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Saab 9-2X Aero


It may be an Impreza in drag, but Saab has thoroughly reworked this Subaru for the US

By the time you read this, I'll probably be no more. Tied up, flung into the boot of the Fast Fleet Volvo V70R and dumped in the middle of nowhere by the notoriously strict-but-fair evo Standards Committee. My crime? I'm about to praise a Saab as being a serious driver's car. Impossible, of course. So it looks like motoring editor Barker (in black cap) will sentence me to evo oblivion. But in the spirit of truthful journalism... here goes.

The new Saab 9-2X Aero is a better car than the stock Subaru Impreza WRX wagon on which it's based. Quite a lot better, in fact. Not only is it sharper, it's also more refined and less wearing to drive thanks to chassis modifications carried out by Saab engineers.

The changes were so admired by Subaru that Saab's suspension chief stayed on in Japan after the 9-2X project was finished to help out and it's expected some of his mods will find their way onto a facelifted Impreza later this year.

Still not convinced? I can see your point. After all, this looks like nothing more than an Impreza estate with a Saab nose. It's a cynical move, but the 9-2X exists because Saab's owners, General Motors, wanted to stop the tiny Swedish company from sliding into the North Sea. The only way to stop the rot was more product lines, and fast. GM encouraged Subaru to donate the Impreza wagon to help Saab get a jump on the premium compact market sector bandwagon, the newest American market niche. There are two 9-2X models for the US and Canada, a 165bhp 2.5-litre Linear and the 227bhp 2-litre turbo Aero.

The exterior changes are extensive. The 9-2X's nose is new from the windscreen forward, with new lights, bonnet and bumpers. The rear tailgate (complete with integrated spoiler) is also new, as are the tail lights and rear bumper.

Inside, there's been a big leap forward. Saab has given the car new door panels, centre console and instrument binnacle. The instrument faces have also been redesigned, while the seats are new and are trimmed in more luxurious materials. What can't be seen is the extensive sound deadening and detail refinement work. But it adds up, in more ways than one. One US magazine reckons the 9-2X is 82kg heavier than the stock Impreza.

The most important changes are to the chassis. The Impreza's spring settings have been left alone but tweaks have been made elsewhere. Up front, the turbocharged Aero gets modified dampers and the steering rack is now quicker. At the back there are modified dampers and 10mm shorter bump- stops. One of the suspension's lateral links has been swapped from steel to aluminium and the anti-roll bar linkage from steel to plastic. The 9-2X gets bespoke tyres, which are claimed to improve not only handling and steering but also ride comfort. New 16in alloys are standard, but there's a 17in option on the turbocharged Aero.

While the higher power model is more of an evo car, the 2.5-litre version was a real surprise. The engine is willing and enthusiastic and had the legs of the turbo model lower down the rev-range. Running on 16in wheels it was amazingly refined on rough concrete motorways where there was little of the Impreza's constant chuckachucka tyre roar.

Even though this Linear does without the new steering rack, the front wishbones are six-times stiffer than the Subaru's, which has improved the turn-in and steering response no end. Driven hard, the Linear does roll noticeably and there's more than a whiff of understeer in hard cornering. But on a fast cruise the Linear felt like it would be a fine tourer. We need this engine in the UK.

Saab's test cars had very few miles on the clock, so the 2-litre turbo engines were tight and unwilling. But the Aero felt like quite a different beast from the 2.5. The 17in wheels and low-profile tyres sharpen the car up further but also re-introduce road noise and constant background gruffness. The Aero's quicker steering and less roll-prone chassis give it a much more focused character. The razor-sharp front-end responses are highly impressive. It also stops well, with good pedal feel, and the whole car felt rigid and rattle-free.

But as fast as it is, this engine needs to be really stoked up, and driving the two versions back-to-back left me in no doubt that Subaru should junk the peaky 2-litre unit in the WRX and consider a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine. It would help the Saab's long-legged character, too.

So this is probably the best mainstream Impreza yet, although Subaru is poised with its own refreshed model. This is also probably the first performance Saab road test in history that didn't include the phrase 'torque steer'... Well, not until now, anyway.


 

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Sounds like the current Saab 2.3 Aero unit would be a nice swap for the Subaru 2.0? And I bet they would be able to get a Rizzla under the bonnet then.
 

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I hate to say this, but sounds like a damn fine car. I like scoobies but they're just too hard & unrefined for the amount of travelling I do. By fixing these traits and improving a few other things, Saab do seem to have got a potential winner. No wonder they and Subaru don't want to market it in Europe, it would definitely take sales from the Impreza AND the 9-3ss...
 

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You all like this car? It is little more than a badge engineered Scooby, though? As has already been reported elsewhere, GM is making cutbacks and reducing Saab's automomy.

Looks like we are destined to be fed badge engineered models after the 9-2X and 9-7X
 

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The Impreza must be a good car as the performance models get consistently good reviews. Not as good as the current Mitsu EVO VIII but good nonetheless. I've never driven one but I've been passenger in a couple one TSL car and a std turbo at Curborough, on the latter occasion I was amazed at the levels of traction the thing had! It wasn't too uncomfortable to ride in either.

Anyway; devoid of proper funding, Saab has had to slap an improved interior in the Impreza and refine the chassis to cope with the extra weight and to improve the ride. So a good car is now further improved, got to be a REALLY good car then.

There's no arguing that this is a stingey cop-out in car devlopment terms, as I've said umpteen times before it would've been much better had Saab been given Subaru's AWD technology and the budget to integrate it into the 9-3SS or the future 9-5. But, GM have found that badge engineering makes them a quick buck, so badge engineering we will continue to get. There's also no doubt that badge engineering will kill Saab as an car enthusiasts choice. But car enthusiasts are the minority, it's the easily impressed and ill-informed minority who make the majority of the car buying public. They're the ones who keep buying Corsas and SUV's after all.
 

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Exactly Jason. I can't say I like the car having only read about it, and I certainly don't like the circumstances in which it came into being. But I have driven Imprezas and I quite like them, in an old-school laggy turbo kind of way. The fact that Saab seem to have managed to resolve some of the aspects of the sccobie that I don't like can only be a good thing, if you ignore the badge for a moment it sounds like a good car.
 

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Sorry to say this but this car fills me with excitement. The worse thing about the scooby is the interior and if the Saab work has made it like the interiors of their current models then with AWD and great performance I see this as my perfect car.

If it starts life as RHD and they are planning not to sell them in Europe then why cant we just go to the source and import them for ourselves?
 

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I want a Saab 99 with a B234 or B235R in it and a Skyline's ATESSA platform.

Why couldn't Saab have merged with Nissan!?

They had to pick the only auto-maker with a current AWD platform which is completely incompatible with Saab engines.

I could fit a B235R in an Evo, Audi possibly, Cosworth, Skyline (though there would be no point) or some other car ... but you can't fit it in the place of the boxer engine.

On the plus side, all the STi stuff should bolt right in.

That would be interesting, 300+ hp, AWD, and a half decent interior.


Dubbya~
 

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Originally posted by Jez:
[qb]Sorry to say this but this car fills me with excitement. The worse thing about the scooby is the interior and if the Saab work has made it like the interiors of their current models then with AWD and great performance I see this as my perfect car.
[/qb][/b]
Interestingly, last weekend I popped into Bell&Colvill to look at a low mileage 9-5 Griffin Estate they had, and of course Bell&Colvill are a Subaru (and Lotus) dealer as well as Saab. Had a gander at the new Legacy Sport Tourer and was quite impressed with the improvement in quality of the interior of this. Only trouble is they don't do a turbo version, only n.a. 2.5 or n.a.3.0 flat 6, which is still no where near the torque levels of a Saab turbo, or the fuel consumption levels...
Being a Saab and Scooby dealer I casually mentioned seperately to both the Subaru man and Saab man, the 9-2X, saying that it would be very convient for this dealer being both already, and got the same disapproving look in the eye and 'no comment' from both.....
 

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I know I'm a bit late on this thread, but I only joined on 7-Aug.

Without all the rubbish about the 9-2x being a re-badged this and GM is killing Saab.

This car sounds great. I've driven both the Sti and the Wrx. But I prefer the Wrx myself.

I probably wont get the chance to drive the 9-2x but I'm trying to get up to Trollhätten in October. If they have one there I will be after a drive.

What I like best about the 9-2x is, it's really on with the A3 sportback. The new A3 is still built off the golf IV platform so It's not a 'new' car so to speak. and niether is the 9-2x. But both have AWD and there is just 23hp between the 3.2i Quattro and the 2.0 Aero.
or 8.38KG per hp for the A3 against 6.41KG per hp for the 9-2x..

Audi have built the A3 to attract people who think they live life in the fast lane. And in Germany that’s usually where see an Audi. But these car buyers are too worried about what their mates would say if they turned up in a something looking like it just come off of a touring car championship.

GM on the other hand need a Premium European Car to compete against the Audi and the BMW Compact and I guess we can throw the 1-Series in for good measure. So what have GM got at their disposal?

1x Premium European Brand
1x World Rally Championship winning car.

It made perfect sense to combine the two and really make something great. The Impreza is small and definitely sporty enough to be up to the job. But with a whacking great spoiler and gold alloys it’s not winning any beauty pageants and certainly not going to get an Audi customer out of their über comfortable luxury. So Saab has put the Impreza in a rehab clinic for 12months and let the steroids wear off a bit.

So what do we have in the end? One European compact premium class vehicle, that is capable of out handling its completion. It looks aggressive, it’s fast, it’s safe, and with hopefully not getting myself into trouble. It’s got the best 4 wheel drive system in the world.

The 9-2x will not come to our shores. I just don’t think the interior is sophisticated enough for Europe and we don’t have a diesel engine. State-side the storey is different and I believe to car will do well. Give Saab time to develop Subaru’s new chassis and we will have a winner.
 
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