted new things all the time to stay with the market. At this moment in time, they did a SUV. And I think they did a good job, considered that they were very short on time and money. They had the guts to put the key between the seats, and the front looks like a Saab. When we know how much money Saab have been loosing for years and years, it’s understandable that they didn’t had that much choice.

    Jon tell the truth: “Saab are a world car maker and not all markets have the same needs or wants.” Let’s hope that this was a lesson well learned, and that with new financial strength they can once again adapt trends of the different markets, improvise a solution with the rebellious Trollhättan ingenuity, and overcome problems of the future.

  5. ctm, I think you’ve said it very well. We have to accept certain changes, and hopefully with those changes Saab will keep the core values intact.

    I know there is actually a need for this kind of SUV. First, how about an SUV that actually handles well? That doesn’t feel like a sloppy hippo? Saab did well here- just about everyone says it’s got that “European touch”.

    Second, to answer “why such a big engine?” for the Aero, I would say this: If I owned a boat and needed to haul it, or other toys and trailers for that matter, I would want this vehicle. Granted, the mpgs aren’t good, but how else can you haul 5,000 or 6,000 pounds of gear? That IS a legitimate need, and at least Saab has done it right (with the limited resources they have). Many people here have boats, tent trailers, jet skis, snowmobiles, or utility trailers to haul gear or garden stuff around, and they need something to move it.

    Now imagine if all SUVs were like genuine Saabs. How great would they be? Well, they’d have better thermal, cost, and fuel efficiencies, improved handling, more practicality, and a whole heck of a lot safer, for the occupants but also other vehicles when an accident occurs. Now imagine a Saab like that. How could a vehicle done that way be a bad thing for Saab’s core values?

    I don’t see a problem with Saab taking the same core principles and making the best SUV on the block. The real issue I think is whether everyone in the US actually needs a tank in the driveway (I don’t think many do). But there certainly are SOME who need it, and isn’t Saab all about filling a niche in the right way?

  6. OK. Yes is the best of the platform and this IS NORTH AMERICA where the SUV/MVAN/HUMV make up for personal shortcomings but it is a quick catch and puts it in global perspective. Not purist I agree but Toyota, Mazda, VW, Audi, BMW and of all purists PORSCHE (look what the Cayanne did for them!) have bettered brand awareness. Think of the headlines with Vette engine it in in North America and the tuning by trolls! Born from VETTES! HA!

  7. RJ, exactly. My first personal reaction about the 9-7X was basically “what the f…!” But when I think about it, Saab is not a brand that should only suit me and my idea of a car. People has different needs, and that is indeed true on a global scale. One size do not fit all. Maybe “Saab” is not always about what *type* of cars they make, but rather about *how* the make them. That said, I do hope I never see a Saab van or Saab pickup truck… 😉

  8. The name of the game is sales. If cars in the future fly then Saab better make a flying car. The key is to do it in a way that only they would do it. Look at Porsche for example; they have the Cayenne… it is an SUV but it is clearly a SUV done as only Porsche would do it. Make whatever you need to make money but, make it as only Saab would!

  9. jc722, I read this a while ago about Porsche and the Cayenne but can’t remember where. Something like: “So they buy SUVs over there? OK then, lets build one *our* way and show them how it should be done!”

  10. Steve it’s this issue that we had in mind when one of my “mates” started his Complacency Index. He counts the number of gas-guzzling SUVs in the Whole Foods parking lot. You can click on our link and check out the Green Giant blog if you want to see what Colorado greenies drive.

  11. I have a different approach. Maybe because I’m not a businessman. I accept that there is no more hatch, I accept, that there will be less and less original Saab turbo engines, and the new ones have 6 cylinders and manufactured by an other GM brand.
    I think that the manufacturers should not fulfill all demands. If there will be a good enough market for pink pickups with 12 cylinder engine, and neon lights all around, should Saab produce it?
    The brands have to exercise a positive influence to the market, as Saab did it with the BioPower. From my point of view this is the right decision.
    I know, that the 9-7x Aero doesn’t come from Sweden, it’s soooo American thing… surely GM pushed it. But this car my produce more bucks to sell this outdated SUV at the last moments of its lifetime, at the same time it’s completely against of the “green”, environmental friendly and responsible image of Saab.
    It’s a paradox of values, if you know what I mean. A brand like Saab can’t relase proudly such a polluting monster with a 6 liter naturally aspirated engine while they try to build an “green” image (and I can believe it, knowing the history of Saab) with BioPower and turbo. It’s an absurd.
    Maybe many of you don’t believe the global warming, let me say some fresh experiences. The weather in my country getting to be more and more crazy. There was no winter at this year and the summer was the hottest ever in Hungary. The global warming is a fact and we did it.
    Saab has always tried to find a good balance between being “green” and providing good enough torque for the enjoyable drive. I hope they will keep this direction, but the 9-7x Aero is a major turn back on this road.

  12. Here’s the thing about the Cayenne: Porsche (up until that point) only made two types of cars: the 911 (which is pretty much its own category), and the smallish coupe. Suddenly, here’s a big ol’ 4 door thing with a Porsche badge on it. Saab has made many different types of cars (small hatch, bigger sedan, two door sedan, tiny sports car…) that for them to branch out and build an SUV because the customers demanded it wasn’t odd, because they’ve been evolving and doing different things for years, and an SUV was a natural addition to their lineup. Porsche’s SUV, however, came out of nowhere. I mean, sure, it’s a nice SUV and all, but it’s still much much less in tune with the rest of Porsche’s offerings than the 9-7x with Saab. Of course, now that Porsche is perverting itself with a (gasp!) four door sedan, it doesn’t seem as out of place.

    Also, the 9-7x is head and shoulders above the Trailblazer in pretty much every category. It’s probably the best midsize SUV in GM’s portfolio.

    Also also, as for the environmental thing…I think I’m in the minority on this site, but I don’t care how irresponsible this thing is. Screw green cars. I skip over everything BioPower related on this site. I’m happy Saab is making money off of it, but I really don’t care if the rest of their engines are green or not. They could go all BioPower and I wouldn’t care as long as they performed the same, or they could drop the entire BioPower line and it wouldn’t phase me. … Actually, it would, because that would lose them lots of money and that would be bad. Otherwise though, it definitely isn’t something I bother to think about.

    And yes, I know global warming exists and it’s probably about 80% humans’ fault, but hey, I’m a selfish American. :p

  13. My wife has owns an ’06 9-5 SC and she has had several previous Saabs. I got a 9-7X 4.2i last year. I was looking for an SUV upgrade and thought this Saab SUV had an upscale interior and nice road handling, while at an attractive, all-inclusive price. I have enjoyed my 9-7X.

    The new 9-7X Aero will further appeal to those looking for a sporty SUV. It will remain less than a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5 (V8) or Range Rover Sport, but will offer better acceleration. It’s handling and interior will be below the quality of this competition.

    However, the 9-7X Aero will be superior to the Trailblazer SS (awful, cheap interior and bland exterior) and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 (this vehicle also offers a fast, big V8, but has an interior in between the quality of the Trailblazer and the 9-7X. Also the JGC SRT8 is priced similarly to the 9-7X Aero). In addition, neither the Trailblazer SS nor the Grand Cherokee SRT8 offer the extensive warranty or free service that come with a Saab in the US.

    One question I have, will Saab discontinue the 5.3i version? It seems silly to have 3 engines available for this vehicle when they only sell about 500-600 per month.

    One disappointment: the 9-7X offers only a plain 4-speed automatic transmission. It would be better if the Aero (or better yet, all 9-7X models) included one of GM’s new 6-speed transmissions for 6 & 8 cylinder engines.

  14. wpbond69, thanks for your first hand input here. With regards to the 5.3, I’ve just learned this morning that the Aero will limited to an initial run of 500 units, so I’d say the 5.3 will definitely stay.

    Of course, if those 500 units go quickly, I’m sure they’ll ramp it up and make more.

  15. All good comments.

    I’m a Saab heritage guy — heck, I drive the car that represents that heritage in large part. But one need not shy away from change if change is good.

    On the other hand, I think that GM and Ford really need to reduce badge engineering — including the 9-7x. I simply see no reason why GM (or Ford) should make several iterations of the same platform. Thus, I guess that I want the 9-4 to be a distinct vehicle, one that shows ingenuity worthy of comment.

  16. eggs – Badge engineering helps with the costs of developing and selling cars that use the same platforms. Have fun waiting for a distinct vehicle from a giant automaker like GM or Ford. I think a little badge engineering is good, personally. It means you can get the same truck, in any trim or opulence or performance level you want. If they only made the Trailblazer, you could only get Chevy fit and finish. This way, you can also get Buick or Saab finish in the same truck, but it doesn’t cost GM a fortune.

    Also, I agree with wpbond69 about the transmission. It wouldn’t be all that hard to change the unit.

  17. Does GM think that adding a bigger gas guzzling motor will help sell these heaps? The dealership I work at in California has 5 9-7’s that have been on the lot for almost a year. I think we’ve only sold less then 10 of them since they were introduced in 2005. They can’t even sell them with the $7000 discount. Even the Altitude model we have has been on our lot for almost a year.

  18. Eric,

    In Europe we always hear about California the auto emissions laws (or what’s it called…). But are the buyers there also more negative to gas guzzling cars? Is there a real difference between Californa and other states?

  19. Gregg I should have spent more time listening in Irish Lit back in school and less time day dreaming about cars!

    I agree up to a point eggs but I think there is room to share hidden components ie window motors and ac units even engine blocks (but not heads or mapping). That said I to am hoping that the 9-4 does soem ting different. The fact that it is not based on the Chevrolet Captiva, which could have been the easy option in Europe is cause for hope.

  20. ctm,
    There are still a lot of peaple buying gas guzzlers here in California. There are tons of Escalades, Suburbans, Tahoes and those types of gas guzzlers.
    I think the problem with the 9-7 is that peaple who traditionally buy a SAAB, don’t by gas guzzlers. And people who traditionally buy gas guzzling SUV’s whould never consider a SAAB.
    I still think GM should have taken the 3.7 liter Inline 5 cylinder engine from the Chevy Colorado and Hummer H3 and tubocharged it for the 9-7 and also tubocharged the 4.2 liter inline 6 engine for the top of the line model.

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