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First look: Saab crosses over with 9-3X

Getting cross: Saab's 9-3X crossover wagon offers all-wheel drive on E85 and petrol versions.

Saab reveals a rugged new addition to 9-3 – and Australia wants it

12 Feb 2009

SAAB has revealed a crossover version of its compact prestige wagon, dubbed the 9-3X, ahead of its global public debut at the Geneva motor show on March 3.

Combining Saab’s XWD all-wheel drive with an E85-compatible BioPower engine for the first time, the 9-3X may provide a much-needed sales boost to General Motors' struggling Swedish brand in world markets, including Australia.

Saab Australia is evaluating the new 9-3 derivative, but says it can't confirm if it will go on sale here.

Only the 2.0-litre turbocharged E85 and petrol-powered 9-3X versions feature the Saab “Cross Wheel Drive” and rear electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) systems, with a 1.9-litre two-stage turbo-diesel version driving only through the front wheels.

With a 35mm higher ride height than the regular 9-3 SportCombi wagon upon which it is based, Saab says the 9-3X is designed to handle rugged terrain “for those who frequently hit gravel or unpaved roads, without compromising the driving experience on asphalt”.

GM Premium Brands’ Australian communications manager Rebecca Clout said Saab Australia was keen to add the crossover variant to its local 9-3 range, but has yet to confirm its release here.

“From a Saab Australia point of view we are very positive on the car,” she said. “It looks great and would be a fantastic addition to our line-up. However, at this point we are not able to confirm it will join the model range here in Australia.”

38 center image Saab says the 2010 9-3X is aimed at people with active outdoor lifestyles who don’t want a large crossover. It features chunkier matt-grey front and rear bumper designs with aluminium-look skid plates and a grained finish similar to that applied to the side sills and wheel-arch claddings.

Standard black roof-rails, oversized front foglights, twin round exhaust outlets for all variants, new 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels and alloy-look lower door strips complete the rugged new 9-3 look.

Saab brand design chief Simon Padian said the 9-3X was an efficient all-rounder for anyone who doesn’t want or need an SUV- type vehicle.

“Simply put, we are offering a trekking shoe that will do what’s required in more comfort and style than a heavier mountaineering boot,” he said.

Based on the top-shelf 9-3 specification, the 9-3X interior adds a dark metallic finish to the door trims, glovebox and gearshift surround, plus unique sports seats trimmed in black leather with grey fabric inserts.

Both the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and E85-compatible versions drive through the same XWD drivetrain that lurked under the 2.8-litre petrol V6-powered 9-3 Turbo X, just 30 examples of which were made available in Australia (from a global production run of just 2000 cars) from June 2008.

As before, XWD is described as an intelligent, active AWD system that continuously distributes engine torque between the front and rear axles as required via an electronically-controlled Torque Transfer Device (TTD), which houses wet clutch plates that are hydraulically operated by a valve to progressively engage or disengage the rear axle. Similarly, the optional rear eLSD splits torque across the rear axle.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged E85 BioPower engine is the same as that available in the 9-3 range locally, albeit in more powerful 155kW/300Nm tune.

Likewise, the diesel variant’s 1.9 TTiD engine is the same as found in the 9-3 Aero TTiD, which was launched here in mid-2008 in sedan and wagon forms from $62,600. Like the 9-3 TTiD, the 9-3X TTiD delivers 132kW and a bullocking 400Nm of torque, and emits less than 145g/km of CO2.

All three 9-3X variants will be available in Europe with both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions (in which case the TTiD delivers 370Nm).

Unlike its all-wheel-drive stablemates, however, the front-drive 9-3X TTiD’s ride height is raised only 20mm over the SportCombi donor model.

Saab says the 9-3 SportCombi wagon offers new levels of practicality in 9-3X guise, though it comes with the same 60/40-split folding rear seat with ski-port and a total of 1331 litres of luggage space (477 litres with the rear seats up).

In this case, however, it is supplemented by the 9-3X's TwinFloor stowage facility, which aims to keep luggage and equipment safe and tidy via a centre floor section that hinges up transversely when the handle is pulled. The front edge fits into two retaining slots.

Vital statistics for the 9-3X include kerb weights of between 1605kg and 1820kg, 750kg and 1500kg unbraked and braked towing capacities respectively.

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