Saab Design: Saab in the 21st Century

This is the final instalment in the 3-part series on Saab design. Click on the links below to re-visit the first two parts.

Saab Design: Evolution of Saab’s Design Language

Saab Design: An Icon Right From The Start



Turbo and Hockey Stick

In 1993, the new Saab 900 was launched in Trollhättan. More than 30,000 people gathered to get a glimpse of the new car shown officially for the first time. Its striking wedge-shape design featuring the “hockey stick” C-pillar and new turbo engine quickly became synonymous with Saab.


Saab 900

2001 – Saab 9-X concept

Revealed at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show, Saab’s second concept car ever, the 9-X,was the first expression of a new progressive design language. Bold and sporty, it featured a curvaceous,muscular body styling with absolutely clean and uncluttered surfaces. Its front was dominated by a powerful reinterpretation of Saab’s traditional grille. It’s neither retro design nor cliché, but a vision of pure Saab styling for the future.



2001 – Saab 9-X concept

An aircraft–inspired design theme, which first appeared on the 1968 Saab 99, the wrap-around windscreen is a Saab signature. It has been dramatized on the Saab 9-X with uninterrupted glazing sweeping between the two visible roof pillars to give the car a strong “cockpit-look”.


2002 – Saab 9-3X concept

Launched early 2002 at the Detroit Motor Show, the Saab 9-3X concept further explored the brand’s new progressive design language. An audacious fusion of a coupe, an off-roader and a wagon, it featured a stunning wraparound windscreen that was visually stretched to the
curving C-pillars,making this design clue even more dramatic than on the 9-X.


Saab 9-3

2002 – Saab 9-3X concept

The progressive Saab 9-3X concept is where coupe meets off-roader. Its coupe silhouette is accentuated by a steeply raked rear screen and C-pillar profile. But none of the conventional features of an off-roader appear in its unique design language.

Saab 9-3x

2003 – Saab 9-3 Convertible

Continuing Saab’s unique, more than 20-year tradition of building individual four-seater, four-season soft tops, the new 9-3 Convertible was launched in 2003. It provides a typical Scandinavian design flair with clear and flowing lines that is neither cold nor clinical. Typical of the new Saab 9-3 Convertible is also the U-shaped styling line that extends from the base of the A-pillars, embraces the whole cockpit and visually unites the exterior and the interior.

Saab Convertible

2003 – Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch concept

Since 1974, functionality at Saab hasn’t been associated with a wagon body, but with the original and elegant 99 and 900 hatchback Coupé-Combis. The 9-3 Sport-Hatch concept embodies the crossover point where hatchback meets wagon. It also follows design themes from the 2002 9-3X concept, and stunningly supports Saab’s concept of emotional functionality. Based on this concept car, Saab presented the 9-3 Sport-Combi production car in 2005.

Saab Sport Hatch Concept

More Style

Bold new frontal styling inspired by the Saab 9X concept car, cleaner lines for both Sedan and SportCombi and a new interior design distinguish the latest generation of Saab’s 9-5 model line.

Saab 9-5

New, winning model

The 9-3 SportCombi offers traditional Saab performance and versatility and represents Saab’s entry into the midsize wagon segment. The combination of distinctive design and sporty driving dynamics give the SportCombi a clear, stand-out identity. The five-door 9-3 SportCombi has been styled to create a solid, muscular stance. The “ice block” rear taillights are an interesting detail.

Saab 9-3SC

Aeromotional design

The Saab Aero X is a futuristic concept influenced by Scandinavian and aircraft design. The unusual two-seater sports coupe features a glass cockpit canopy that opens to let the passengers enter. This canopy offers full 180 degree vision and makes doors as well as pillars obsolete. The concept is powered by a BioPower-TwinTurbo engine delivering 400 hp in an environmental friendly way as it uses 100% bioethanol (E100) as fuel.

Saab Aero-X


Saab Aero-X

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  1. Both 9-X and 9-3X would probably be pretty though competition to the Audi A3 and that segment of the market.

    Imagine one of those puppies with XWD… Da*n, you woudln’t even need sugar on top of it.. =)

  2. The 9X, the 9-3X and – why not – the Aero-X should get into production and on the roads, and not just some design-clues, shape of lights and forms of the alloys. (Some design clues even found their way into other GM-products: Didn’t the 9-3X-roof with double parallel skylights found is way to production in shape of the 2nd gen Opel Zafira, as an option ? Or what to think about the GM Volta concept, that vulgarises the pure Aero-X ? If GM wants to be Saab a premium-brand, they shouldn’t take away the good saab design elements, in order the uniqueness gets messed up).

    Swade, can’t you get a new theme up your site, in analogy of the ‘bring back the hatch’, … ‘bring on the 9X, 9-3X and Aero-X’ ?

    What’s good about all the designs, is the absense of retro-elements and the commitment towards a clean and modern design language. OK, in these retro-design-times this might be seen as a lacking point in terms of selling-figures, but driving around in a look-alike 92/93 is as ridicoulous as a new beetle or a nuvolari-facade.

    A glass roof, the same size as used in the 9-3 SportHatch concept, would be a welcome extra if they make something like that as an option on current 9-3 and 9-5 estates. Can’t be a big problem for a company like Saab producing fine convertibles, having knowledge to make the passenger cell as stiff as possible ? But please with a opening feature in the way the panoramic cayenne-roof is available, and not as slow as the opening roof of the Aero-X …. .

  3. I like the 9-3X, not a huge fan of the 9-X. That B-pillar (the big one, I’m not sure what the letter would actually be) just looks weird. Plus, i think it looks stubby. The 9-3X looks like a coupe SC, and that’s pretty cool. I like the double skylights, too.

  4. Wilfried – Assuming the “GM Volta” is the same as the Chevy Volt, that design was actually sourced from Saab…so it wasn’t really bastardized.

  5. OK the volt-design might be ‘sourced from Saab’, but that’s my point GM shouldn’t mess up the designs within its portofolio. Of course it no simple badge-design – which is only done with production cars, as far as i know not with any concept cars – but using certain design clues all over the GM-group undermines the uniqueness of each brand. If you compare a Touareg with a Cayenne and a Q7, in order to be profitable they all share a lot of not visible components, but in terms of design the differ a lot.

  6. I just saw the 9-3X concept car an hour ago, here in Norway at the trade fairs in Lillestrøm, and thought immideatly what a shame that they haven’t put such a car in production. It would be a great contender to the 1-series and the A3!

    But the one concept that takes my breath away is the Aero-X concept. Such a beautiful car that I’d actually pick it over an Aston Martin DB9!

  7. Hopefully 9-3X concept will guide Saab/GM in the making of design of future 9-1. If it will look like Opel Astra in different suit, I´ll surely hate it. Saab has so many awesome design ideas in those concept models that my hopes are high for 9-1. Some fuctional ideas from 9-X and the looks from 9-3X concept, including roof and hidden (black) A & B pillars. It could look stunning. Think of the Aero X / MY08 9-3 mix for a front end. That second picture of 9-3X is quite much like it. Sideview is a bit too “concept” for me. And how about a 4 seater. Two fully adjustable/removable rear seats with some useful space + add on features between them? Removable roof (9-X)? Adjustable suspension/ride height? And the icing on the cake – TTiD XWD. A Dream car for me!
    Well, okay, just make the darn 9-1 first..

    Anyways, I think Saab design is really alive and well – MY08 9-3 is a good example of what´s going on. The best looking wagon available today 🙂

  8. I agree, even thou I think the 9-3X is the best one. 9X does not have the hockey stick.

    Note one thing, quite a few on this blog want to have the hatch back. I have to say that I find the combi much better (and note that none of the concepts above are hatches). THe combi can replace a hatch, but the hatch not replace a combi.

    The design of these are briliant, and I would love if they could be as aggressive with the 9-1 as the 9-3x (including the rear lights). The same sie as the A3 would be great on the market.

    Another comment re the 9-5 and the current market. Like all of you know, and I thought it was great to hear JAJ say it, it needs to be replaced. Its a great car, but the problem is that it canibalizes on the 9-3 market. The 95 price is not much different than the 93, and its not much size difference either.

    Anyway, I hope that the future looks great, and from what I understand from this blog it is.

    And swade btw, good luck with the Viggen!

  9. I’d much rather have a 900/OG9-3 style wagonback hatch than a 9-3SC style combi hatch. The newer SC’s just look too much like wagons to me. What I like about the old Saab wagonbacks is that they were basically wagons, but they weren’t shaped like wagons.

    Even so, I doubt Saab will move backwards with their designs, so I’m sure the 9-1 will be closer to the 9-3X than the 900 or the OG9-3.

    On a side note, it would be great if we could format these comments a little bit. Nothing excessive, but bolding, underlining, and italics would be helpful.

  10. Jeff, the shape of the 9-X makes a lot more sense when you see it with the tailgate open and/or the roof removed, etc. This car was like oragami or a Transformer or something. Do a Google Image search for it to see pics with the back open.

  11. Jeff: you can format your text. You can bold and italics to your heart’s content, but apparently you just can’t underline. 8)

  12. Ohhh…for some reason, I thought the only HTML that worked was the link HTML. I don’t know why I thought that, but I did.

    I couldn’t find very many pictures of the 9-X with the top down or back open, but the ones I found were interesting. I still think the car looks a little odd from the side, though.

  13. Jeff, you have to use greater-than and less-than signs to surround the HTML tags, not the square brackets, so keep that in mind as well. You probably didn’t know about the HTML capability here because it didn’t work before Swade switched-over to this WordPress software. The previous stuff was plain-text-only.

  14. That’s probably why I never tried to use HTML code, I must have learned that you couldn’t do it on the old site and never thought to try it out on the new site.

    I’m very happy about this. :p

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