Saab 9-4X (2008) at Detroit

Published: 14 January 2008

Saab pulled the covers off its new 9-4X small SUV, which goes on sale early in 2009 to rival the BMW X3 and new Mercedes-Benz GLK. Although officially dubbed the 9-4X Biopower Concept, GM Europe’s advanced design chief Anthony Lo promised CAR Online: 'We’re not teasing you. This is pretty much the car you’re going to get.'

Controversially, the new Saab won’t be built in Sweden, but in Mexico, where it will share a factory with the still-secret Cadillac BRX which it will closely resemble. GM is sensitive about the impact this will have on Saab’s image; GM Europe boss Carl-Peter Forster would only confirm to us that the new car will be built in ‘north America’.

All change at Saab

The 9-4X will be the first of a rapid succession of new Saabs aimed at lifting the underperforming brand from 130,000 cars each year to 170,000 - but not the quarter of a million GM once hoped for. The new 9-3 and 9-5 will follow soon after the launch of the production 9-4X, the saloons using the same Epsilon 2 platform as the Vectra-replacement Insignia and will be built in Germany.

The 9-4X uses a mixture of Epsilon 2 and Theta, GM’s global small SUV platform. The Trollhattan plant will be turned over to the new 9-1 model to rival the A3 and 1-series from 2010.

The inevitable green angle

This being a new car from GM at Detroit, there had to be an environmental twist. This one is more credible – and exciting – than some of the others; the 9-4X Biopower Concept showcases a new flex-fuel version of GM’s 2.0-litre four-pot turbo making 300bhp and 295lb ft of torque when running on E85 biofuel.

That’s 150bhp per litre, and it’s likely to make production soon. In Sweden, 80 percent of Saab 9-5s are Biopower-branded flex-fuel models. Concept-car wackiness unlikely to make production includes an elaborate ski-storage system developed with ski-maker Salomon, and a heated underfloor boot storage area.

They say: It’s ‘inspired by Scandinavian values’
We say: It doesn’t have much else to do with Scandinavia: that’s a pity, and possibly a problem
CAR verdict: 3/5

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features