The oddity, of course, is that General Motors owns Saab. And for purists fond of the vehicles first offered in 1947 as a outgrowth of Swedish Aeroplane Corporation, the 9-7X SUV shares a lot with the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Buick Rainier, GMC Envoy and Isuzu Ascender. Additionally, the 9-7X is assembled in Moraine, Ohio.
Nonetheless, Saab’s maiden journey into the SUV market isn’t necessarily a bad thing just because the vehicle isn’t outright Swedish.
On the contrary, the 9-7X offers a lot of Saab traits and it’s unique enough to fare well against the major players of the category — the Acura MDX, Lexus RX and Volvo XC90.
My test ride for the week was the 4.2-liter, 6-cylinder 290-horsepower model. An 8-cylinder, 300-horsepower model is also available.
More than 30 SUV options are available in the $35,000-$45,000 price range, but the 9-7X’s Saab traditions immediately differentiate the vehicle from rivals.
Most noticeable is the Saab trademark center-console-mounted ignition switch. It’s a nice, practical function and a conversation item, for sure. But it’s also a little illogical considering a driver is required to look at the instrumentation panel to see what gear he or she has engaged.
Like other Saabs, the automatic all-wheel drive 9-7X has superior design styles. The cargo area is spacious and features a 60/40 rear seat split rear seat and automatically folding headrests. There are also several small-item storage bins nicely tucked here and there around the cabin.
The new 5-passenger SUV also features quality interior materials — heated, leather appointed seats to lattice grille air vents, soft-touch knobs to the oversized interior front-seat map lights.
On the road, the 9-7X performs well. It has brisk acceleration from a standstill and there’s]]> more than enough power to pass quickly and ascend steep inclines when needed. Standard 18-inch wheels, strong braking and Saab’s traditional “solid feel” are quickly noticeable.
The ride quality equals or betters many SUVs I’ve tested and there’s plenty of head and leg room and a nice step-in feel into the cabin.
The standard features lists includes every imaginable power function — windows, mirrors, locks and moonroof. Heated front seats, three 12-volt power outlets, automatic climate control, Bose audio system with six-disc CD changer and XM satellite radio (3 months’ free service), steering wheel audio controls and an electronic compass are also all standard.
My test vehicle also included both of the only two option packages: the Prestige Package (headlamp washers, adjustable pedals and Xenon headlights) is an $800 feature. And a rather unnecessary rear entertainment DVD entertainment center with headphones is a $1,300 feature. Combined, the options’ total price pushes the 9-7X passed the $40,000 price point.
The 9-7X has plenty of characteristics to make it part of GM’s family of SUVs. But the 9-7X also has its own personality, and its individualism is welcomed, regardless of its mixed heritage.
Safety Features — Dual-stage front and side curtain airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 15 mpg (city), 21 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited miles; (24-hour) roadside assistance program, 4 years/50,000 miles; Free scheduled maintenance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
Base Price — $38,520.