Saab out Subaru™s Subaru
By Mark 'Stretch' Batchelor, Sun, 5 Dec 2004 08:00:00 PDT
Saab's new 9-2x 5-door wagon/hatchback jumps into the automotive market-speak " premium compact" segment, (vehicles priced under $25,000 U.S. dollars) June 2004.
Saab continues to deliver another winning contribution to the fun-to-drive factor of driving. Saab's 9-2x, based on Subaru's WRX design is a unique modified version that out Subaru's Subaru!
Saab's 9-2x is based on Subaru's popular WRX model but the differences are in the details. Yes the 9-2x is All wheel drive (AWD) and the Aero version of the 9-2x has Subaru's 227hp turbo H4 "boxer" engine but the exterior and most rewardingly the undercarriage of the 9-2x are what enhance Subaru's base platform.
The chassis modifications from the ground-up begin with Bridgestone tires developed for the 9-2x. Standard 16-inch 205/55 R16 tires for both the Linear (non-turboed 165hp engine )and sport driver-focused performance turboed Aero model. Aero models are also available with 17-inch wheels, using 215/45 R 17 tires.
"One third of a car is the wheels according to Saab." Bill VandeWater, Manager of Consumer Products for Bridgestone is pleased to see emphasis being placed on tires. "The only part of the car that touches the ground are the tires. Any effect, any device has to work through the tires, whether it is engine force or braking. The more capable the tire, the more capable the car. Our tires are made to be vehicle specific. It took three years to develop a tire for the Saab 9-2X, which is normal for any tire."
Unsprung weight has been reduced using lightweight alloy wheels, aluminum forward lateral links on the rear suspension, stiffer wishbone bushings on the front suspension and also revised toe-in and shock tuning, as well as a stiffer steering gear mounting.
Per Jansson, Chassis Vehicle Integration Engineer, explains: "Our main concern was to combine very good body control for sporty performance with low harshness for comfortable everyday driving."
Jansson noted McPherson struts are standard and described how the longer wheel travel, (10mm), using modified dampers for the shock absorber tuning modification contribute to a superior ride and control of the 9-2x.
Interior cabin noise level reduction has been accomplished by an assortment of cleverly enhanced/modified components namely: Heavier toe board insulation, addition of fender insulation, addition of sealing for rear quarter trim, addition of acoustic treatment on rear floor, addition of acoustic treatment on roof trim, addition of sealing in tailgate, addition of shift boot insulation, and new rear engine mount.
Dan Prescott, Western United States regional Public Relations manager, explained how Ola Granlund, the Saab 9-2x designer, "redesigned Aero's turbo intercooler hood intake maintaining the required ram air volume efficiency with a smaller shape sculptured to remove driver sun glare reflections from the scoop."
Steve Janisse, Global products communications manager of Saab told me that adventure gear manufacturer Solomon and Saab Corporation have begun working together at both the new X series and Saab/Solomon sponsored Skier-X series.
"The X series (Adventure series) is a grueling 36 hour, land, water, mountain hopping, haul-all-your-gear teams of four repelling, kyacking, mountain biking, running, inline skating adventure overload to-the-max competition." While the Skier-X series is a four man abreast downhill rumble with the first man still upright across the finish line wins. I picture 1970s Rollerball meets downhill slalom!
"Saab/Solomon cosponsored events are tailored for local adventure-crazed markets, eg. U.S. Saab, France Saab to maximize exposure for both companies." says Janisse.
Saab's 9-2x is fun, rewarding and comfortable to drive. City, highway or wringin'-er-out South of San Diego, on the way to ole' Mexico, Saab's 9-2x performs and conforms to a driver's changing moods.
Turbo charged 5 speed manual preferred Aero version has a closer steering ratio, 15.0-1 than the non-turboed Linear model. Although, Colin Price, Product Communications Manager, Saab Cars, USA, Inc., had no worries staying on the tail of Ola and Per, in a turboed Aero through the southern California switchbacks in a Linear model with me. Go Colin go!
Mark, a self-described Subaru-certified nut from Radford Virginia is worried about General Motors combining Saab and Subaru. Says Mark, "Well, lets just say that I wouldn't pay $5k (only $3k) extra for the Saab. I can't see how they can justify that cost difference for body panels and interior niceties."
Mark continuing, "Subaru is probably pleased with this option as it will help bring them into the luxury market and, of course, helps their bottom line in regards to increased revenues/sales. I just hope that the new (coming) 9-7x Saab SUV isn't essentially a GMC Envoy!"
Saab had a pre-production 9-7x under the tent by the beach and it looked all-Saab, (center ignition included) next to Tiffany A. Cook, Media and Internal Communications Specialist, Saab Cars, USA, Inc., in her Saab State of Independence sandals.
What strikes me about Saab's 9-2x is the stylish exterior wrapping of the front grill scoop back to the integrated rear roof spoiler that spells Saab. The Saab distinctive in between seat ignition key is gone, but the Scandinavian interior colour/style and exterior seductive lines had bartender Daniel comment, "looks like a throw the keys to the valet" machine.
Global consolidation will continue to benefit the consumer in combining best of individual manufacture strengths and the Saab 9-2x is a rewarding fruition of this trend.
Linear ($22,990 U.S.); Aero ($26,950 U.S.)