About that 9-4x test mule

I swapped emails this afternoon with a guy I hold in very high esteem over in Sweden. We were chatting about the alleged 9-4x mules that have been making news in various motoring news services over the last few days.

The pics and story first appeared on Left Lane News last week and I covered them at that time. Here’s the final email I wrote in my conversation this afternoon about the photos of these mules:

Is there anything really newsworthy in here though? That’s what I was wondering, and why I haven’t said much about it. Here’s why:

a) The vehicles were spotted a few months ago on the back of a truck. So the vehicle pictured isn’t new. It’s just a recent sighting.

b) Who really knows what it is? The photographer has come out saying it’s a 9-4x, but is it really? In your experience, are the photographers themselves all that accurate when they send out a description? How do they know it’s a 9-4x?

c) this is the point that really makes me suspicious about this: I’ve been reading a lot of stuff saying that it’s on a modified version of an existing platform, or even a combination of two platforms. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose in having a global platform? They develop these global platforms so that they can be used for multiple applications and presumably, so that tooling in more than one factory is possible, thereby reducing costs etc. Having a unique one-off platform, as is being reported by some sites, seems to be completely out of line with this global philosophy.

What do you think about it?

Aside from all that, there’s nothing we can learn from these photos about the actual 9-4x. Not from what I can see. If they are what the articles say they are, 9-4x mules, then all we know is that they’re testing 9-4x chassis and engine, which we’d expect them to be doing anyway, right? There’s nothing we can tell about what it’ll look like, what the interior will be like, etc.

Sorry to be rehashing email conversations here, but I think that sums up my thoughts on these mules pretty well.

Since that conversation, I’ve been informed that mules of a similar description, i.e. 9-7x on one end and Trailblazer on the other, have been seen in the Trollhattan area. So contrary to my doubts about them, it’s quite possible that Saab are testing a 9-4x mule. But then again it’s also quite possible they’re playing around with the XWD system for any number of GM’s future vehicles.

The point is, they’re mules, and as I said above, the fact that they’re testing them is exactly what we’d expect with the 9-4x a year or so away. These vehicles tell us nothing more than that.

And if you haven’t seen the images I’m referring to, Auto Motor and Sport have some nice, big, un-watermarked pictures for you to look at.

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  1. “How do they know it’s a 9-4x?”

    Good point. My thinking is this… If this is a new Saab they are testing, why disguise it as a… Saab? Why not run around with a Trailblazer-skin instead and not draw attention to the brand Saab?

  2. ctm: Maybe they’re flat-out just trying to confuse spy photographers. If they go to all the trouble to build these mules, how hard would it be to de-badge them and/or disguise them with cloth panels like the other car manufacturers do?

    Did we really learn anything from the 2008 9-3s which were spotted driving around Sweden undisguised? I don’t think so. Spy photos are pretty much useless, IMHO. I think someone at SAAB is having some fun at our expense.

  3. I’ve not seen the interior pics, was I late to the party? Or are these new?

    Could that blue box be the Haldex computer for XWD? 😉

    (sarcasm) So, if my speculation is accurate, the 9-4x is lacking a passenger air-bag, but the XWD will all but make up for it. Interesting. Sure hope there’s plenty of glove-box room!

    This looks to be Chevy interior, unless it’s just a parts-bin mish-mash.

  4. mo: I’m guessing because it’s a V6. Each bank of three cylinders gets its own exhaust header (manifold). This decreases exhaust backpressure and increases engine efficiency. It’s not solely an aesthetic thing.

  5. I hadn’t noticed that, mo. Perhaps it’s one of those systems where the two pipes run alongside each-other under most of the vehicle then split at the rear? It’s hard to judge by the photo.

  6. Grip, they use whatever body will best fit, BMW ran 5 series under Rover bodies. They will not be tooled up to produce the bodies yet so the mule is simply to hone dynamics. The final car under a disguise is a log way away yet. To be honest spy shots of mules are pretty useless except for identifying what type of car it is. As for the twin exhausts a lot of 4 cylinder cars have them now a single pipe runs into a transverse muffler – this is used al ot by Audi and Opel. I did check an old copy of Car that reported that the 9-4 would run a 350bhp V6 and it seems quite possible that it is 300+ bhp engine that caused so much heartache recently. Or maybe not.

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