New 2011 Saab 9-4X will be built in Mexico alonside Cadillac SRX

2011 Saab 9-4X

2011 Saab 9-4X

It’s hard to cut all the apron strings at one time, particularly in the automotive world. Saab may have moved all manufacturing back to Trollhattan, Sweden, but that will not last. It ends when the new Saab 9-4X goes into production in GM’s assembly plant at Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.

The new Saab 9-4X  will be built alongside the Cadillac SRX, with which the Saab will share a platform and powertrains. Saab released info and photographs of the midsize luxury crossover yesterday and announced that the 9-4Xthat will debut at the LA Auto Show in November.

Although the basic platform is the same, the Saab 9-4X shares nary a body panel with its Cadillac cousin, unlike the regrettable Saab 9-7X, which was little more than a Saabish front clip on a Chevrolet Trailblazer. Although the Saab 9-4X was fully developed under GM ownership of Saab, the Swedish subsidiary was given much more leeway in the development of this vehicle.

2011 Saab 9-4X interior

The 2011 Saab 9-4X interior features the hockey-stick Saab dash and center console.

Indeed, the 2011 Saab 9-4X doesn’t look much like the Cadillac SRX. Instead of Cadillac’s chiseled Art and Design body shapes, Saab designers worked hard to give the 9-4X more rounded, aircraft-inspired contours, complete with Saab signature blacked-out A-pillars that give a wraparound appearance Saab says looks like cockpit. Saab calls it a “progressive Scandinavian design inspired by (the)  Aero X concept (vehicle).”

As we mentioned earlier, however, the engines will be the same that Cadillac uses in the SRX, a choice of a 3.0-liter naturally-aspirated direct-injection V-6 or turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6. The former is rated at 265 horsepower and the turbo (also direct injection) is rated at 300 horsepower with a much broader torque curve. Both engines are connected to electronically-controlled six-speed automatic transmissions.

The nominal drivetrain layout of the Saab 9-4X, like that of the Cadillac SRX, is front wheel drive, but optional with the 9-4X is Saab XWD all-wheel drive which “infinitely varies drive torque between the front and rear axles.” The XWD system is combined with an electronically-controlled rear limited-slip differential that transfers up to 50 percent of rear torque between the rear wheels to whichever has more grip.

Saab DriveSense active suspension control is available on the uplevel Aero trim level. The system varies shock absorber damping based on how the car is being driven and on road conditions.  A “Comfort” setting is default, but the driver can also dial up “Sport”, which firms up the shocks even more and gives the throttle quicker response and raises the gear shifting points. Set in “Eco” mode, DriveSense slows throttle reaction and lowers shift points in the name of fuel economy.

Saab designers obviously had free reign in the interior which came out looking like a Saab’s interior should. The “hockey-stick” dash wraps around the driver, sweeping across the instrument and down the centerstack and back along the center console in one unbroken sweep, with wood or “carbon fiber-effect” trim. And of course, the start-stop button is positioned on the center console, next to the shift lever, rather than on the dash like ordinary vehicles.

As with the Cadillac SRX, there’s no attempt at third row seating, the Saab 9-4X having front buckets and three-across rear seating. Saab calls the front seats “large” and “supportive”–we hope that doesn’t mean General Motors thrones have replaced traditional Saab orthopedic seats (though we doubt it)–with eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and optional power adjustable pedals.

2011 Saab 9-4X

Although sharing a platform with the Cadillac SRX, the 2011 Saab 9-4X shares nary a body panel with the Caddy.

Rear seats have three-way manual adjustment of seatback angle, and the seatbacks fold forward 60/40 for additional cargo capacity without having to move the seats or remove the head restraints. Saab says the seatbacks fold to make a flat floor.  They do in the Cadillac SRX so we expect Saab’s claim to be accurate. Total maximum cargo capacity is 61.2 cubic feet.

Saab notes that the front section of the trunk floor is hinged and can be opened by a (what else?) aircraft-shaped handle to reach additional cargo space.  The Saab 9-4X also has double-decked pockets in the doors, a two-tier front glovebox and a deep bin in the center console with a 12-volt, USB and AUX connections. Rear passengers have yet more storage in the rear armrest and in the back of the center console.

Saab notes that the 9-4X has a selection of upscale “infotainment”, with two audio options, a seven-speaker standard unit or a Bose system with 5.1 surround sound. A hard disc-based navigation system is optional. The system has an eight-inch touchscreen and the memory capacity for 10GB if jukebox music files. The Saab 9-4X has  OnStar, part of Saab’s GM heritage.

Dual-zone climate control is standard and individual eight-inch screens for the rear seat entertainment system are mounted in the backs of the front seats.

Following the Los Angeles Auto Show debut, the 2011 Saab 9-4X will be available in the U.S. in May, 2011, with sales in Europe and the rest of the world beginning in August. We get it first, no doubt, because it’s made in North America–it’s easier to put them on a train than on a boat–and anyway, the U.S. is likely to be a strong market for the Saab 9-4X, which should help flesh out Saab dealers’ offerings as well.  It’s too soon for prices on the 2011 Saab but we anticipate that they will mimic those of the Cadillac SRX, from $35,000 to $55,000, depending on trim and equipment.

As the only Saab not made in Sweden, 2011 Saab 9-4X holds a peculiar spot in the Saab lineup. However, like other current Saabs, it was designed during the General Motors era, so it will be interesting how Swedish and Saab-like the Saab 9-4X will be. We’ll tell you when we know.

All ph0tos GM.