Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

General Motors Corp. will unveil the ’10 Saab 9-3X at next month’s Geneva auto show, a variant of the division’s “SportCombi” wagon featuring a higher chassis, all-wheel drive and new design cues. The vehicle targets buyers who want the capability of a cross/utility vehicle or SUV in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package.

“Simply put, we are offering a trekking shoe that will do what’s required in more comfort and style than a heavier mountaineering boot,” Saab Brand Design Chief Simon Padian says in a statement.

The 9-3X chassis is 1.4 ins. (3.5 cm) higher than the conventional 2-wheel-drive SportCombi to permit driving over more severe terrain. GM says the vehicle is specifically designed for “those who frequently hit gravel or unpaved roads, without compromising the driving experience on asphalt.”

The car also adds Saab’s Cross-Wheel Drive system, an all-wheel-drive technology capable of distributing engine torque between the front and rear axles as required for improved stability and grip.

Special design cues include new front and rear bumpers in a dark gray finish, a look designers also apply to the side sills and edges of car’s wheel arches as a protective covering when driving over loose terrain. Skid panels with a matte aluminum finish complement the protective coverings, as do matte, aluminum-colored lower door decor strips.

Roof rails are left visible and twin round exhaust pipes and 17-in. wheels come standard, while front fog lights receive a chrome trim. Interior appointments mirror the specification from top-of-the-range 9-3s.

Under the hood, the 9-3X receives a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. gasoline engine with a peak 210 hp, mated to either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Bound for worldwide distribution, shipments of the 9-3X are expected to arrive in the U.S. from Saab’s Trollhattan plant in the year’s fourth quarter.

The 9-3X comes on the heels of the 9-5 Griffin, a more luxurious, powerful and agile execution of the brand’s fullsize sedan unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year. The car began arriving at dealer showrooms in the U.S. last month.

The 9-3 and 9-5 variants debut as GM continues to examine its options for the brand, which has lost money since the auto maker took over full ownership of the Swedish marque in 2000. GM told Ward’s it wants to make the brand a salable unit and more autonomous unit in order to pursue a divestiture.