In its quest to make Saab into a profitable division and give its dealers and customers more choice, General Motors has added the Saab 9-7X to its lineup. The 9-7X is Saab's first truck-based SUV, and the first-ever Saab available with a V8 engine.
As American as apple pie, the Saab 9-7X is built in Moraine, Ohio, on the same truck platform as the Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, and Buick Rainier. However, it's been given a Swedish massage inside, outside and underneath.
We think the 9-7X may be the best execution of this solid truck platform to date. The combination of blocky good looks, Saabesque design cues, improved handling and ride quality, with reasonable power and fuel economy make the new Saab 9-7X worth a long look. Inside, it's thoroughly Saab-like, nicely finished and comfortable.
The 9-7X is built on the shorter of the two wheelbases used for the GMT 360 platform, which is the one we prefer. It rides lower and the chassis is a bit stiffer than the other GM models, and comes with a retuned suspension and bigger brakes.
Overall, the Saab 9-7X offers a lot of value for $40,000, which comes in the form of luxury and safety features, both active and passive. Among them: six airbags, all-wheel drive, electronic stability control. Leather upholstery is standard.
A superb inline six-cylinder engine comes standard. A more powerful V8 is optional. Saab says major competitors will include the Volvo XC90 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, both excellent SUVs. We suspect Saab's new truck will also compete with GM's in-house brands.
The 2006 Saab 9-7X is available in six-cylinder and V8 versions, delineated and distinguished by displacement badges on the decklids and wheel/tire combinations. That's it. No other trim levels, no other external differentiation, which we count as a blessing. The V8 version adds the power powerful engine, good for towing up to 6500 pounds, and a limited-slip rear differential as standard equipment.
Safety features that come standard on both versions includes six airbags: front, side-impact for torso protection, and side curtain for head protection. Also standard: all-wheel drive, StabiliTrak yaw control, anti-lock disc brakes, rollover sensing, child seats, knee bolsters, canine restraints and other safety features Saab owners have come to expect.
Saab justifies the price of the 9-7X with an impressively complete list of standard equipment including leather-upholstered seats, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, the OnStar security and concierge system, and XM Satellite Radio, a list that would pump the Chevrolet version up to a high price if ordered separately.