The new compact 9-2X sport wagon bears a distinct family resemblance to other Saab models, but much of the basic structure and all-wheel-drive powertrain belong to Subaru. The 9-2X is actually a joint effort between Saab and Subaru; the 9-2X is related to Subaru's Impreza series of vehicles.
Produced with standard full-time all-wheel drive, the 9-2X comes in two forms: as a 165-horsepower Linear version and as a 227-hp Aero edition. Sales began in July 2004. Saab says surveys reveal that up to 40 percent of Americans seek all-wheel drive in their next vehicle.
Saab is seeking a younger audience with the 9-2X, which is available only in North America. A "fun-to-drive character [is] the price of entry" in the sporty segment, said Saab chassis engineer Per Jansson.
Saab promotes the 9-2X's "distinctive European design," adding that it shuns the look of a traditional five-door hatchback and is more assertive in appearance than other members of the family.
The 9-2X's front fascia features Saab's characteristic three-hole grille and wraparound headlights. An air intake sits below the front bumper. The turbocharged Aero model has a functional hood scoop. At the back, dark accenting on the rear apron is said to lend a "sporty flair."
Built on a 99.4-inch wheelbase, the 9-2X measures 175.6 inches long overall. Both models use the same four-wheel-independent suspension, but they're tuned differently. A sunroof is optional.
Five passengers fit inside the 9-2X models. A 60/40-split, folding rear seatback is standard. Cargo capacity is 27.9 cubic feet with the rear seatback up and 61.6 cubic feet when the seatback is folded.
Under the Hood
Two horizontally opposed four-cylinder engines are available in the 9-2X. A 2.5-liter engine delivers 165 hp at 5,600 rpm and 166 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm in the Linear. A turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter engine produces 227 hp at 6,000 rpm and 217 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm in the Aero. Both engines mate with a standard five-speed-manual gearbox or an optional four-speed automatic. A viscous limited-slip rear differential is standard on Aero models.
All-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and active front head restraints are standard.
The secure, sure-footed 9-2X handles adeptly and responds eagerly to steering wheel inputs when driving on swift, twisting roads. The driving experience is confident and predictable, and you don't encounter any unpleasant surprises in curves or on straightaways.
You also get a surprisingly smooth ride from the taut suspension. Bumps are clearly felt, but they're not annoying.
Performance with the 227-hp engine is strong, but even the Aero edition can run short of energy on upgrades if it's in too high of a gear. The gearshift works easily and the clutch engages neatly. The Linear's engine is louder than the Aero's, and acceleration trails significantly. The Linear model is acceptable for most drivers, but the fun quotient is largely absent and the engine seems to work considerably harder.
The exceptionally tight and solid 9-2X is quiet, but there's some moderate engine noise during hard acceleration and occasional tire noise. Sport-style seats offer great support and bolstering, but the seat bottoms aren't as comfortable as some rivals' seats. The instruments are large and easy to read.