Advertisement

2011 Saab 9-4X Aero: First Drive

Follow Bengt

While we have truly unique vehicles like the next-generation 2013 Saab 9-3 to look forward to—or at least hope for, given the current uncertain state of Saab's future—in the meantime the Swedish automaker is subsisting on designs directly shared with its former owner, General Motors.

The last of these to be introduced is the new 2011 9-4X. With all Saab's ties to GM over many years, it's surprising that it took so long to get one of the things it most needed: a manageably sized luxury crossover. But after spending a half-day driving the new 9-4X around Washington, D.C. and the surrounding suburbs and countryside, we can say that Saab gets the most appealing, tastefully appointed version of the so-called Theta Premium platform.

The new 9-4X doesn't look like any Saab we know from the side profile (we can't help but see a reworked Saturn Vue if we squint, or even up close around the cowl), but truthfully, you might never know—whether at first glance or even after driving it—that the new 9-4X crossover is closely related to the Cadillac SRX. Saab officials say you can park a 9-4X alongside an SRX (they're both made at the same plant in Mexico) and you'll see few if any common details between the two vehicles. While the SRX gets lots of creases, the Saab has mostly smooth sheetmetal; there's no lower-body cladding; and a high rear spoiler helps play the visual trick of making the roofline seem a little lower than it is. In back, the 9-4X is at its most generic and ubiquitous, but there's a LED light bar that Saab says will be one of the brand's new distinguishing features. But it's squarely from the front that the new 9-4X is at its most aggressive and expressive, thanks to a vertically-stretched version of Saab's three-port grille, flanked by nicely detailed headlamps that are given a blue hue around the edges—a controversial detail, though one that we liked.

Inside, it's (almost) all Saab

2011 Saab 9-4X

2011 Saab 9-4X

Enlarge Photo

Inside, the instrument panel in the 9-4X looks and feels all the part of a Saab. Yes, the ignition button is at the center console, and the green gauge pointers and the brand's distinct gauge font are a constant reminder, along with the odd joystick air vents and old-style black-plastic gridplates over them. And the instrument panel smoothly wraps over and downward and is canted toward the driver. Only the sound-system and climate switchgear look like familiar GM parts-bin pieces. The one especially cool functional design feature that the Cadillac sibling has and Saab doesn't get is the retractable, partially hidden navigation screen.

The 2011 9-4X is offered in three different performance variations: 3.0i, 3.0i XWD, and Aero XWD, with XWD referring to the brand's all-wheel drive system. The 3.0i models come with a 265-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6, which in the SRX we've observed as neither very responsive nor fuel-efficient (it's also an engine that needs to be revved a lot to get to its power).

The only versions that Saab made available were of the Aero version—featuring a powertrain that Cadillac has decided to cancel (it comprised just 5 to 10 percent of SRX sales). While the 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 is modern enough, with direct injection, and variable valve timing, its power delivery feels more like the turbo powertrains of a decade ago. There's nothing instantaneous about the torque delivery here (as in BMW's sweet turbo six), even if it can make its peak 295 pound-feet as low as 2,000 rpm; it takes the twin-scroll turbo surprisingly long to spool up for squirts of the throttle. That considered, the 9-4X launches quickly off the line, but not nearly as quick as you'd expect for its 300 hp and high torque output.

How many horses again?

It shows in the numbers, too; Saab has revealed acceleration specs for the two models, and the Aero with XWD is only two tenths of a second (7.7 seconds) quicker to 60 than the standard non-turbo version with AWD. And it felt a little slower in transitions than those numbers would suggest.

The elephant in the room is weight. In Aero XWD guise, as we tested it, the 9-4X is almost embarrassingly overweight for a two-row utility vehicle that's on the smaller end of mid-size: about 4,650 pounds. As such, it's considerably heavier than the Mercedes-Benz GLK, which we'd put in the same category, also heavier than the Acura MDX or Lincoln MKX in similar guise.


Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (6)
  1. I actually disagree that this isn't a true Saab. You tested the vehicle at the same D.C. press event that everyone else went to, meaning you spoke to Peter Dorrich, the lead Saab vehicle engineer who also handled the SRX project. This was designed from the ground up as a Saab. Yes it's heavy, but it feels bank vault solid. And for the price, you can't even come close– a comparable X3 or GLK as you said stickers $5,000 above, and the ML and X5 that are closer in size are at least $10,000 more.
    Regarding that, I'm surprised to see you guys make some big mistakes, which I don't normally see at motor authority. The price with all options is $52,575 not $57,260, and dealers will go much lower. Also, it has the same thigh bolster as the 9-5.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. Don't you mean 90% of power can be transmitted to the back - not 50%?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. I like SAAB. And Volvo. I hope they both survive. This new 94x seems like it is way better than most SAABs built over the past decade.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. @patttttt, Nope. The SRX is primarily a front-wheel-driver, and the Haldex system can send up to 50 percent to be managed amongst the rear wheels.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. Quick concern: "Some earlier reports had positioned the SRX as significantly cheaper than its Cadillac counterpart, but it's not."
    Did you mean to say that 9-4X instead of SRX?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. @Bengt Halvorson
    I'm pretty sure Pats right. upto 90% of power can be sent to the front or back wheels when needed.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement

Take Us With You!

 
Advertisement
Advertisement

Research New Cars

Go!

Related Used Listings

Browse used listings in your area.


 
© 2014 MotorAuthority. All Rights Reserved. MotorAuthority is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.