Saab Aero X Concept Showcases Future Design Themes
- • Inspired by aviation and Scandinavian brand heritage
• Previews more progressive design language
• Innovative opening canopy eliminates doors and windshield pillars
• ’Green Power’ from 400 bhp BioPower engine using 100% bioethanol fuel
The Saab Aero X concept harnesses the power of Saab’s aviation and Scandinavian roots to make a unique statement in performance car design. Conceived as a study to explore future design directions, its innovative features preview the development of an enhanced design language that will inspire future Saab products.
As you would expect from Saab, this dynamic two-seater sports coupé breaks with automotive design convention both outside and inside.
First, there are no doors…or windshield pillars. That’s because the Saab Aero X adopts a cockpit canopy, just as you would see on a jet aircraft. It offers the Aero X pilot full 180 degree vision, and also facilitates entry and exit from its low-slung cabin.
Thrust for the all-wheel-drive Saab Aero X also comes from a powerplant with a difference. The 400 bhp, twin-turbo, BioPower V6 engine is fueled entirely by bioethanol, a sustainable energy source that is kinder to the environment by cutting fossil CO2 emissions. The ‘green power’ of this advanced engine gives new meaning to the phrase ‘performance with responsibility’.
Inside, the Saab Aero X’s cockpit also adds a new dimension to clean Scandinavian interior design by completely eliminating conventional dials and buttons. Instead, Saab has applied techniques derived from Swedish glass and precision instrument making, displaying data on glass-like acrylic ‘clear zones’ in graphic 3-D images.
All exterior and interior lighting is by LED (light-emitting diode), which has given the design team new freedoms to exploit the compact packaging benefits of a technology that will be featured increasingly in future Saab products.
With weight-saving carbon fiber bodywork, a lightweight powertrain, electronically-controlled suspension and all-wheel drive, the Saab Aero X is an exciting driver’s car that promises a level of performance to match its looks. Computer simulations anticipate zero to 100 kph in just 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 kph (limited).
Despite being so tightly driver focused, the Aero X still offers surprising practicality, again, a quality you would expect to find in all Saab designs. That dramatically sculpted tail conceals a useful twin storage facility, with a conventional hatch opening and sliding drawer underneath.
“This study shows how the strength of the Saab brand heritage can inspire bold, innovative design,” says Bryan Nesbitt, Executive Director, GM Design Europe. “As we move forward with new Saab product, we will remain focused on carefully cultivating this brand equity in the context of Scandinavian design values.”
“This concept shows the exciting possibilities that are open to us as we evolve a more progressive design language for the brand,” says Jan Åke Jonsson, Saab Automobile’s Managing Director. “Our designers, engineers and marketers in Sweden are ideally placed to nurture and communicate the unique DNA of the Saab brand. Their work will ensure that future product proposals express core qualities, such as progressive design, sporty performance and emotional functionality, in a way that is specific to Saab.”
The Saab Aero X is the latest in series of concepts from Saab, each accentuating different brand qualities. These include the ‘four-dimensional’ 9X (IAA Frankfurt 2001), the 9-3X Cross-over Coupé (Detroit 2002) and the 9-3 Sport Hatch (IAA Frankfurt 2003).
Saab BioPower for ‘Green Performance’
On the ground and in the air, the Aero X promises exceptional levels of performance. The BioPower V6 twin-turbo engine not only delivers impressive power, it also offers the prospect of zero fossil CO2 emissions.
- • Next step in Saab BioPower technology
• 400 bhp, 2.8-liter V6 engine
• 100% bioethanol for zero fossil CO2 emissions
• Saab Active Chassis for greater driving safety
• All-wheel-drive with variable front/rear torque split
• Seven-speed, double clutch automated manual transmission
The Aero X concept showcases the potential of Saab BioPower to offer drivers ‘green performance’: increased engine power with a greater regard for the environment.
Running on 100% bioethanol, a renewable and sustainable fuel, its advanced 2.8V6 BioPower engine delivers 400 bhp maximum power at 5,000 rpm and massive torque of 500 Nm between 2,000 and 5,000 rpm. Computer simulations anticipate zero to 100 kph acceleration in just 4.9 seconds and a 250 kph (limited) top speed.
For optimum handling, the powertrain is mounted entirely behind the front axle line, giving the Aero X a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. All-wheel-drive, with a variable torque split between the front and rear axles, provides superb traction and Saab Active Chassis, with continuously variable damping, gives excellent real-life driving safety and control.
By combining bioethanol with turbocharging, Saab BioPower exploits the high octane performance of this fuel, as well as its environmental benefits. The technology is already well-proven by the outstanding sales success of the Saab 9-5 2.0t BioPower in Sweden and its introduction on other markets.
For the Aero X, Saab takes BioPower to a new level by using pure bioethanol (E100) fuel, with a higher octane rating of 106 RON compared to gasoline’s 95 RON. Using a 12:1 compression ratio and twin turbochargers running at 1.0 bar boost, this high-feature engine delivers an impressive 143 bhp/ per liter. Turbocharging with E100 fuel allows the use of a higher compression ratio – giving more engine power – than is possible with gasoline because of the risk of harmful ‘knocking’ or pre-detonation.
The all-aluminum, 24-valve, four-cam engine is a high performance development of the current version in the Saab 9-3 range. For the Aero X, it is longitudinally installed and features a Spark Ignited Direct Injection system (SIDI) for optimum combustion; variable inlet and exhaust cam phasing for improved breathing, and dry-sump lubrication for a lower chassis installation and reduced oil pumping losses. Both turbochargers have variable geometry turbine (VGT) wheels to give a quick low-end response.
More durable valves and valve seats are fitted, together with bioethanol-compatible materials in the fuel system, including the tank, pump, lines and connectors. The addition of the SIDI system ensures the same cold starting performance as a normal gasoline engine.
The 32-bit engine management system simultaneously controls the ignition timing, fuel injection, turbo boost pressure, air mass measurement and the throttle setting. For minimized exhaust emissions, the two close-coupled catalysts are equipped with electronically controlled, secondary air injection, which gives extremely quick ‘light-off’ following cold starts.
By using 100% bioethanol, the Aero X driver can enjoy ’supercar’ levels of performance – without raising atmospheric levels of CO2, the ‘greenhouse’ gas that is regarded as a major contributor to global warming. Bioethanol fuel is produced commercially from agricultural crops or forest residues. Unlike gasoline, its consumption does not add more CO2 to the atmosphere because emissions during driving are balanced by the amount of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere when crops for conversion are grown. In this way, the CO2 already present in the atmosphere is simply recycled, whereas the use of a fossil fuel, such as gasoline or diesel, releases new amounts of CO2 which have been locked away underground.
“Turbocharging and bioethanol make excellent partners,” says Kjell ac Bergström, Executive Director of Saab Automobile Powertrain AB. “In developing this BioPower V6 engine we have been able to take the next step by using E100 fuel, pure 100% bioethanol. That means there are zero fossil CO2 emissions because we are not using any gasoline at all.
“Although the engine is optimized for E100, the engine management system will still make adjustments for any bioethanol/gasoline blend in the tank. So, if there is no bioethanol available, the customer can still use gasoline at any time.”
The sophisticated, seven-speed automated manual transmission uses a wet double clutch system to allow fast, full throttle, sequential gear changes via the steering wheel paddles. Power is transmitted to all four wheels through a multi-plate clutch, allowing an infinitely variable front/rear torque split.
Saab Active Chassis
Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and an independent multi-link layout at the rear. Continuously adjustable damping (Saab Active Chassis) is adopted for enhanced body control, ride comfort and driving safety.
Saab Active Chassis involves processing signals from a number of on-board sensors which measure the vehicle’s vertical, lateral and body-in-roll movements. These inputs are fed into a central control unit, which monitors the behavior of each wheel as often as 100 times per second. It can then calculate and make small adjustments to the valving of each relevant damper as required in just 10-30 milliseconds. Opening the valve increases oil flow to allow softer damping, while closing the valve produces firmer damping. A range of pre-settings can be selected by the driver.
The Aero X has stopping power to match its performance. Large brake discs (380 x 34 mm, internally ventilated front and rear) clasped by eight-piston, monobloc aluminum calipers ensure rapid and virtually fade-free retardation.
The Saab Aero X was a design masterpiece, scooping almost every award for concept cars in 2006 when it first appeared. The car isn’t just a great design in itself, it provides a great template for future Saab designs.
Techniques in sandblasting, polishing and laser-etching from the Swedish glass industry are combined with subtle LED back and side lighting to produce striking ‘3-D’ imagery. Green illumination, another Saab tradition based on aviation practice, is retained for optimum clarity.
The design team has also fully exploited the advantages of LEDs – compactness, long life and fast response – in both the front and rear light detailing.
The headlamps incorporate single LEDs for full and dipped beam, previewing a development likely on production cars of the near future. These are located behind projector lenses, the details of which are highlighted in daytime running by green downlighting from small LEDs mounted in the top of the headlamp unit.
At the rear, there are no obvious tail-lights at all. Here, a slim, opaque white bar, resembling the body color, runs across the back of the car. It accommodates LEDs for all rear light functions and when a bulb illuminates its glow is diffused, disguising the pinpoint light source.
In character and performance, the Aero X is the most driver-focused design yet to come from Saab and Anthony Lo views it an important step in helping to define future products for the brand.
“The future is about looking back, as well as forward, so we can interpret the special qualities that go to make up what a brand stands for,” says Lo. “However, in giving products a clear identity, we should not feel restricted by previous design conventions and the Aero X explores new ways of expressing what Saab stands for.
“In showing how a focused, high performance sports car from Saab could look, we have been able to introduce a more self-expressive, more assertive design language, tipping the balance away from understatement.
“The brand’s roots in aviation and its rich Swedish heritage are an important part of what makes a Saab a Saab and the Aero X shows how these influences can be presented in a clear and exciting way.”
A look inside the Saab Aero-X
I had the pleasure of seeing the Aero-X at it’s Australian debut in Sydney in 2006. Not only did we see the car, we got inside and played around a little. Enjoy.
Aero-X Development Gallery
Saab Aero X – the final product