The ties that bind Saab to General Motors will apparently continue with the 2011 9-4X replacement of the much-maligned 9-7X vehicle. The 9-7X, essentially a revised Chevrolet TrailBlazer, sold just 3,660 units in the United States last year. So what can we expect from this continued partnership that has decidedly NOT worked for Saab? Hopefully not more of the same.
Sales of Saab are down drastically across all models. Through May, Saab has sold 4,607 vehicles in the United States, down from 10,196 in the same period last year. Saab sold 93,295 vehicles globally in 2008. After sale of the Swedish brand to tiny and exclusive automaker Koenigsegg, Saab plans to continue the 9-3 and to redesign the 9-5 in 2010. Despite its pending sale, General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson said that the Detroit automaker would continue to “provide support in terms of power train and other technologies” for a new crossover. GM’s European operations are designing the 9-4X, which is expected to be based a front-wheel-drive platform.
The outgoing (and we aren’t talking personality here) Saab 9-7x is rated as one of the worst vehicles in its class, largely because it fails to break free from its GM shackles. Not to mention that whether you think the trailblazer is a good car or not, why would you pay an extra premium for the 9-7X? Having the ignition between the seats only goes so far.
The 9-7x comes in two variants: a six-cylinder or a 2-grand extra V8. The in-line 4.2-liter six produces 290 horses, while the 5.3-liter V8 knocks out a neat 300. Thanks to GM’s Active Fuel Management system, the EPA rates both engines at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway in highway driving. For an extra two grand, the 5.3-liter mill also provides 53 ft.-lbs. more twist and an aggressive engine growl that’s distinctly lacking from the I6.
Saab’s may be born from Jets, but at 4,781lbs the V8 9-7x moves like a tank. As a side note, the Chevrolet Trailblazer SS has a 395 horsepower version of Corvette’s 6.0-liter LS2 engine that hauls itself from zero to sixty in about six seconds, and hits the quarter in 14. The 9-7x’ engines are coupled to a clunky four-speed transmission that needs time to ponder when to shift when passing other vehicles on the highway.
Inside, if you took off the Saab badging you’d have a hard time distinguishing the 9-7X from any other substandard GM product not called Cadillac or G8. Complaints of interior workmanship are so common, it hardly seems necessary to list them all here again. But poor fit and lower quality materials are the usual suspects as usual. Not that the 9-7X is Aveo-like quality, but considering the price (over $41,000) one would expect better.
Speaking of price, the Saab 9-7x is about $5k more than a similarly equipped Chevy TrailBlazer and roughly $2k more than a similarly-equipped Corvette-powered TrailBlazer SS. Making the price, definitely wrong. Bring on the 9-4X! Or better yet, stick with AWD cars.