2011 Saab 9-4X: First Drive
Down but not yet out, the Swedish automaker enters the ever-growing crossover arena with a capable yet understated machine.
The 9-4X — likely the final new Saab to be based on GM architecture, and quite possibly the final Saab ever — is a latecomer to the crossover segment. But as the saying goes, better late than never. Right?
Placed squarely between the 9-3 and 9-5 in the Swedish automaker's stable, the 9-4X brings some unique Scandinavian style to a platform shared with the Cadillac SRX. As a crossover, the new model successfully merges utility and space with the ride of a passenger car. However, it may have a hard time getting anyone's attention, as the company seems to have dialed back the visual impact.
Available in five main trims, the 9-4X has a typical crossover layout with four doors and a rear hatch. With a curved windshield and black upper-cabin area, it features Saab's typical "airplane cockpit" appearance. The base trim can be equipped with an all-wheel-drive system — which Saab calls cross-wheel drive, or XWD — or with standard front-wheel drive. The same option applies to the Premium trim, while the top-of-the-line Aero trim can be had only with XWD.
All versions come well-equipped, although certain popular options and packages, such as navigation and keyless entry, can be found only on the Premium trim and above. The Aero has nearly every option included as standard equipment, except the panoramic moonroof and the Rear Passenger Package, otherwise known as the "shut the kids up" package, thanks to its dual 8-inch headrest monitors for watching DVDs or connecting to an auxiliary source such as a video-game console.
The 9-4X's wheels are 18-inch, 6-spoke alloys for both base and Premium trims, although they differ in design. The Aero features 20-inch, 9-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in 235/55 all-season rubber.
Under the Hood
All 9-4X trims are powered by a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter V6 engine, except the Aero, which packs a unique turbocharged 2.8-liter V6, the same engine currently seeing duty in Saab's new 9-5. Both engines are mounted transversely and mated to 6-speed automatic gearboxes; the Aero's transmission adds paddle-shift functionality.
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The standard V6 engine offers 265 horsepower at 6950 rpm and 223 lb-ft of torque at 5100 rpm. This direct-injection powerplant enables the 9-4X to run to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, although that drops to 8.4 seconds on the heavier all-wheel-drive variants.
The Aero's 2.8-liter unit, while slightly smaller, features a twin-scroll turbocharger mounted above the transmission, and it is dual-fed by exhaust from both cylinder banks for increased efficiency. The result is a 35-horsepower increase over the standard engine to 300 horses at 5500 rpm, along with a more significant boost in torque, to 295 lb-ft. This torque peak is achieved over a wide band from 2000 to 5000 rpm. The all-wheel-drive Aero reaches 60 mph in 7.7 seconds.