Finally Official: Saab 9-X Air Concept

By Kevin Miller


While information about the Saab 9-X Air Concept leaked out onto the internet earlier this week, today is the day it is officially unveiled. After patiently waiting, here are the highlights of the 9-X Air Concept, an open-top Saab concept car which will make its debut next month in Paris.

The 9-X Air is essentially an open-roof version of Saab’s earlier 9-X BioHybrid Concept. The exterior of the 9-X Air is defined by the prominent buttress C-pillars which provide the rear mounting for the unique Canopy Top – a powered, flat-folding Targa-type roof. Saab has applied for a patent for this roof system. The Canopy Top is constructed from fabric, rather than metal, to save weight and provide more efficient packaging. Operation is fully automatic, and the top folds in three sections under a tonneau cover in the rear deck.

The rear window between the buttresses retracts automatically into the underside of the raised tonneau cover to allow stowage of the Canopy Top. The window then moves back into position to provide a complete glass surround for the cabin in open-top mode. This ‘surround glass’ feature, together with an active wind deflector on top of the windshield header rail, provides enhanced occupant comfort. It minimizes buffeting, reduces back drafts and eliminates the need for a wind deflector net.

Out back, the 9-X Air has no trunk lid for luggage access. Instead, a spring-loaded storage compartment which is large enough for two golf bags slides out on rollers from beneath the rear lights. Under the sliding drawer is a separate compartment for stowing smaller items.

Visually, the 9-X Air incorporates a modern interpretation of traditional Saab styling cues. These include the extended wraparound effect of the windshield and side windows, the Aero X-inspired frontal styling, clean body surfaces, ‘ice block’ lighting themes and distinctive 3-D blue/green instrument graphics. The raked rear pillars echo the prominent C-pillar line on all Saab cars.

The interior of the 9-X Air features a modern interpretation of Saab’s traditional, driver-focused cockpit. This layout eliminates a central, floor-mounted console. Instead the zone is a flat, arc-shaped surface, within which a row of five display screens is embedded and illuminated in green 3-D graphics, including an ‘infotainment’ screen and control panel in the driver’s door.

The 9-X Air shares its powertrain with the 9-X BioHybrid Concept . Optimized for E85 fuel, the small, 1.4-liter BioPower turbo engine generates 200 HP on E85 (170 HP on gasoline) and 207 lb.ft of torque (170 lb.ft on gasoline). With flex-fuel capability, the powertrain also employs hybrid technology, giving projected fuel consumption on gasoline over the combined cycle of just 5.0 l/100 km (47 MPG) and 119 g CO2/km. On E85, CO2 emissions are projected to be even lower, at just 107 g/km, with estimated fuel consumption of 6.5 l/100 km (36.1 MPG). Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox with an automatic clutch and steering wheel controls, the powertrain is projected to return a 0-62 MPH time of 8.1 seconds when fueled with E85.

The next-generation GM Hybrid system is used on the 9-X Air, which features a significantly higher power capability to capture more energy and more electric boost than the current GM Hybrid system. A “mild hybrid” rather than a two-mode type, the system employs an electric motor/generator, belt-driven from the engine’s crankshaft, to replace the conventional alternator. Electrical power is delivered and stored by a compact lithium ion battery pack, located under the rear cargo floor. At take-off from rest and during overtaking maneuvers, the electric motor adds accelerative power. It is also used to re-start the engine, which automatically shuts off whenever the car is stationary. The electric motor also acts as a generator. It can be powered by the engine to charge the battery pack and support vehicle electrical loads.

The 9-X Air may portend the next Saab convertible, assuming the 9-X becomes the anticipated model 9-1, and also assuming that 9-1 receives a green light for production. This would be a distinctive shape for a Saab convertible, and could become as much as an icon as the original Saab 900 Convertible, which debuted 25 years ago.

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Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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