Walkaround and Interior

By June 22, 2005


The exterior makeover from the Chevy/GMC/Buick version features Saab's signature three-port grille, multi-element headlamps, rear quarter windows that wrap around the D-pillars, Saabian taillamps, and a flat hood (it opens from the front, Saab fans).

When you see so much giant-grille, aggressive, I'm-coming-to-get-you, high-riding military styling on the roads, it's refreshing to see an SUV with a borrowed body that looks so good when treated to the understated Saab nose and lamp and fender treatment, with its stylized airplane at the center of the grille opening (Saab built airplanes long before it built cars). We think, as far as exterior Saabness, they have pulled it off beautifully, much more so than with the Buick Rainier. This is a luxury SUV much more in the vein of the understated Acura MDX than a chrome-grille Buick.

The rear end of the GMT 360 has been remade as a Saab with an extended, big-cornered rear bumper and cool Saab taillamps and graphics. Not to mention the tasty wheels, one style for the I6, another for the V8. It really does look like a Saab from the back.

Interior Features

Apparently, the designers and marketers fought hard for this much interior redesign, and they certainly got it. We don't know how much it cost GM to retool the interior in such a thoroughly Saab fashion, even to the extent that the ignition key and wiring have been moved to the customary Saab location on the center console behind the shifter, antitheft interlock and all, but we like it.

The 9-7X interiors we experienced during a driving introduction along the edge of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in Quebec, were understated, nicely stitched, beautifully wood-trimmed, with thin chrome surrounds on the instruments to add a touch of class, white-on-black gauges with sharply defined graphics, and a dashboard architecture lifted directly out of a current Saab 9-3. All of the major items were easy to find and use.

The instrument panel is reshaped, rounded and angled toward the driver on the right-hand side, and it mimics the interior design of the current 9-3 successfully, if simply and quietly. All of the controls were in their customary Saab locations, including the Saabesque air vents and the hidden dual cupholder assembly in the right side of the dashboard.

The seats were continuously comfortable at 160 kph and every other speed. Very nice. Front-seat head, leg, and shoulder room is generous, even for a 6-foot, 4-inch driver. The seating position is commanding, which adds to the Saab feel. Rear-seat room is less generous, but good enough for most children.

The behind-the-scenes security of OnStar and the optional XM Satellite Radio made the 9-7X a delightful companion, especially in a fierce rainstorm we encountered on the way to Quebec City airport at the end of the second day. The 9-7X is relatively quiet, with the fat tires contributing to most of the little bit of noise that was there. This is typical of all the GMT 360 trucks, to a greater or lesser degree.

SUVs sooner or later have cargo-hauling duties to perform, and when the time comes, the Saab 9-7X delivers nearly 40 cubic feet with the rear seat up, and 80 cubic feet with the rear seat stowed. The rear seat splits wider than usual, Saab says, at 65/35. An extra bonus is the onboard air compressor system, normally used to pump air into and out of the air suspension sysem, which can be used, along with a standard 22-foot hose, to inflate tires or recreational gear.