Saab 9-4x – what we know so far

The 9-4x is widely believed to be due for unveiling, at least in a pre-production or concept form, at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2008 – around six weeks from now.

I’ve been covering the various bits of news as they pop up, so with the public debut so close I thought it high time I put all the info together in one place.


The Saab 9-4x was first mentioned in mid-2005. At that point, GM had just sold off it’s interest in Fuji Heavy Industries, with whom Saab were developing the Tribeca based 9-6x. There was some growing disquiet about this model, and when the 9-4x was first mentioned, officials were at pains to stress that this new, smaller SUV would be designed as a Saab from the ground up.

The 9-4x has been in development, probably since just before that time. Saab employees gathered in Sweden earlier this year for dealer conferences and were shown life-size models of the 9-4x and 9-5. Here’s what we’ve learned from those viewings and from various reports:

The car will be a 5-seat SUV, around the size of a BMW X3, which will be a competitive benchmark and the vehicle will be compete with the Volvo XC60 when it comes. It will have some prominent styling cues from the Saab Aero-X concept car. The car is rumoured to be built at Ramos Arizpe, in Mexico, along with the Cadillac sibling that’s being produced on the same platform.

Speaking of which, the platform is said to be called TE, taken to be a mix of the Theta and Epsilon platforms that underpin other GM vehicles. These Saab and Cadillac vehicles will be the first to use it.

Back in 2006, then-SaabUSA chief Jay Spenchian gave a keynote speech at the Saab Owners Convention in the US and showed a brief design image of the car. This was caught on film by Ryan of Saab History.

SOC picture9-4x.jpg

Tekniken’s Varld magazine also commissioned their own illustration based on descriptions given to them. Sources who have seen the vehicle for real have indicated that it’s a pretty good likeness of the real thing seen in Sweden earlier this year.


Djup Strupes (i.e. Deep Throat in Swedish, my code name for Saab insiders) have indicated to me that the interior will be quite modern, very driver focused and with “truly functional ergonomics”. The front is as per the above photos quite Aero-X-like in execution, with some cool blue mixed in the tail lamp section. The tail should, in the Saab tradition, open fully – right down to the load floor.

Jay Spenchian mentioned, back in August 2006, that US pricing for the vehicle would be fairly close to, or just above the current Saab 9-3 range there, which at that time topped out at around $43,000 for a V8 Saab 9-7x. I’d expect it to be at least this much. There’s a few indications around at the moment that Saab are perhaps looking to go more upmarket with new models. Jan-Ake Jonsson himself indicated this might be the case in May this year when he said that future Saab vehicles would be bought by well educated, fairly rich buyers.

Djup Strupe has also mentioned that 9-4x will be powered by a variation of the 2.8 litre V6 engine, possibly tuned up to around 300hp in some models. A 3.6 litre V6 was also mentioned recently in CAR Magazine (more recent than the bit mentioned below). There’s also talk of the vehicle getting a new V6 diesel engine, sourced from VM Motori and also for use in the next 9-5. A diesel will be essential for the European market – and this is considered a global vehicle.

CAR Magazine recently went as far to assert that the both the 9-4x and 9-5 would be powered by a new electric power assist unit. Then again, they also asserted that it would have a fold-down 3rd row, which witnesses are adamant it won’t.

All indications at this point are that after debuting in concept form in January 2008, the vehicle will still be at least a year away, being available for sale early in 2009.

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  1. Don’t get your hopes up…
    My guess is that the concept will be the up coming 9-3x due for launch late 2008.

    on the 9-4x front
    a 3.2 6 cylinder petrol was mentioned at the dealer launch in Sweden earlier this year.

  2. If it were going to be available early 2009 there would prototypes running around now – not just the 9-7X based mules we’ve seen. A MY10 introduction (i.e. late 2009 CY) seems more likely.

  3. yes the 9-3x is a raised 9-3 combi with 35mm extra clearance. XWD has been added along with scuff plates,sump guard and redesigned exhaust system. It really does look the part with the extra aluminium.
    If anything the 9-3x is more of a contender to the xc60 than the 9-4x.

  4. Well, there’s nothing in this piece that hasn’t come from either a) multiple news reports, or b) a Djup Strupe.

    It’s the best informed stuff I can give at this point.

    WooDz – I wondered about that, too (i.e. your first comment), but would they really spend the money they’re spending to fly me out there for that?

  5. Dan, come on, the 9-5 struggles to compete with the V70, nevermind the 9-3 which is smaller.
    9-4x is vs XC60.
    There is no Saab vs XC70, nor is there any need in the real workd for one IMHO.
    9-3x doesnt really have a role IMHO as no direct competitors – the XC70 and A6Allroad are all larger. Who needs a 9-3x?

  6. I think dan is right, the 9-4x is a smallish CUV built by Swedes. Of course it will compete against the XC60. Also, the XC70 is just a raised V70 with extra junk bolted on…exactly like the 9-3x.

  7. I am very very excited for the unveiling for the 9-4x. I work for a Saab dealership and there is always stiff competition and business is so precious that I hope that this just puts us at the top-o-the-list!

  8. If the 9-3x is coming it is because it a small cost to modify the vechicle and you get a “new” car to promote. Could be good because Saab needs moore products..

  9. As long as it has the same high safety rating that all Saabs have. Its that “Made in Mexico” thing that has me worried.

  10. Ebbot hit the nail on the head. Saab NEEDS NEW PRODUCT! Whether its a “new” variant of the 9-3 or the real new stuff coming in the pipeline is do or die time for Saab. As for the concerns about it being made in Mexico is a non issue. In fact the thought just because its made in Mexico somehow its far less reliable or not as good is really an insult or at least a little small minded. Do the Swedes have some type of expertise that others do not have when it comes to assembling an automobile?? Has the 9-3 Convertible suffered because its assembled in Austria? Or has the 9-7X been “tarnished” because its assembled in the U.S.?? I don’t think so. I dont care if the 9-4X was built on the moon….we just need the product now. The 9-7X has been one of Saab’s most trouble free products period. So lets just deal with the fact that its not gonna be built there and embrace the fact that this will be a crucial vehicle that deserves to be a success…which it will be.

  11. Hmmm… actually, I hate SUVs. I was really against them.
    However… now, as I’m thinking about that we may have children in the next 5 years, and the lady prefer the SUV type cars, because of the big cargo space and lifted driving position, so I’m getting more familiar with the idea.
    If we would buy SUV in the future, the 9-4X with a v6 turbodiesel could be the right choice, of course, if hopefully it will have at least the same safety and utility as other Saabs.

  12. Ivan – It’s ok to hate SUVs and the soccer moms who kill the planet with them, but those SUVs are quickly disappearing, and it’s probably a good time (with kids possibly on the way, like you said) to reevaluate your position, like you are. Hummers are a sick joke, obviously, but there are plenty of small, fuel-efficient crossovers that give lots of space and lots of lift…like the 9-4x, hopefully.

    ‘Course, you could probably get the same thing out of a 9-3x, but I guess it depends on your needs.

  13. I would think it needs to compete with something like the Acura RDX. Keep it with the 4cyl HO turbo, and it’s got the pants beat off the RDX which only manages 17 mpg with AWD.

  14. Coming late in the game isn’t always impossible. Look at VW and their TOURAN, it joined the other pamper-mobiles at a relatively late stage, the product is more or less OK, if you are in for this size and schape of cars and it seems to sell. They expect similar or even better for their TIGUAN, and this despite lesser overal sales in Germany at the moment.

    If saab can do something ‘revolutionary’, pardon ‘saabolutional’, the 9-3X or 9-4X, or whatever they might call it, has a reason to exist.
    I just haven’t figured out for myself what a saabolutional-SUV has to be like. I suppose saab has made its mind up, before starting this project. Selling more cars goes hand in hand with broadening the product range, but I would prefer a smaller, lower and lighter (9X-wise) saab. But if it’s going to be a SUV, ok, that’ s it.

    Of course it has to be a very different one than the others. So please no badge-engineered car. Recentely another suv-trio came to the market. MItsubishi had already a lot of 4×4-experience, but rebadging their outlander into a peugeot 4007 or a citroën C-crosser doesn’t sound clever to me. So I hope we won’t get a antara-ed or captiva-ed saab 9-3X/9-4X.

    It has to be a smart one. Maybe like the LOTUS APX-prototype: suv but light, suv but fast, suv but ecological responsible, … combined with high safety standards and a rigid passengers cell and so on …

  15. Haha, big cargo space is indeed very often a argument for the lady in the house. But my practical experience in this domain can be reduced to one single theory: the bigger the cargo space, the more the lady want’s to take with her on holidays

    (and most of the time of the year the cargo space isn’t completely used)

  16. The 9-4x will be an SUV with the size to match the Saturn Vue. In the US I know there are bigger SUVs but they are BOF vehicles. But In Europe this vehicle will be big enough.
    Please don’t forget that Saab is still a European brand. If a customer needs a bigger off-roader then you have GMC, HUMMER and Cadiilac to cover pretty much every base in terms of Price, Quality and Luxury. Saab needs to do their own thing to compete throught the rest of the globe.

    The 9-3x on the other hand is a CUV. It is not the same size as a XC70 or the A6 Allroader. But interior wise the 9-3 has practically the same loading capacity as the 9-5 and in this form Saab has yet another niche placing withing the market.
    In my showroom I sell the following AWD vehicles.
    Hyundai: Tucson, Santa-Fe
    Toyota: Hilux, Land-Cruiser, RAV4
    Lexus: RX
    Chevrolet: Captiva
    Landrover: Freelander, Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover

    11 Vehicles and not one vehicle can offer the ride and driving dynamics of the 9-3x.
    The 9-3x is designed for the customer who needs a bit more ride height without losing all the aerodynamics and ride control.
    The closes competitors are the Tucson, RAV4 and Freelander.
    All have a smaller loading area and even though the Freelander is the best of the three, it still wont be a match for the 9-3x.
    The freelander has less power in any engine form whether Petrol or Diesel and it uses Haldex’s Gen3 AWD system.
    The 9-3x will be a very important product for my dealership next year. More important than the 9-4x or the 9-5 in 2009.
    Saab needs this product because no other manufacturer produces a CUV in this size. The only vehicle that comes close at the moment is BMW’s X3 and lets face facts. It looks like it fell out the ugly tree and got hit by a train!

  17. Hi WooDZ,
    I also think the 9-4x will be another Saturn Vue, Opel Antara, Cevrolet(europe)/Daewoo Captiva.
    This is the famous Theta platform.
    It will be able to compete with the BMW X3 Audi Q5 Volvo XC60 VW Tiguan and the still to come Merc small SUV.
    Although it is a corean developed platform, it will be quite unexpensive for SAAB to get a new Car, and at the end, a Saab is a Saab if it looks like a Saab. (9-2 and 9-7x didn’t 😉 )

  18. What the heck is going on with mid-year introductions? If TS’s speculation that the 9-4X will debut early in ’09 this will be yet another product not ready at the beginning of a model-year.

    We have to wait until a few months into calendar year 2008 for the best of the new 9-3 (280 bhp XWD and Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system). Also, the BioPower 9-3 (2.0t) is due in “early ’09” in the States. Not only does it seem like we’re always waiting for new Saab products “just over the horizon” but they’re never ready when all the competition begins selling new models (in the last quarter of the prior calendar year).

    On another note, there is word that buyers are becoming disenchanted with crossovers and are migrating back to full SUVs. This is really bad timing for Saab to be phasing-out the 9-7X in favor of the 9-4X. Possibly the most important data we can learn about the 9-4X is the estimated fuel economy numbers.

    Hopefully (for Saab sales, because personally I can care less) the rumor of the upcoming homegrown full-size larger SUV is true. Saab can’t have too many models on offer at this point, IMHO.

    Only slightly related, but interesting nonetheless is this article about a supposed new upcoming trendy vehicle segment (Saab’s 9-3X might fit-in here).

  19. I welcome both 9-4X and 9-3X.

    But again, one has to ask how on earth it has taken such long time after the introduction of 9-3SC to develop the 9-3X – a 9-3 SC with ‘minor’ and ‘cheap’ modifications ?

    ‘Back then’ the SC was delayed for at least two years (by you-know-who). The Premium platform-based 9-5 was cancelled altogether and then again it has taken years to develop the ‘obvious’ 9-3X.

    Man, things like these make me sick.

  20. I have been offline for a week but actually went around thinking about a 9-3x.

    All of this has been said above but still, think about it.

    * Saab needs more models

    * As of now the only SUV like thing they have is some half breed rebranded Trailblazer.

    * They have developed the XWD for the Turbo-X. All that work for a limited series only ?

    * They have done the design work before and it’s a lot easier, redesigning/furbish a existing model then create a new one.

    I’m not discarding the reviling of a 9-4x, not at all. But who says they can’t show off two new models ?

    One more or less ready for delivery (9-3x) and one for later launch (9-4x)

  21. Judging by the growing number of Skoda Octavia Scouts on the road I think the 9-3x will be a welcome addition to the range. In our rural area there is a strong demand for this type of vehicle, particularly from vets and doctors.

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