Saab wants to branch out, to expand its appeal beyond its tried and true, almost cult-like following. It wants a more affordable, sportier car, one that can compete in the promising premium sport compact market, with the likes of the Acura RSX and the Volvo S40, maybe even with a new, smaller Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Problem is, Saab doesn't have a lot of extra cash lying around. But it does have a distant relative, one located halfway around the world, that builds a car that's the right size, with a de-bugged powertrain that includes something Saab doesn't have but that's becoming increasingly desirable to Saab's desired buyer: all-wheel drive. That relative is Subaru, partly owned by General Motors, which owns Saab. The car is the Subaru WRX, a de-tuned, street-legal version of a World Rally Championship winner. As is, the WRX is too rough and unrefined for Saab, but with careful modifications to suspension and interior fitments and incorporation of Saab-specific design elements, it might give the company a contender pending something better to come.
From this has come the 2005 Saab 9-2X. It looks like a Saab. It establishes a new, lower cost of entry for people who want to own a Saab. It adds a lighter, more powerful, more compact, sportier package to Saab's line up. What more could buyers want?
Well, how about a car that feels like a Saab, with the polish and refinement buyers to whom owning a Saab is a statement of status expect. One that delivers a fully integrated, satisfying driving experience regardless of setting and conditions, of road, climate and context. Just as important, one in which Saab owners will feel immediately at home, perfectly comfortable and at ease with how the car fits them, with all the right tactile and visual feedbacks.
Against these measures, the 9-2X comes up short, not by a lot in all areas, but by enough in enough areas that people who want a Saab and all that a Saab has come to mean should think long and hard before signing on the dotted line.
Saab builds the 9-2X in two trim levels, the base Linear and the sporty Aero. The Linear has a 165-horsepower, 2.5-liter, flat four-cylinder engine, the Aero a 227-hp, 2.0-liter, turbocharged intercooled flat four. The standard transmission on both is a five-speed manual; optional is a four-speed automatic.
The Linear ($22,990) arrives fitted with fabric upholstery and air conditioning, plus power windows and an AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers. Easing the driving are cruise control, manually height-adjustable driver's seat, power outside mirrors, and tilt steering wheel. The rear seat splits 60/40 and folds. A retractable cover shields cargo from prying eyes. Tinted side windows lessen the burden on the air conditioning.
The Aero ($26,950) replaces the manual air conditioning with automatic climate control complete with cabin air filter. The stereo is upgraded with the addition of two speakers, for a total of six, and a six-disc changer. The seats are covered in a higher-grade fabric, and leather wraps the steering wheel and trims the shift lever and handbrake.
Two stand-alone options and two option packages are available on the Linear. The stand-alones are a four-speed automatic ($1250) and power glass moonroof ($1200). The packages are the Premium ($2495), including leather-faced seats, door inserts, shift knob and handbrake boot, and foglamps and xenon headlights; and the Cold Weather ($600), comprising heated seats, outside mirrors and wiper de-icer. The Aero has one stand-alone option, the automatic transmission ($1250), and three packages: the Premium ($1695), with leather-faced seats and xenon headlights; the Sport ($1950), with power glass moonroof and 17-inch wheels and high performance tires; and the Cold Weather ($600), with heated seats, outside mirrors and wiper de-icer.
Standard safety equipment comprises the usual frontal airbags, three-point seatbelts for all five seating positions and seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters on the front seatbelts. The front seats also have active head restraints and head-and-chest side-impact airbags, and the rear seats have lower and upper child safety seat anchors. Foglamps are standard on the Aero.