I’m sure the powers that be in the marketing department would prefer it if the Saab 9-7x and 9-2x were never mentioned, ever again. In fact, I had to get the images of the 9-7x featured below from an image search as the model isn’t listed as one of Saab’s heritage models on our media web page.
The 9-7x has reappeared, however, in an interesting list on Inside Line, and I don’t mind covering one or two of those less palatable models in Saab’s history.
Inside Line has posted a Top 100 Worst Cars of All Time list and the Saab 9-7x, thankfully the only Saab to make an appearance, comes in at #49.
Every internet list contains some contentious entries and this one from Inside Line is no different. The Saab 9-7x shares this dubious “Worts 100” honour with some cars that I really like, including a couple of Ferraris, the Porsche 914, the AMC Gremlin and the Ariel Atom. Then again, there’s also the Rover SD1, the Aston Martin Cygnet and a whole fistfull of Chevys and Cadillacs to confirm the list’s credentials.
Was the Saab 9-7x really one of the worst 100 cars of all time?
Back in 2008 I had the opportunity to drive a 9-7x Aero in Detroit. The Aero at that time was the one with the 5million horsepower engine out of the Corvette.
It wasn’t the most pleasant truck I’ve seen, but it was far from the worst. It had a pretty well appointed interior and was a comfortable place to hang out. The engine had a magnificent, sonorous note and the only thing that kicked you in the guts harder than the sound was the speed. It was genuinely fast for a vehicle of its size. The 9-7x had no major (or minor) systemic issues and as far as I’ve been able to trace, was subject to only one recall (which affected 850,000 GM vehicles).
So what was the problem?
Simple. The Saab 9-7x was the wrong decision, the worst decision, for the Saab brand.
Whilst the Saab 9-7x did sell well (it was the second best selling Saab in the US for each year it was available) and whilst it did expose Saab to some new customers, the vehicle was crucified in the press.
When the Saab 9-7x was released, the motoring press had only just finished laying into Saab over the similarly ill-begotten 9-2x, which was a rebadged, re-nosed and improved Subaru Impreza WRX. It didn’t matter that the 9-2x was actually a great car to drive and was genuinely improved by the changes made to the regular Rex. The makeup was thin and people saw straight through it. Moreover, all this happened at a time of huge growth in web based automotive blogging and reporting, complete with all of the acid-laced mockery that the birth of social media brought with it.
The Saab 9-7x simply added fuel to the fire.
GM had long been a kicking post for badge-engineering skeptics, and rightly so. When they pushed out a warmed-over Chevrolet and asked people to accept it as a European luxury SUV….. well, it was little wonder that most of them were sold to GM employees in Michigan.
It’s ironic that the 9-2x got the bigger kicking of the two. The Saab 9-2x had the comparative advantage of being a wagon with a turbocharged engine and genuinely good performance. The 9-7x had little other than the badge. It wasn’t that Saab didn’t try. Many modifications were made to make the 9-7x perform and handle better than its forebears. The bottom line: it just wasn’t a Saab.
Is the Saab 9-7x one of the worst 100 motor vehicles of all time?
Objectively, no. Not at all. It’s a reasonable looking vehicle with great performance and better-than-acceptable comfort. It’s probably the best vehicle GM ever made on that particular platform.
Subjectively speaking, however, it was a PR disaster and for some people out there, it was another reason to view Saab in a negative light.
Have you ever had a chance to drive the Saab 9-7x, or did you own one? What did you think of it? Comments are open.