For Saabnet.com by Phil Lacefield Jr.
JANUARY 6, 2002 - Detroit, MI - Saab Cars AB wowed the crowds of automotive journalists at the first day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit today, unveiling their third-ever concept car and first "crossover" design, the 9-3X coupe.
Revealing the 9-3X and its slightly older stylized sibling, the 9-X, was Saab's new Executive Director of Design Michael Mauer. "This concept is a sporty interpretation of the cross-over theme," said Mauer. "It is a blend of coupe and off-roader, bringing together a sporty image ands real functionality. It will be fun to drive, whatever the occasion."
Saab Automobile AB's President and CEO, Peter Augustsson, said, "We are seriously considering the right sort of product with which to enter the off-road segment. It must be innovative and sporty and must have multidynamic properties, much like the 9-3X concept. You can also expect to see a number of features from this car in our coming products."
A rakish, graceful design, the 9-3X bears a striking resemblance to the Next Gen 9-3, due to be revealed later this year. Mounting a lightweight "Ecopower 2" 2.8-litre V6 turbo with Trionic engine management pushing a five-speed semi-automatic transmission and an ESP-controlled Haldex AWD system, the 9-3X is capable of 280 bhp at 5,500 rpm - not far off from the actual projected numbers of the production engine slated to enter service within the next two years. According to Saab Cars AB sources, the entire front of the 9-3X from the A-pillars forward are an almost exact match for the front end of the NG 9-3, although the 20-inch tires on the show car are not part of the plan. While some elements of the interior are pure concept vehicle, the dash, seats and door panels are said to mirror almost perfectly the matching interior bits on the NG 9-3.
After a few minutes of prepared speeches, a surprise guest took the stage - none other than GM's own Bob Lutz, driver of an '02 Aero SportWagon and an avid supporter of the Saab brand. Lutz spoke briefly about the dedication and loyalty that buyers have shown to the Saab brand, and promised that GM shared the same dedication. Immediately thereafter, the stage was opened to everyone in attendance to get a first-hand look at both cars inside and out, with members of the international motoring press giving both cars rave reviews.