The Saab 9-2x was an interesting experiment by SaabUSA. Well-conceived but poorly executed, the Saab 9-2x turned out to be the best Subaru Impreza WRX that money could buy from 2004 to 2006. Thus came the nickname Saabaru, which took effect even before the car was released.
The idea behind the Saab 9-2x was to extend Saab’s limited model range in the United States by offering a vehicle one size below the base Saab 9-3. The based the car on the Subaru WRX and designed a very attractive exterior for the car, making it a far more handsome car. Saab added some mechanical refinements as well, ordering the steering rack from the STi version of the Impreza, amongst other things. This greatly enhanced the handling of the car.
The Aero version of the car got a turbocharged 2-litre Subaru boxer engine producing 227hp. This model is now a sought-after collectable amongst Subaru appreciators with its more refined handling, slightly improved interior and greatly enhanced exterior. The standard Linear model 9-2x came equipped with a 2.5 litre naturally aspirated engine delivering 165hp.
Great engines. Great looks. So what was the problem?
Saab didn’t do enough to differentiate the cars from their Subaru base. Th interior, aside from a few materials here and there, was largely untouched and bore no resemblance to the rest of the Saab range. It says a lot for the model that the 9-2x is still regarded as the best WRX that money could buy at that time. It’s still regarded as a Subaru and not as a Saab.
Proof that corporate affairs will make an executive say absolutely anything, you only need to read the press release for the Saab 9-2x. It’s full of Saab corporates gushing about the car. More recently, with the benefit and honesty of hindsight, various Saab executives have described the 9-2x as a mistake that shouldn’t have happened.
Saab 9-2x Press Release
Saab 9-2X: A New Benchmark Among Dynamic Premium Compacts
- * Early entry in emerging premium sports compact segment
* Standard full-time all-wheel-drive for improved handling, traction and versatility
* Two models – 227 hp 9-2X Aero and the 165 hp 9-2X Linear
* Styling, performance and driving characteristics create a sporty, fun-to-drive offer in the segment
* Start of sales in the U.S. and Canada in July 2004
The new 2005 Saab 9-2X is the next significant step in the biggest product development program in Saab’s history. Saab – the fastest growing European premium car brand in the American market– recently launched the 9-3 Sport Sedan and 9-3 Convertible model ranges. Now the new 9-2X continues this product offensive.
With standard full-time all-wheel-drive, powerful engines, and distinctive European design, the Saab 9-2X is a unique and early offering in a car segment just emerging in the American market: the premium sports compact segment. The first Saab 9-2X models will go on sale in the U.S. and Canada July 1, 2004 – ahead of many competitors who are also bringing products to this market.
“The Saab 9-2X is the ideal addition to our line-up,” says Peter Augustsson, Saab’s President and CEO. “Like the recently-launched Saab 9-3 models, it is extremely dynamic and is a car that you want to drive. Additionally, its price point will attract some new, young, enthusiastic customers to Saab.”
For many customers, the Saab 9-2X will be their first premium brand vehicle as prices start below $25,000. In addition, customer surveys show that up to 40 percent of all Americans are looking for all-wheel-drive in their next vehicle – a feature standard in all Saab 9-2X models, a distinct advantage as Saab enters this new segment.
“The Saab 9-2X will help us continue our extremely strong momentum,” said Debra Kelly-Ennis, President of Saab Cars USA. “We are definitely on a roll. The 9-3 Sport Sedan is more than doubling the sales of its predecessor, we are in the midst of launching our all-new 9-3 Convertible, and this exciting new car will arrive in the early summer 2004.”
The Design: Progressive with a strong, dynamic character
“As the new 9-2X range is tremendously fun to drive and since we are targeting a young and enthusiastic customer, we decided to express the strong and dynamic character of the 9-2X in its design and even add a bit more of an aggressive touch compared to the rest of our line-up,” comments Saab’s Executive Director of Design, Michael Mauer.
The new Saab 9-2X takes a number of styling cues from recently-presented Saab concept and production vehicles and presents Saab’s view on what a fun-to-drive, versatile 5-door vehicle should look like.
“The Saab 9-2X needs to look as aggressive as its driving capabilities,” says Mauer. “Additionally, even though it is a functional 5-door vehicle, it shouldn’t look like a traditional hatchback. Therefore, we spent a great deal of time making sure it had a strong face and sleek Scandinavian lines.”
The vehicle retains Saab’s now familiar curvaceous front that harmoniously integrates the typical three-hole-grille and the low horizontally emphasized headlamps that wrap around into the sides of the car. Below the bumper area, a pronounced air intake signals the dynamic potential of the new sports compact. On the top-of-the-line 9-2X Aero model, the clean line of the front hood is accentuated by a nicely integrated air intake that feeds air to the intercooler of the turbocharged engine.
As with the 2004 Saab 9-5 Aero SportWagon, the horizontal lines in the design of the 9-2X’s rear end contribute to the car’s wide and powerful stance. Additionally, the rear apron’s dark accent provides a sporty flair.
Performance: Sporty and focused on the driver
The Saab 9-2X’s advanced full-time all-wheel-drive and boxer four cylinder engines are firsts in Saab’s history. Further technical highlights include four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes which, when partnered with a latest generation 4-channel/4-sensor anti-lock brake system (ABS), provide enhanced driver control. Traction and handling performance of the 9-2X Aero is further improved by a viscous limited-slip differential at the rear.
The turbocharged and intercooled two-liter high performance DOHC 9-2X Aero engine produces 227 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 217 lb.-ft. (294 Nm) of torque @ 4,000 rpm. The power plant of the Saab 9-2X 2.5 is naturally aspirated and delivers 165 hp @ 5,600 rpm as well as a maximum torque of 166 lb.-ft. (225 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm. Both cars provide a standard 5-speed manual transmission; a 4-speed automatic transmission is available as an option.
“The Saab 9-2X is the best example yet of Saab’s brand promise of delivering sporty, driver focused performance,” says Kjell-Åke Eriksson, Saab Executive Director for Future Products. “It is truly designed for people who love to drive, whether that be on a demanding section of a curvy road or during a relaxed long-distance drive on the highway.”
Five-door Versatility: Form follows function
Surfboards, skis, in-line skates, camping gear and more all fit well into the Saab 9-2X. With a wheelbase of 99.4 inches (2,525 mm) and an overall length of 175.6 inches (4,460 mm), the Saab 9-2X offers nimble handling around town and on backcountry roads. It also holds up to 27.9 cubic feet (790 dm3) of cargo space with the seatback up and 61.6 cubic feet (1,744 dm3) with the seatback folded down. A 60/40-split fold-down rear seatback is standard in all 9-2X models and the large rear luggage door opening gives optimal access to the trunk space provided.
Weighing in at just under 3,100 pounds (1,400 kilos), all 9-2X versions return excellent highway mileage anticipated to be in the 26 to 28 mpg range.
Peter Augustsson, Saab Automobile’s President and CEO, puts the launch of the Saab 9-2X in broader perspective: “The Saab 9-2X is a milestone in expanding our model range and our customer base, especially in the very important North American market. We see a rapidly emerging segment in the United States for a premium, small car below the Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan. And being one of the first entries, we intend to shape that segment.”
Saab 9-2x gallery
Saab 9-2x video
The Saab 9-2x was a much improved Subaru, and in that vain it’s much sought after by Subaru enthusiasts. One reason is for events such this autocross, where the Subaru’s all-wheel drive system provides some great roadholding on a wet course.
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