Saab Design: the art of preserving a design language

This struck me as I prepared the Saab design series.

Whilst the Aero-X was a groundbreaker and will be used as a template for future Saab design, it really did have some serious roots in previous Saab concept designs.

Take a look below. The Aero-X is first, and below it is the Saab 9x from 2001. The side profile for these cars is completely different, but from the top, they’re definitely family.

Build ’em both, I say.

Saab Aero-X

Saab 9x

And as a matter of Saab trivia, there’s a badge missing from the Saab 9x in the Saab museum in Trollhattan. I think it’s the ‘X’ badge on the rear of the car. I noticed this whilst walking through the museum and told one of the attendants there, and he informed me that it’s been missing for a couple of years.

Whoever stole it, mail it back to the museum please. You should be ashamed.

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  1. Yep, an amazing comparison. The should have build the 9x. Swade, the second looks to be the Aero X and the first the 9x?

    Anyway, I am still waiting what they have come up with for the 9-4x, and how close to a production car it is going to be.


  2. Somewhere in my past I remember a chat with Mr Envall who told me that Sixten Sason always insisted in having a gallery in the Saab design ‘barn’ so that ALl the designs could br viewed from above. Appwrently very few design studios did this in the 1960s.

    Sason felt that it helped him see how the shape caught the light.

    Flavio Bertoni (as opposed to Nuccio Bertone) at Citroen- and Robert Opren at Citroen also checked out their designs from above/angles.

    Saab and Citroen – an often underlooked shared design langauge methinks….

  3. Nice detail is the icy-green shade for all windows, inluding roof skylight.
    Something completely different then the all blackened ones which are seen on every corner of the streets.
    On the other hand A-pillar is then substantial visible. What will be difficult is to match both ideas.
    Top view 9-3 sporthatch concept:×600/wallpaper_0b.htm
    Nice greenish window shades:
    Or does this green-effect only work with light interior colours ?

  4. Hope, from point of design, next 9-4 X (?) or whatever it will be called is more than a higher tilted 9-3 SportsHatch with a Haldex-system underneath but has a certain présence in itself; so please not in the way the A6 allroad, suby outback or ovlov XC70 are done.

    Shared design language with Citroën ? Well DS/id, cx and xm had nice fluent designs, their shapes had the same hatchback-wise look (but i remember the cx with only a traditional boot, not a practical hatch). Recently only the C6 has imo relevant design qualities, but again with traditional boot as it only looks like a hatch. The more recent 2007 citroën prototypes are overdressed, with very very ugly fronts – overdone just are their peugeot counterparts. Only the C-airdream coupé concept car had a beautyfull overall design, suberp looking floating in the air front seats, or should i say ‘fauteuils’ … C4 coupé production car is ver nice done. But citroën also produced a lot of crap. And not just in terms of design.

  5. The similarities probably did not go unnoticed by anyone. I seem to be in the minority, but I never really cared for any of these concepts. In terms of design language, I consider the 9x to be the beginning of the end for SAAB. I think this quasi-futuristic look for SAAB is going to make the cars look old and dated real fast.

  6. Swade, you got the text wrong (or the pics). You mention that first is the Aero-X and then the 9-X, but it’s the other way ’round. 😮 – Now fixed. Sorry ’bout that!

    Does anyone have access to a gallery of production Saab designs as viewed from above (as Saabs would be viewed from jets)? The two above are obviously concepts with glass canopies and larger-than production sunroofs (-rooves?) which make them particularly attractive from any angle, including from above. I’m guessing the production models aren’t as striking when viewed from above.

    I’m personally surprised that the 9-X, penned by Michael Mauer is so similar to Anthony Lo’s Aero-X from above. This can’t be coincidence.

    Erek: I understand your points but I have to say that Saab can’t go on looking like a morphed 99 forever. There are cycles. The 92 through 96 were all evolutionary of their predecessor. Then there was the jump in “design language” when the 99 was penned and I’m guessing at the time Saabers were screaming “that thing isn’t a Saab!”. Then the 99 through NG900 were also evolutionary. The next big leap was in the NG9-3. That design language evolution looks like it’s ending (good riddance, IMHO) when the next-gen 9-3 comes out around 2011 and will be replaced with something which looks more like the Aero-X. Or more likely the design language might cross over to the 9000/9-5 evolutionary chain which was pretty much based on the Bertone design the 9000 introduced in 1985. Right now it seems they’re trying to morph the 2003 9-3 design with the next-gen 9-3’s design language with the mid-cycle enhancement (“MCE” or “refresh”) being undertaken in 2008 setting up a more evolutionary design language change when the next-gen 9-5 comes out rather than a revolutionary one.

    What looks to me like is happening is when Microsoft had the Windows 95 line (Win95, Win98, WinME) at the same time as the Windows NT line (NT, Win2000) and the two lines ended up converging in Windows XP. I’m wondering if the 900 and 9000 descendents are moving toward convergence. Right now there’s very little difference between the 9-3 and 9-5. Is there a case to be made that the two converge in the next generation rather than diverge? Or should the 9-3 continue to be the smaller sibling while the 9-5 gets larger?

  7. Grip, the 9000 was not designed by Betone, but by Giorgetto Giugiaro and his Italdesign Studio.

    Otherwise, I agree with you, design needs to progress and evolve while retaining key brand design heritage. I think for the most part, all contemporary models look Saaby enough.

  8. Kroum: D’oh! I knew I should have checked on that when I typed it. I knew it was one of those famous italian design houses. Do I get points for being close? At least I didn’t type “Pininferina”! 😉

    RuneOslo: I’ve noticed that as well. I want to buy and share the Futurecar DVD with Swade, but they only have it encoded in Region 1 (North America) so unless Swade (who I’m sure you know lives in Australia, which uses Region 4 encoding) can score a region-free DVD player he can’t watch it. Maybe someone here in the States or in Canada can buy the DVD then somehow put it in Flash format (like YouTube does but without the 10-minute length limit or the public viewing) and send it to Swade to enjoy? The Aero-X was quite prominent on that special.

  9. I understand that a radical change in design may be well overdue for SAAB. I am not saying that the design isn’t ‘saaby’ or that it is bad simply because it is so completely different. The futuristic look of these designs does not appeal to me. To me, a design (car, building, whatever) that goes for that look ends up looking old and silly very quickly. I am having trouble coming up with any good automobile comparisons. Lamborghini tends to go that route with their designs, but that has always kind of been their thing from day one, so I guess it kind of works for them.

  10. 1) very cool lines on both concepts;

    2) that some of those lines appear similar may be attributable to anthony lo’s presence in both projects;

    3) the “wraparound” design in the concepts is very compelling and literally becomes the theme for both cars;

    4) if saab can move more in that direction, i think the design options will expand and the design results will be more lucrative. also the brand will be better able to “iconify” its portfolio look, other than in the grille area, as is where the matter seems to stand, currently; and

    5) nice comparo, swade.

  11. Agreed PT. This is very good thread. It´s nice to read that others have some passion in Saab design as well.

    I wish I could see 9x in person some day. And even better, to be able to go inside and see how it feels. It would be so cool they´d make 9-1 using those design ideas found on 9X, 9-3X and Aero X.

    A question to those who have seen 9X, is there really space for two people at the rear seat? On the pictures it looks like a seat of Audi TT (1st gen) suitable only for people without legs, or a golfbag.

    Saab, please make 9X and Aero X to production!!

    Does anyone have a link to 9X video?

  12. The prototype that was shown in Brussels some years ago was without interior and with completely black windows. So no idea about the real space inside.
    2+2 needs to be more than in, for example, the beautiful but in case of second row completely impractical Alfa Romeo Brera. Just to name one possible 9X-opponent.

    9X (“Aero 1,9 TTiD xwd”) vs. Brera 2,4 JTD vs. some Audi TT would make a nice comparison test in the magazines.
    Again wishfull thinking.

  13. Hey… I’m trying to make a 3D Model of the Aero X but I’m struggling to find orthographic blueprints of it.

    The top view here seems good, but I can’t find side, front and back drawings. I’ve found tons of photos, but they’ve all got so much lens distortion it makes it impossible to get accurate points of reference off them.

    I’ve been in touch with GM and Saab directly, but no luck. Anybody know where I can find these?

  14. Ohoh, mistake. Must be reading not carefull enough. Yes, Dan9-1, you’r right. But I love the idea he took the ones of the 9X … (makes a good story in McLaren-Ferrari-F1-style).

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