Geneva 2006: Saab Aero X Embraces Heritage as it Looks to Future
Saab’s Aerospace History Influences Future Design, and a Sports Car Concept
The purpose of the Aero X concept that Saab introduced at the latest Geneva auto show is to explore how the brand might express its heritage and Scandinavian personality in the future. Though the concept on the Saab stand this year is a two-seat coupe, and Saab is said to be developing a sports car entry for sometime this decade, the Aero X is not a direct representation of what that sports car might be. The Aero X allows Saab to display future design cues, further explore eco-friendly powertrains, and express the company personality in a new-generation form.
While the Aero X is not representative of any particular upcoming model, among the exterior graphics expected to be adapted to future production cars are the horizontal sweep across the rear of the concept and elements of the face.
Show Car Panache
Many concepts include new tricks that explore future features and use of new materials. In that category, you can find the Aero X’s aircraft-style cockpit and canopy. Instead of traditional, or even nontraditional doors, the Aero X’s top canopy opens up jet-style for a neat trick not likely to be implemented on a production car. Saab described the car as an aircraft for the road, and among the elements supporting the theme is a body shape designed to resemble a jet fuselage and the opening canopy instead of regular doors. By remote control, the canopy swings open (though inside there is a lever to close it instead of a pushbutton, for more complete driver involvement). The three-piece canopy includes the wraparound windshield and the glass roof; side windows and body panels; and the top section of the interior fascia. This construction eliminates the need for doors and windshield pillars, and has the more important benefit of improving forward and side visibility. The windshield extends from B-pillar to B-pillar and the panoramic glass roof brings in the sky.
As is true of many show cars, interior and exterior lighting was all by LEDs. The rear styling hides the sliding drawer storage below the hatch-style opening rear glass, a nice touch of practicality for a mostly impractical concept. Saab carried the jet theme into the interior, using non-slip rubber instead of carpet and offering no wood or chrome accents. The gauges are projected on a glass-like acrylic surface, using three layers laser-etched so that when the LEDs illuminate the appropriate image for the driver. Despite the high-tech approach to displaying driving controls and infotainment systems, Saab chose pushbuttons and a mechanical-feel lever for controlling systems and for opening the canopy. The rationale is that the Aero X is intended to be a driver’s car, and keeping these functions pushbutton instead of touch-screen contributes to driver involvement and satisfaction.
Eco-Friendly Engine, Saab Active Chassis
Helping to keep weight as low as possible was carbon fibre bodywork. The front and rear independent suspension employed Saab’s Active Chassis system with continuously adjustable damping. The Aero X was crafted for a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.
The all-wheel-drive two-seat coupe offered a potential “green” drivetrain without looking to diesel or hybrid solutions. The turbocharged 2.8L V6 was a development of that launched in the 9-3 for 2006MY, but in this application using twin turbos and 100 percent ethanol fuel to deliver 400HP. The BioPower V6 used ethanol at a higher octane rating than typical premium gasoline, a 12:1 compression ratio, and twin-turbochargers at 1.0 bar boost. This powerful engine was mated to a seven-speed automated manual transmission, driving all four wheels as noted.