Written by: Sammy Chan
Photography by: Sammy Chan
I’ve always had a warm heart for Saabs and Subarus, the former for its originality and innovation and the latter for its excellent vehicle dynamics and down-to-earth engineering. On their own, they might not reign at the top of the automotive ladder, but give them a chance to combine their strength, they might just have a product that would be hard to resist Glad to tell you, the likes of Saabophiles and Subaruophiles, for people like me, have now been brought to fruition by General Motors, the very "Imprezzive" Saab 9-2X.
Saab 9-2X is the result of the co-joint effort between Saab Automobile AB and General Motor’s global partner, Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) of which Subaru belongs. As GM owns Saab as well as holds a 20 percent stake in FHI, it is just a matter of time that resources are pooled together and transformed into a common goal. Although the heavily Impreza-based Saab 9-2X is more of a transformation of a Subaru product than an all-new joint venture, it nevertheless allows Saab to broaden its offerings and attract new and younger consumers into its fold.
There are actually more similarities than differences between Saab and Subaru than one might think. Sharing a heritage of aircraft manufacturing before entering the automobile business, both companies are also renowned for their efforts in rallying and for the development of turbocharged gasoline engines. With the popularity of all-wheel-drive growing and going into anything these days, Saab is in dire need of an all-wheel-drive vehicle in its line-up. With the unveiling of 2 concepts one after another, the Saab 9X at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show followed by the Saab 9-3X at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, the promise of an off-road Saab sure looks very promising indeed. But before all all-new Saab X model appears, the Saab 9-2X and the upcoming Saab 9-7X are both well-qualified candidates that will help pave the way for Saab’s new design language to come.
Going on sale in Canada in July, the Saab 9-2X will be offered as Saab 9-2X Linear and Saab 9-2X Aero. With a starting price of $28,950, the Linear model is equipped with a naturally-aspirated 2.5-Litre 4-cylinder engine, AWD, ABS, 16-inch alloy wheels, power door locks with remote keyless entry, power windows and power sideview mirrors. Like the Linear, the turbocharged Saab 9-2X Aero is also richer in content than its Subaru counterpart, Impreza’s WRX, albeit pricier at $37,735. The Aero is laden with features like 17’’aluminum wheels, power sunroof, fog lamps, automatic climate control system, heated mirrors, front/rear wiper de-icer, 6-disc in-dash CD changer, leather wrapped three spoke sport steering wheel, shifter knob and brake handle and heated front seats.
One might say that this is a purely marketing exercise to generate more sales for Saab, but as long as Lexus and Acura have their way, consumers would still succumb to the bait of badge-engineering. In fact, the Saab 9-2X projects a sharper and more purposeful image than a lot of Lexuses and Acuras.
Capitalizing on the success of recent Saab concepts, the 9-2X expresses itself strongly with a lot of styling cues borrowed from the show cars. Saab’s smart curvaceous front with the three-inlet-grille is retained. A pronounced air intake below the bumper and the integrated air intake that feeds air to the intercooler of the turbo engine of the Aero add dynamicism and sportiness to this Saab compact. Different bumpers and taillights help to impart a classier and more powerful look to the Saab 9-2X and the most needed revision, as far as I’m concerned, are the body-colored mirrors that’s so sorely lacking on an Impreza TS.
Saab 9-2X Linear is powered by a naturally aspirated, 2.5-litre, SOHC, horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine. It delivers 165 hp @ 5,600 rpm and has a maximum torque of 166 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm. The power plant in the 9-2X Aero is significantly different. Despite having a displacement of only two litres, the Aero’s turbocharged and intercooled high-performance DOHC engine produces 227 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 217 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Both come standard with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 4-speed automatic is available as an option.
Full-time all-wheel-drive is standard on both Linear and Aero and depending on whether the transmission is manual or automatic, the system can be quite different. Manual cars are equipped with a viscous-coupling center differential that transfers power equally to front and rear. Any slippage at front or rear will shift more power to the other end to ensure that the wheels with the best traction receive the most power. A hydraulic clutch is used for smooth operation and low maintenance. A sophisticated electronically controlled system is used in the automatic. Providing a slight rear-wheel bias, the advanced Variable Torque Distribution all-wheel-drive system splits power 45 percent front and 55 percent rear. With either all-wheel-drive systems, all Saab 9-2X Aero models are equipped with a viscous limited-slip rear differential to further enhance traction.
Wheelspin is minimal even when stomping the gas pedal on loose gravel surfaces. The excellent all-wheel-drive system helps to launch the Aero to dizzying speed with inspiring confidence. The Aero’s sweet-sounding engine emits a throaty snarl all throughout its rev range and torque curve is also very even across the range. Power delivery is very linear considering that this is a turbocharged engine and in most cases, it provides a sensation that you are driving a V6-powered vehicle rather than a 4-cylinder. I’m not sure whether Saab has tinkered with the manual transmission, but I found the shifter tauter and smoother than my experiences in Subaru’s WRX. Throws are direct and short and the clutch leans a bit on the heavy side. Gearing ratio is well-spaced with first gear terminating at around 60 km/h and limiting at around 7300 rpm. Second and third gears end with 108 and around 156 km/h respectively. At a steady speed of 100 km/h, the manual car cruises with a tach reading of 2600 rpm.
The chassis has been specifically-tuned by Saab’s engineering team to provide a relaxed subtle ride while maintaining outstanding on-limit stability. Developed primarily for the 9-2X, Bridgestone Potenza RE011 tires are mounted on 17-inch alloy rims standard on Aero models. Intensive work had also gone into tuning the shock absorbers and calibrating wheel geometry to combine good body control for sporty performance while minimizing harshness and impact of rough roads. A delight to drive and to drive hard is what sums it all.
The interior has also been glorified to bring the car more in tune with Saab’s lineage. Although there’s so much one can do without giving it a major overhaul, there are enough changes to make one realize that one is sitting in a Saab and not a Subaru. Sitting and seating is also where it matters most, and by installing better seats, Saab has quickly turned a rather dull interior to one that exudes quality and luxury. Front seats in the Saab 9-2X are also fitted with active head restraints designed to help reduce the risk of neck injury in the event of a rear-end collision.
Besides being brighter and sportier (than Subaru’s Impreza), the woven cloth seats have very good lateral support, so good that it encourages you to take your next corner with a different attitude than the one that you just came out of. Opt for the leather package if you can, even if it only smells and feels more like Saab. But leather seating for Linear can cost you quite dearly at $3,370, as Linear’s premium package will also bring you leather door inserts, leather gear knob, leather handbrake boot, leather steering wheel, 6 disc in-dash CD, 6 speakers and fog lamps. For Aero, as it’s already equipped with a lot of the latter, cost of its leather package is sharply down to $2,290.
Putting a Saab logo on the steering wheel does not make it a Saab unless it’s leather, hence it’s kind of a let down to live with a plastic wheel in the Linear 9-2X. Or maybe it’s just that I have never seen a Saab with a plastic steering wheel before. Surfboards, skis and camping gear can all fit well into the Saab 9-2X. With a holding capacity of up to 790 litres of cargo with the seatback up and 1744 litres with the seatback folded down, the 9-2X is both practical and functional. A 60/40-split fold-down rear seatback is standard in all 9-2X models and the large rear opening gives optimal access to the cargo space.
With a long list of standard safety equipment, the Saab 9-2X is one of the safest vehicle in its segment. There are 3-point seatbelts on all five seating positions and all are equipped with pre-tensioners that tighten the seatbelts in a collision. Besides driver and passenger front airbags, there are also head-torso side airbags mounted in the backrests of the front seats. The side airbags are designed to help protect the torso and the head in a side impact.
With a starting price of under $29,000, the Saab 9-2X offers style, performance and sure-footedness that will surely bring Saab to the attention of many young customers.
型号 Model: 2005 9-2x Aero
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2525
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4460 / 1695 / 1465
引擎 Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged
最大馬力 Horsepower-HP: 227 / 6000rpm
最高扭力 Torque-LB-FT: 217 / 4000rpm
波箱 Transmission: 5-speed manual transmission
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: MacPherson strut type
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Independent, dual link strut type
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: Vented disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: Vented disc
循跡操控系统 ABS/Traction Control: Standard
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 12.1 / 8.3 / 10.4
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 215/45R 17 high performance tires