It’s now widely believed that Saab will take the covers off a conceptual version of the 9-4x SUV in Detroit next January. Production and sales of the 9-4x are believed to be scheduled for MY2009, though exactly when during that model year is still a mystery.
Of course, car companies show concepts all the time. The increasing trend is for companies to show concepts that are close to their production siblings. The Chevy Camaro, for instance, should also make it to market around 2009 and it should bear a pretty good resemblance to the initial concept. Practicalities of production, safety and affordability have to take precedence over some of the pure design elements of some concept cars, but this concept-to-reality trend is definitely on the rise.
So it’ll be interesting to view the 9-4x concept in January with a view to it being a strong indicator of what the final product might be. The Detroit show is now less than two months away (but who’s counting 😉 ) so it won’t be long before we get to see it.
With that in mind, I thought it might be worthwhile to have a look back at Saab’s most recent concept-to-reality vehicle: the Saab Sport Hatch Concept.
The Sport Hatch Concept made it’s public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2003. As you’ll see in the photo below, the exterior design was a direct pointer to the 9-3 SportCombi that was to follow 18 months later. Unfortunately the interior design wasn’t adopted, with Saab sticking to the interior design of the 9-3 tht was in use at the time. It’s a pity, really, as the SportHatch interior would have been a great adoption for the 9-3 range if it were viable.
A few photos follow, plus the press release from the 2003 Frankfurt Show.
Frankfurt IAA 2003, Saab News:
Style and sporty performance take center stage on the Saab stand at Frankfurt this year with a world premiere of the Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept car and a new look for the top-of-the-line Saab 9-5 Aero.
Other product news for the new model year includes the introduction of additional engine options in the 9-3 Sport Sedan and 9-5 ranges, together with a number of specification improvements.
Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept
Saab declares its intention to enter a new market segment with its Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept , which challenges the traditional distinction between hatchback and wagon bodystyles.
The distinctive, five-door, four-seater format, including a 250 bhp, 2.0-liter turbo engine, offers sporty, driver-focused performance and innovative load-carrying features.
It is intended to take Saab into the mid-size wagon segment for the first time by offering a distinctive alternative choice, with hatchback-like proportions reflecting the shape of its classic Saab 900 forebears.
* Bold styling cues from Saab 9-3X ‘cross-over coupe’ concept
* Compact, sporty stance
* Four-seater layout with central ‘clear zone’ motif in front and rear
* Glass roof and recessed load fixing points to eliminate roof bars
* Powered tailgate with innovative, integrated bike-carrying function
* Information displays on demand via touch-screen functionality
* Extra storage floor below cargo deck
“Just as our 9-3X Crossover Coupé concept occupies a position where coupé meets off-roader, this car represents a cross-over point between hatchback and wagon,” says Michael Mauer, Saab’s Head of Design.
The Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept challenges automotive convention by eroding the traditional distinction between hatchback and wagon formats. In shifting such boundary lines, it gives further expression to design chief Michael Mauer’s vision of the future of Saab design.
Just like the previous 9X and 9-3X, the 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept is testimony to Mauer’s belief in the emergence of a new automotive order; one where orthodox classifications are no longer relevant to demanding owners who require one vehicle to fulfill different functions.
It also represents a logical progression towards a near production-ready car. The multi-dimensional Saab 9X imaginatively combined the characteristic features of a coupe, roadster, wagon and pick-up within a single vehicle. The 9-3X then introduced an off-road capability by creating a unique ‘cross-over coupe’ concept. Now the Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept carries forward much of the 9-3X’s design language in presenting a sporty, versatile vehicle for the road that is a fusion between hatchback and wagon.
Styling cues from the 9-3X include most of the rear-end treatment: the relatively short rear overhang, the steeply raked rear window and light assemblies and the uninterrupted shape of the side windows with disguised door pillars. Despite the addition of two rear doors, the essential compact proportions of a hatchback have been retained.
The Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept is also clearly an evolution of the current 9-3 Sport Sedan architecture although, in adopting the stance and packaging of a five-door hatchback, it closely follows the tradition of its classic Saab 900 forebears. It re-affirms Saab’s commitment to a distinctive, versatile format that is sportier in appearance than a typical wagon.
“Just as the 9-3X occupies a position where coupe meets off-roader, this car represents a cross-over point between hatchback and wagon,” explains Mauer. “It is the sort of product that should come from Saab and our customers will be able to buy a car very much like this.
“In using the Sport Sedan chassis, we have been able to ensure that this car offers the kind of sporty, driver-focused performance that is an essential requirement for all Saab models,” adds Mauer. “We have now added more functionality with some interesting design features that ensure this car has its own clear and separate identity.”
Typical of the design team’s unconventional approach is the adoption of a distinctive glass roof, the elimination of roof bars – a common feature of traditional wagon design – and the provision of twin folding rear sports seats. Innovative load-carrying functions are included without compromising the car’s essentially sporty appearance and driver-focused character.
The presentation of the Saab 9-3 Sport-Hatch Concept at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show signifies Saab’s intention to appeal to customers who want the functionality of a premium, mid-size wagon but seek fresher, more exciting looks and a sporty driving experience to match.
“Saab customers are predominantly professional people with independent tastes and views,” adds Mauer. “This car reflects and respects their desire for bold, alternative solutions.”