Not many automakers have steered clear of the sport utility vehicle market, but Saab has been one of the holdouts. That changed when the 9-7X debuted, initially in small numbers, in late spring 2005. Following on the heels of the 9-2X sport wagon, which was developed with Subaru for a debut as an early 2005 model, the 9-7X will participate in the mid-luxury SUV segment. According to Saab, that market segment grew from 45,000 units in 1997 to just over 400,000 in 2003, and it's expected to top 470,000 by the end of 2005. Furthermore, Saab research has shown that 39 percent of the company's U.S. customers also own an SUV.
Making its first appearance at the 2004 New York International Auto Show, the 9-7X is structurally related to the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy. Saab is owned by General Motors, and although the 9-7X will be manufactured in Moraine, Ohio, the Swedish company promises that it will have traditional Saab traits.
All-wheel drive and 18-inch tires are standard, and the 9-7X gets a sport-tuned suspension. Two engines are available: an inline-six-cylinder and a 5.3-liter V-8. Interiors feature leather-trimmed heated front seats with six-way power adjustment.
Only a few 2005 models were released late in the model year. The 2006 version gets a more powerful six-cylinder engine, and the available V-8 gains Displacement on Demand technology. Built in Moraine, Ohio, the 9-7X can seat as many as five occupants.
Up front is Saab's traditional three-port grille, and the company notes that the 9-7X lacks any "protruding shapes and forms" for a "clean and uninterrupted" appearance. Aluminum-alloy wheels hold 18-inch tires. Built on a 113-inch wheelbase, the 9-7X is 193.4 inches long overall.
Five occupants fit inside the 9-7X. Saab cues can be found in the interior, and certain components come from the automaker's 9-5 sedan and wagon. For instance, the ignition switch is mounted in the center console, which has long been a Saab hallmark, and the air vents have a traditional Saab look. The center stack is angled toward the driver, who faces a four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel. One cupholder pops out of the dashboard, while a second one is located on the center console.
Automatic climate control and GM's OnStar communication system are standard. A backseat DVD-based entertainment system, a navigation system and XM Satellite Radio are optional. Cargo space totals 41 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 80.1 cubic feet when it is folded. A 60/40-split rear seat is standard.
Under the Hood
Two engines are available for the 9-7X. GM's 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder produces 275 horsepower and 275 pounds-feet of torque, and the 5.3-liter V-8 generates an estimated 300 hp and 330 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission. All 9-7X models have all-wheel drive. A 9-7X equipped with the V-8 power plant can tow an estimated 6,500 pounds.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Side curtain-type airbags work with a rollover sensing system.