Saab Phoenix concept: a behind-the-scenes gallery | CAR Magazine

Saab Phoenix concept (2011): a behind-the-scenes gallery

Published: 25 March 2011 Updated: 26 January 2015

CAR was the only magazine invited backstage to follow the development of the Saab Phoenix, 2011’s hybrid concept car to showcase the future of Saab design. Here’s our gallery behind-the-scenes, showing the 2+2 coupe being shaped under the watchful eye of new design director Jason Castriota.

We shot the Phoenix being built at an Italian design house: watch the Phoenix transformed from a skeletal model into a fully functioning concept car. There’s a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a hybrid drivetrain which is tipped to appear in the new 2012 Saab 9-3. Like PSA Peugeot Citroen’s solution, the ICE drives the front wheels, a 35kW electric motor spins the rear axle, making this a 4wd Saab.

Don’t forget, you can read the full story on the new Saab Phoenix, and its import for future Saab production cars, only in the new April 2011 issue of CAR Magazine.


The Saab Phoenix is an Audi TT-sized coupe to showcase future Saab design. It was unveiled at the 2011 Geneva motor show.

Jason Castriota, the 37-year-old Italian-American design director of Saab. Victor Muller asked him to take over at the 2010 Geneva motor show. A year later, he’s unveiling his first Saab concept car.

The Saab Phoenix is no shrinking violet: rear end is a radical reimagining of what Saab can be. ‘The idea was to really tap into the original Ursaab concept,’ says Castriota.

The Saab Phoenix concept is no ready-to-go concept car. But there are hints of new Saab in there: check out that front grille, for instance.

The Saab Phoenix is a 2+2 with gullwing doors. ‘The new car is composed of this teardrop form that encapsulates the engine, passengers and luggage compartment with a liquid skin,’ explains Castriota. ‘We took that form, put it in the wind tunnel and shot mercury over it.’

CAR shot the Phoenix during its construction in the run-up to the 2011 Geneva motor show. Pictured him during the last weekend ahead of its show debut, in a chaotic workshop in Turin, Italy.

Those 20-inch alloys nod at the Saab aero designs of the past.

Perfecting those gullwing doors proved tricky. One-off show cars are never easy to get right – which is why the stand minders use cattle prods to keep errant hacks and fans at arm’s length.

Huge tailgate lifts up to reveal the rear of the Saab Phoenix. There’s an electric motor back there, to make this Saab a 4wd reality.

Engine bay of Saab Phoenix looks suspiciously production ready. We know the petrol-electric hardware is feasible, mixing a 1.6 gasoline engine with a 35kW electric motor.

Lovely molten aluminium effect paint work. Everyone was at pains to avoid scratching it ahead of show day.

‘You alright, Jack?’

Tensions mounted as the hours ticked away. The last thing they wanted was for CAR’s photographer and reporter to get in the way…

Interior of the Saab Phoenix comes to life.

Computer says no!

Press this button to open all doors simultaneously in the Tesco car park.

‘I think a show car, in fact car design in general, should be provocative,’ Saab design boss Jason Castriota tells us. Read the full interview in the new April 2011 issue of CAR Magazine.

Protective tape masks delicate edges of the Saab Phoenix. Just one errant screwdriver could be the end of that lush gloss…

That’ll be the 1.6-litre petrol turbo, developing 200bhp. It drives the front axle, while the electric motor spins the rear wheels. Is this the front end of the new 2012 Saab 9-3?

Unusual view through the Saab Phoenix’s bonnet. Or is it a superhero’s mask?


It’s not your average workshop. But Turin is rammed with concept car specialists such as this, where manufacturers such as GM and Renault build their show cars.

‘Superglue that door shut, Pablo!’

Midnight oil is burned to create the Saab Phoenix.

Concept car rolls on different rims for much of its build process. Those delicate final 20-inch alloys only added at the last minute. You’d hate to kerb them, wouldn’t you Jethro?

I’m sure my pencil’s under here somewhere…

Saab Phoenix takes shape. The hours are ticking away before press day on 1 March 2011.

‘Woops, is my bum hanging out on camera?’

Electrics are switched on, allowing the Saab Phoenix’s deathly rear-end glow.

And still they fiddle under the bonnet. Even if a motor show car doesn’t run, it must light up, and power those doors for the delight of show-stand gawpers.

The final wheels are ready to go on.

The ped-pro friendly pop-up bonnet wasn’t functioning as Euro NCAP might like…



5 April 2011 – Latest Saab production halt raises concern

11 April 2011 – Saab’s latest factory shutdowns ‘just a blip’

16 May 2011 – Saab announces new China Joint-venture

16 June 2011 – Saab 9-5 Sportwagon (2011) prices and revised 9-5 range

24 June 2011 – Saab unable to pay wages as financing crisis deepens

27 June 2011 – Saab secures more funds as it seeks to avert collapse

28 October 2011 – Saab is sold again: two Chinese makers buy Saab

1 November – Saab 9-3: is this the new 2013 hatch