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2008 LA Auto Show: Saab Catches Some Air

Saab Shows off Future of Convertibles with 9-X Air Concept
We noticed that many of the introductions at the 2008 Los Angeles show could be categorized as efficient or fun, with some falling into both categories. Saab 9-X Air is one of those.

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If the 9-X Air looks a bit familiar in the nose, it is because you’ve seen it before. The Geneva/New York concept, 9-X BioHybrid, introduced this face, itself an evolution of Saab’s prior concepts. Saab first showed this concept at the 2008 Paris motor show, with U.S. buyers getting their first look in Los Angeles.
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Instead of the three-door wagon look of the 9-X BioHybrid, the Air brings us Air, in the form of a flat-folding roof. Called the Canopy Air system, Saab takes their twenty-five years of experience with convertibles and goes for a new approach to open-top motoring.


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When the Air’s the roof is stowed, passengers have a surround-glass feature; they are surrounded by glass for less buffeting and more comfort. Saab achieves this with a flat-folding roof. versus a completely folding traditional softtop. The solutiaon includes prominent C-pillar buttresses that provide the mounting for the canopy top; the selection of fabric over metal reduces weight, providing a more efficiently folding top and improving efficiency. The surround glass system also includes an active wind deflector in the windshield header rail and keeping the rear screen separate from the folding top.
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Thia new convertible approach replaces traditional decklid access with a rear storage compartment below the rear light. Spring loaded, it slides out on rollers, and includes a separate compartment for smaller items.
Inside and in infotainment terms, the Air shares the same innovations as the earlier 9-X concept. Introducing the Sony Ericsson collaboration on the Air, Saab says that a smart enough device hooked to the car could eliminate the need for a traditional key fob.
BioHybrid Powertrain: 200HP 1.4L I4, Ethanol
What does BioHybrid mean here? An E85-capable gasoline 1.4L unit for the engine element of the GM hybrid powertrain. Saab considers their sedans and wagons as sport products, fun to drive, but always as efficiently Swedish as possible.
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Both the 9-X Air and 9-X BioHybrid put GM’s 1.4L turbo I4 underhood, as well as an evolution of GM’s hybrid system. Saab claims the E85-capabie engine delivers 200HP when the car runs E85 (versus 170HP running gasoline).
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Interior: Key No Longer in Center Console
Saab has steadfastly insisted on keeping their key in the center console mounted between front passengers. With the 9-X concepts, the interior departs from Saab’s past approach, eliminating the central, floor-mounted shifter entirely. New is a driver-focused main IP that sweeps out from the door molding and uses embedded 3D graphics. Saab is also exploring in-car multimedia, working with Sony Ericsson for in-car connectivity. Specifically, there was a wireless interface for streaming data, entertainment, and sat-nav functions, allowing for multiple devices. They say that the smarter the device, the more functions can be performed; one day, the device might even be able to replace a traditional key and fob.
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Of Note: 25 Years of Saab Droptops
Alongside the future of convertibles, Saab showed a celebratory special edition that will be available in January 2009. The special edition convertible will get the 210HP 2.0L engine, six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions, and a choice among three colors (Jet Black, Carbon Grey, and a new Bright Champagne).
The special edition takes a new front bumper and steering wheel, with carbon fiber interior accents and black floor mats with grey accents. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, and the rear sports the Aero’s dual exhaust pipes and grey bumper insert. An attractive package, it might be more entertaining with the V6, but Saab seems to be guiding their image more toward the efficient and environmentally friendly than every more.
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