Third row seating – who wants it?

I’m sure Saab have done their own research on this, but just in case……Here’s a few dot points to get you started.

    – The 9-4x is expected to be a MY2009 release and CAR Magazine mentioned yesterday that it may come with fold-down third row seating.

    – The few people that I’ve corresponded with who have seen the 9-4x recently tell me that this isn’t the case.

    – Back a few years ago when the Subaru-based 9-6x was in development, Saab were rumoured to be reluctant about third row seating due to safety concerns.

    – I’ve recently found out that a mate of mine here in Australia is now selling Volvos for a living. Talking with him on the phone a few days ago, the third row accommodation was definitely a big drawcard for people looking at the XC90.

So, comments are open. Young fellas without families (hello Jeff πŸ™‚ ) please spare us the “who could possibly need a third row?” bit. The third row concept has definitely got a place in the world, it’s whether or not that place is in a Saab. And if not, then why not?

In my own engineering-ignorant way I share the initial concern over the safety of third row occupants. There’s little doubt, however, that a model with a third row would open up a valuable market segment for Saab.


UPDATE: Edmunds reports that third row seats are becoming a target for thieves.


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  1. I posted this earlier, but the third row, fold-up kiddie seat in the Mercedes E class wagon was very important to my wife’s purchasing decision. She wanted the ability to haul around our daughter and her cousins if she needed to (like once or twice a year, but it was important to her nonetheless).

    We started looking at mid-size SUV’s. Acura MDX, BMW X5, Volvo XC90, and on a whim test drove an E320 wagon – with the third seat.

    She really liked the idea of having a third seat for occasional use by kids, without having to buy an SUV.

    One advantage of the Mercedes third row is that it is rear-facing – the only part of a 3rd row passenger’s body in the crumple zone is the lower legs. And the legs looked pretty well protected – it would take quite a rear end hit to crumple the back that far in I suspect.

    The Acura MDX was terrible in this regard – the back of a 3rd row passenger’s head was mere inches from the tailgate glass. A 30-40 mph rear hit – and Bang! instant concussion (at best).

    I think that Saab should do a small, fold-up rear -facing 3rd row seat for the 9-4x and the new 9-5 wagon – with the appropriate disclaimers about safety, of course. It’s not as if it hasn’t been done – IIRC the old Saab 95 wagon had a rear-facing seat, too.

  2. …….but both of my old 95’s already have third row seating!? Have Saab engineers had a memory lapse or something?

    I reckon it’s a dangerous idea anyway, as the third row of occupants always end up being positioned close to or within the rear crumple zone. Then there’s the issue of which way around is the safest; rear facing or forward facing. Both have their merits.


  3. Is it third row seating in an old 95? Or is it just a rear-facing *second* row?

    All I know is that I’ve seen pictures of people sitting in a 95 wagon looking out the rear of the vehicle.

  4. I wish I had the photo of John H and Jim S sitting in the back of the old 95. Classic. It’s on my other computer.

    One thing about rear-facing: our young bloke took a ride in the rear facing third row of what is now Drew’s 95 wagon and it can be a bit illness-inducing. The fun part is that it’s a bit like like an amusement park ride as you don’t know when the curves or bumps are coming and can’t anticipate them like you would when you’re forward facing.

    Maybe rear-facing with barf-bags in the tailgate! At least barf-bags tie-in with the aircraft heritage πŸ˜‰

  5. LOL, we always had genuine airline barf-bags in the seatbacks of our old 9000. Might have to put them in both our current Saabs: Barf from Jets.

    I think a 3rd row will be desirable in our next purchase providing it is useful (ie. not a token seat) and safe. It is certainly considered a mandatory offering in the mid-large SUV market here in Oz, Ford, GM and Toyota all offer them as options. The alternative is a minivan and I’ll know that blood has definitely stopped pumping through my veins if I get one of those.

  6. BTW, a core value of the 9-4x should be family, that’s why the Volvo XCs are so strong in the market. Don’t be like the new Mini Clubman. Local boss has cautioned, “The Clubman is not for families, it is for the young and young-at-heart”. So what does that say about car enthusiasts that also have kids?

  7. To each their own, I guess, personally I have little use for 3rd row seating. Safety has always been the top priority over at Saab and I would like it to stay that way.

    Plus, even when I have kids one day I’d much rather drive them around in a safe car, even if it’s a new gen 9-3 convertible (helveta, talk about “My dad is cool as hell!”). πŸ˜€

  8. “Plus, even when I have kids one day I’d much rather drive them around in a safe car”

    Absolutely, which is why my kid and pregnant wife go around in one of two “Safe As A Bombshelter” vehicles.

    If the family continues to grow or we have guests I would much prefer to transport them in a SAAB.

  9. Turbin, I concur. My point was that although I see the selling potential, if the 3rd row exposes the passengers seated there to unnecessary hazards and dangers during collision then I’d rather see Saab not add that feat and keep the car “Safe As A Bombshelter”. Safety first, right?

  10. *hrmph. πŸ™‚

    True, I don’t have a family now, but If I did, I wouldn’t want to cram lots of people into a vehicle the size of a 9-4x. If I had to move 6 other people regularly enough to warrent a new car, I’d buy a conversion van.

    Then I’d take it to a metal shop and have them brand it as a Saab for shits and giggles.

  11. I share the safety concerns, but if people are going to buy other less safe brands to get the 3rd row, maybe Saab ought to do it in the safest manner possible to appease them. I believe Volvo uses high strength boron reinforced steel in the rear section to offer protection. Maybe Saab could be innovative here.

  12. I would love to believe that if saab designs car safety around the crumple-zones, then adding a third row to that existing design wouldn’t be so smart. Might they need to ‘un-crumplezone-ify’ (saturn-ify) that model?

    I once sat in a volvo with those rear-facing 3rd row seats. I thought the tint was pretty dark and all, so I made all my childish gestures and what not, and wondered why people’s faces happened to change at the same time that I was goofing off. Once I got outta the car I could see fine through to the inside… oops…

  13. I’d prefer a 4th row. Or wait, can Saab make a SaaBus with seating for 30+?

    Actually, when I was first drawn into showrooms when I got my 9-2x in ’05, I had noticed the 9-7x and assumed it had 3rd row seating. I was amazed to see it didn’t. In fact, I walked over to the Caddy area and looked at the smaller, lower, and less beefy SRX and was amazed that it DID have a 3rd row seat as I lifted the tailgate, with cargo room to spare. And I wondered why THAT wasn’t the Saab, and why Caddy didn’t steal the Trailblazer for it’s own variant instead!

    As much as I tolerate (Read: loathe) Caddy’s, that SRX is a fine cross-over-ute, and I can not believe it hasn’t been “Brand Engineered” at all. Sure, it’s off of the Sigma platform (shared with the CTS/STS), but there is no “re-badge” of it anywhere. Make that AWD and more eye pleasing sheet metal and it easily could’ve taken the 9-6x/9-7x slot back in ’05.

    Verdict: I am all for 3rd row seats, as I have a large family. Why not make them an option? Or maybe have an EXT/extended version to accommodate a 3rd row, like the Trailblazer EXT, at a small premium. This surely would take care of the “safety” issue, as an extended version will take in consideration the crumple zones and the like.

  14. I like the idea of third row seating, but Saab should never compromise on safety. Producing the car with the safest third row seating on the market isn’t good enough if you are safer in the back seat of a 9-3.

  15. Swade I know why you asked the question but I wonder if it needs to be asked?

    When I was just married we only needed a 2 seat car but I bought a 4 seater car. I never really used the other seats as we rarely carried passengers. I think it is the same with the 9-4. The seats will fold into the floor so if you don’t want to use them for whatever reason they are still there for those who could use them and DO need them. Renault when they launched the Senic made it a 5 seater as they thought market did not want a 7 seater. GM cleaned up with the 7 seat Zafira and funny enough Renault now makes 7 seater Senic.

    Years ago families would have loaded the car up with adults in the front and the kids in the boot (35 years ago my child seat was not even belted into the car). Thankfully this does not happen now and to carry bulky kid seats and grandparents etc. some people need bigger cars.

    As for safety, the cars are designed to account for the seats.

  16. A third row is not something I would ever need. I have, however, on two occasions been made to think it might be a good idea for SAAB.

    Firstly, a colleauge with a OG 9-3 convertible is about to have twins. The convertible has to go (so she says) but there is no SAAB for her to buy in order to carry around her parents and the children.

    Secondly, another colleague with a OG 9-3 hatchback is selling for a similar reason. Both are considering the Mazda MPV.

    These people are deviating from the true path but, in fairness, there is no SAAB for them to buy to meet their needs. I wonder how many other people are in the same situation?

  17. As a father of 3 kids I always wonder about the functionality og the 3 row. Before the birth of my children I estimated that my current 9-5 Aero Estate is too small for 5 member family. So I decided to purchase a SUV. Did my market research and found out that the 3 row is pointless, because it eats up your trunk space, but traveling with family you need a lot of it. The back seat is, in almost every SUV, for 2 persons, so I decided to keep my 9-5 and IΒ΄m satisfied with my decision. Saab should design a comfortable rear seat for 3 persons and a large cargo space, that is what people really need. To be honest, in large families is budgets quit tight, so many of them do not have enough funds to purchase large luxury SUV-s.

  18. Hendrik. That is great for you, Saab build a car to suit you but what about the millions of customers that cant use a 9-5? 4 child or more families, families with Grandparents who go on days out etc. A seven seater could be on my list next change because I would get use out of it. Saab must give the customer what they want not what they think they need.

    Of course the irony is that the 9-4 will be 5 seat only. Just a shame they will lose custom over it

  19. As I have often asked/commented this is an essential facet of any ‘4×4’ or SUV type vehicle Saab produces – why let BMW, Audi, Ovlov clean up? There are ways around the safety concerns and my family would still be safer than in the GM Zafira I’m forced to use meantime!!


  21. Definately yes on the 3rd row. I posted a comment before going into the reasons, so I won’t again now except to say that it really makes a difference to car buyers. If Saab wants to sell more of these cars, they need to include a 3rd row.

  22. The question isn’t really about whether Saab should design and produce an unsafe 7-seater.

    The real issue is whether Saab should not even make the attempt, or if they should invest the time and money to innovate a real 7-seater that protects your large family (or guests) in case of a wreck.

    So, either Saab remains with a large void in its lineup or they can build- what, probably the world’s first triple best pick SUV in crash tests? I’m sure there aren’t many of those around, if any.

    If you had 4 kids would you want a Saab, a regular hippo for an SUV, or a minivan? I’d take the Saab, too.

  23. Being one of the lucky ones recently to see the 9-4X..rightly or wrongly the 9-4X will only be a 5 passenger.and from a style standpoint I personally think the addition of the third row would have destroyed the look. Being more crossover and less suv personally I believe this is a smarter move. From a retail standpoint based on actual customer comments there is very little sales being lost because of the fact its a 5 passenger.btw the 9-4X style is a knockout!

  24. Patric – sounds great – look fwd to seeing it. If the 9-4x isn’t the 7 seater then maybe the 9-5 can offer an option for the LARGE number of us who would value this facility in a SAAB. Did the 9-4x appear too short for the option even to be offered? Would a lwb seem like an option or would it wreck the appearance?

    Lucky you to have seen it.

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