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Saab enters the SUV market with 9-7X model

July 15, 2005|by NEAL WHITE/Motor News Media Corporation

CAP-A-L'AIGLE, Quebec, Canada - The Saab 9-7X premium sport utility vehicle takes the Swedish carmaker in a new direction.

Saab's first entry into the truck segment is definitely bold. The 9-7X is aggressive and without question it possesses all of the characteristics of a Saab - agile and smooth handling, aggressive performance and upscale appointments. In every way, it looks, rides and drives like a Saab.

The new Saab SUV is derived from General Motors' midsize GMT360 body-on-frame truck architecture and built at the automaker's Moraine, Ohio, assembly plant. Sit in the custom leather bucket seats and turn the key in the ignition located on center console, and there is no question about it, this is a Saab.

From a business standpoint, the 9-7X is a no-brainer. While overall SUV sales have tapered off, sales in the mid-luxury SUV segment continue to rise. Add that to the fact that 39 percent of all U.S. Saab customers currently have an SUV parked in their driveway and - this is big - 30 percent of Saab customers who leave the Saab brand are purchasing a four-door SUV.

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The 2006 9-7X will be available in two trim lines with both including: all-wheel drive, StabiliTrak, side curtain air bags, leather-appointed seats, 18-inch wheels, six-speaker, 275-watt Bose sound system with six-disc CD changer, power moonroof, navigation and rear-seat DVD system, trailer hitch receiver and hitch receiver cover, OnStar and XM Satellite Radio. The V-8 models also feature xenon headlamps, headlamp washers and adjustable pedals.

The base model is powered by a 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine while the 9-7X V-8 is powered by a 5.3-liter V-8 engine with displacement on demand technology. Both power plants are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, and use regular unleaded gasoline.

The new Saab 9-7X was developed to deliver responsive European driving characteristics and a low ride height with firm front and rear suspensions, a thick front stabilizer bar and stiff upper control arm bushings at the rear.

Suspension and steering were enhanced to deliver a more sporty, Saab-like feel on the road. The 9-7X uses a uniquely tuned double A-arm front suspension with front coil springs and a five-link, electronically controlled rear air suspension.

Not only is the exterior sheet metal unique, it has a Saab-unique interior complete with Saab aviation-inspired gauges and custom Saab trim and seating.

Like all Saab models, the 9-7X is loaded with standard safety features: dual-stage front air bags with passenger sensing system, rollover sensing system, head curtain side air bags, front seat belt pretensioners with load limiters, and front seat belt buckle-up reminder, among others.

QUICK VEHICLE STATS

Wheelbase: 113.0; overall length: 193.2; width: 75.4; height: 68.5 - measurements in inches.

Engine: 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder - 290 hp at 6,000 rpm and 277 lbs-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm; 5.3L V-8 - 300 hp at 5,200 rpm and 330 lbs-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Transmission: Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed electronically-controlled automatic.

Cargo capacity: 80.1 cubic feet.

Payload capacity: 1,138 lbs.

Towing capacity: 6,500 lbs.

Copyright 2005, Motor News Media Corporation

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