The following comes from a friend of mine in Germany, a regular at SU named WooDz.
As is mentioned at the start, this is not his first time……
Virtually every time SAAB has shown a concept I’ve typed a few words and emailed them to Swade. I felt that even though SU is evolving and in the process of changing hands I’d still like to add my FWIW sentiments.
With all the other concepts SAAB has released in the past 5 years, this is the one that some have noted need not have been made. What we’re talking about is financial constraints, that SAAB really needs to use the precious little money they have and use it to create revenue, not blow it on flamboyant concepts that left a lot of people genuinely shocked as to “what was so SAAB about it anyway?”
Every manufacturer needs concepts to create, establish and keep interest in the brand and there’s never been a more relevant time for SAAB to do that. SAAB had a lot to show and say at this year’s Geneva Motor show, but whichever way people try to spin things the PhoeniX concept overpowered some other important aspects concerning what the company has achieved in the past 12 months: the launch of the 9-5 Wagon and the now class leading power to emissions 9-3 Sportcombi.
However, Victor Muller can’t keep standing on a podium and repeat the words “SAAB saabs”, “tenacity” and “perfect storm” without putting some money where his mouth is and show something more than GM based vehicles.
The Phoenix was more than showing a new grill for future SAAB’s which was ultimately all the Aero-X was. I loved the Aero-X. It was a aeronautical inspired vehicle in a clean contemporary design. However, the only connection it has with previous SAABs is a forward opening hood and if you squint, you can just about make out a modern interpretation of a Sonett.
It didn’t use a chassis that would eventually spawn other vehicles. On paper, it had a twin turbo, direct injected, 2.8 V6 engine that’s never been used in reality. It can run on e100 (on paper) but 6 years on, European governments are still struggling on how to get e10 at the pumps. Sadly the Aero-X was no more than just fancy eye candy. That’s hard to swallow I know but sometimes you just have to face the facts.
The Phoenix concept on the other hand grasps everything that SAAB set out to do over 60 years ago; create a fuel efficient highly aerodynamic automobile where the form follows function.
Forget clamshell hoods, hockey-stick windows and 3 port grills. They are by and large superfluous to SAAB’s original core identity. They are akin to the clothes we wear and although they project an image, they cannot change one’s character.
So in understanding the PhoeniX concept we need to forget the design references and concentrate on what makes this a SAAB. A small displacement turbocharged engine that’s very efficient and can run on natural resources. An electric propulsion unit that adds AWD in an innovative way which is lighter than any competitive product. The combination offers 234hp, which is just 6hp short of SAAB’s goal of 150hp per cubic Litre engine capacity, nearly 50mpg with under 120g/km of CO2, which when running on e85, drops to under 40g/km of non-recycled CO2.
The car is extremely aerodynamic aided by the flying buttresses that bring the coefficient of drag down to an amazing 0.25, so they have a genuine function and purpose. They may seem odd but the renderings I have seen of the PhoeniX without the buttresses make for just a car with a panoramic roof, which is a design that has been regurgitated longer than I’ve been alive.
Jason Castriota together with SAAB’s amazing engineers have taken the raw basic DNA of what makes a SAAB and produced a twenty-first Century version of Sixten Sason’s original design and ethos. You cannot call a car a Saab because it has a clamshell hood and a 3 port grill. If it is not frugal, aerodynamic and the features have no function then you can dress the body how you want but it will still not be a SAAB.
The PhoeniX concept would be better codenamed 92002; it really is that close to the Ursaab, which also looked nothing like any other car back on the 1940s. I am convinced that some people were really expecting SAAB to roll out the original 1979 SAAB 99 turbo last week and were disappointed with what they saw because they were only looking skin deep.
For the past 20 years SAAB has had no other choice but to take elements of previous models and dress their new ones in as much of the SAAB style as they possibly could. The PhoeniX on the other hand doesn’t need any of that. You only have to consider the level of engineering, the innovative human interface and ergonomics and it quickly dawns on you that it can only be a SAAB.
If this is what Victor Muller meant by SAAB Saabs then I’m fully on board and ready for take-off!