Saab Phoenix Concept – one man’s view

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!

GerritN
Guest
GerritN
5 years 6 months ago

WooDz, you nailed it!
We loved the Aero-X, but it wasn’t more than an empty shell.
Not all of us love(d) the PhoeniX, but it is a full featured automobile and puts Saab back on the map.

GerritN
Guest
GerritN
5 years 6 months ago

I think this is important, but got snowed under in the Antonov news. Hope that no one minds that I repost it:

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Researchers Show How a Car’s Electronics Can Be Taken Over Remotely:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/business/10hack.html

I think this is the preliminary report:
http://www.autosec.org/pubs/cars-oakland2010.pdf

Seb C
Guest
Seb C
5 years 6 months ago

That’s hitting the nail on the head, well said WooDz.

I have a question for Swade before he escapes : what’s your feeling of the new 9-3 design now that it has sunk in for a while?

Ted Y
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Spot on!

WM
Guest
WM
5 years 6 months ago

+1

BTG88
Guest
BTG88
5 years 6 months ago
Well stated. This relates back to the discussion here on SU about what a Hi-performance Saab should be. Too many could not think beyond the addition of more horsepower, rather than what really would be a game-changer for Saab with respect to not only its competitors, but also its current line-up. At that time, I was advocating a step-change in thinking akin to what brought about the 1978 99 turbo – a car that not only addressed the contemporary issues of the day (emissions control, gasoline efficiency, safety issues, etc. – things that are also relevant today), but also changed… Read more »
GerritN
Guest
GerritN
5 years 6 months ago

Maybe it is all but forgotten, but Jeff’s proposal for a HiPo Saab got pretty close to what the PhoeniX is.

BTG88
Guest
BTG88
5 years 6 months ago

Hence why I wrote “too many” vs. “all”.

gpg
Guest
gpg
5 years 6 months ago

I totally agree and would be the first in line to purchase the 1st PhoeniX to replace my 99 Viggen. I have never desired to follow but to “Find My Own Road”.

GerritN
Guest
GerritN
5 years 6 months ago

Never, ever think about replacing your Viggen!

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
5 years 6 months ago
Great assessment WooDz as usual. I’m looking forward to the next Saab concept when people here will scream how un-Saaby it is and bring up the PhoeniX as an example of true Saab design traits. On an unrelated note, as an architect I see a very similar pattern with certain preservationists and their struggle to hold on to crumbling buildings that aren’t worth saving. There are definitely worthy buildings that should be saved, but to cling to the past for nostalgic reasons usually ignores why we should appreciate it at all. If someone didn’t create something groundbreaking or break a… Read more »
maanders
Guest
maanders
5 years 6 months ago

Excellent points, WooDz! I am still not 100% sure I find the outer skin design of the PhoeniX concept beautiful in the same way I did the Aero-X, but the engineer in me is very impressed with the engineering that went into this concept and how well it was thought out to both use features of the new platform and experiment with some new features.

The combination of smart power + fuel efficiency + driver focused + intelligent use of space is very Saabish, in my opinion.

Richard
Guest
Richard
5 years 6 months ago

Excellent assessment and insight WooDz. I think many of us realize some of what the Saab DNA is when we encounter it in our cars, but find it more difficult to explain it conceptually. You nailed it. I think if any phrase can succinctly explain Saab DNA it is: form follows function.

Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 6 months ago

A colleague of mine felt there was a connection with this thing: http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/new-bmw-i8-supercar-scooped/255825/pictures/new-bmw-i8-supercar-scooped.aspx?im=426673

I had asked him what he thought about the flying buttresses. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. 🙂

I can’t wait for the PhoeniX to arrive at the museum. I’ll be there and as soon as the curator isn’t watching… Well… I’m sure the PhoeniX can handle another hug.

2-don
Guest
2-don
5 years 6 months ago

Ouch! That thing is horrendous!

Smoke_Jaguar4
Guest
Smoke_Jaguar4
5 years 6 months ago

While everyone is focusing on the PhoeniX’ exterior, the important stuff is underneath. It’s build on the same chassis that will be used in the next 9-3 and the powertrain has been hinted at in the past. Flying buttresses aside, this is a vehicle that will be very close to the 2012 9-3.

Nate 9-3
Guest
Nate 9-3
5 years 6 months ago

Right on, WooDz.

Tomas Hagberg
Guest
Tomas Hagberg
5 years 6 months ago
I had another vision then the PhoeniX, I miss the clean lines I must say. The “new” grill is so damn nice I want just a smaller car with it (the new 9-3). I´m not going to apologize for that. Sure I can go main steam SU in this but something doesn´t fit in what I see in that car. But JC really took the design language to a new level but like art, everybody doesn´t have to like every paint in the art gallery. Some are bad other are just great from the same pencil/artist. It´s really the step… Read more »
Red J
Member
5 years 6 months ago

WooDz, where have you found the information about the engine being E85 capable?

I can’t find it 🙁

WooDz
Guest
WooDz
5 years 6 months ago

At the SAAB / BMW partnership press conference.
JAJ said that the 1.6 Turbo would be adapted for e85 Bio-ethanol.

Troll96
Guest
Troll96
5 years 6 months ago

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.

A bold, yet eloquent statement!

jking
Guest
jking
5 years 6 months ago

Rock on brother:….I’m in for the ride!

Osama Dajani
Guest
Osama Dajani
5 years 6 months ago
Well, I was expecting the introdution of the new shape of SAAB 9-3, that would have been inspired from the old Classic Saab 900 Hatchback. The interior and exterior design of the concept car “PHOENIX Arch” was outsourced to a proffesional Auto Design firm, so, its somehow a contemporary design, but, somehow different that what SAAB has done before. SAAB is still relying on IN ORGANIC growth rather than ORGANIC growth, e.g., Supplying engines and platform from GM or BMW, etc… In my point of view, it would be a good idea for SAAB to refer to its core competencies:… Read more »
José Galvão
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Strange…
And if i tell you that underneath the skin is an revolutionary saab in an E46 BMW bodyshell, will you consider it an Saab?
I can see your point of view WooDz but i can look at the PhoeniX and tell you the same frase of the BMW designer: Why it is an Saab??

This is an concept car made to create fuzz around Saab. That´s all. Let´s see the direction this one takes us to.
BTW… About the Aero X … hard to swallow… but good point! Facts are Facts…

WooDz
Guest
WooDz
5 years 6 months ago
Hi José, if you were to tell than under the skin of the PhoeniX lies an E46 BMW, you’d be wrong. Yes this concept uses a BMW 1.6 engine but that doesn’t make the car a BMW. It won’t drive and handle like a SAAB either. I saw the video where an obnoxious Bangle questioned Castriota on what makes the PhoeniX a Saab? The reason this is a SAAB is because the form follows the function. The radical buttresses however bizarre they may look; have a function. What was Bangles excuse with his ‘flame’ and ‘butt’ designs. “I just wasn’t… Read more »
Osama Dajani
Guest
Osama Dajani
5 years 6 months ago
Ladies & Gentlement: Safety of the car has not been a “Rocket Science”. Many firms have achieved a high standard of “Safety” in their cars: Mercedes, BMW, VOLVO, AUDI, & Renault. SAAB is not better that the same. Turbo charging has been implemented in new cars: “VW goup”, “BMW”, “Peugoet group”, “Volvo” Mercedes”, and others. Its not a new technology, perhaps these brands have developed and improved the Turbo technology in a better way than SAAB, e.g. “BMW”. Many executives still prefer to own a luxury German or a Jap rather than to own any other car: BMW, MEC, AUDI,… Read more »
Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 6 months ago
Many firms have achieved a high standard of “Safety” in their cars: Mercedes, BMW, VOLVO, AUDI, & Renault. SAAB is not better that the same. Saab happens to be the only company that not only tests, but also consistently passes, the moose collision test that is a popular exercise for Swedish car companies. (sorry, I have only anecdotal evidence of Ovlov not passing, so feel free to consider Ovlov to be reasonably OK in this respect as well) The moose test can be likened to testing your A-pillar and roof for being able to withstand the impact of a small… Read more »
Osama Dajani
Guest
Osama Dajani
5 years 6 months ago
Hi: It might be a fact that nobody would like to be directly or indirectly involved in an accident. However, when a collision is unavoidable, what ever will happen, will happen, the severity of the injury or death is beyond the control of the human being regardless of the brand. It’s a sort of bounded rationality. One of SAAB’s executives died in a SAAB when he collided with a “Moose.That was his luck, It was an unfortunate mishap. A Moose test, is not only about passive safety, the tipping of a heavy animal and consequential squash of the car, but… Read more »
Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 6 months ago
I am a bit constrained timewise, so I cannot dive into every part of your posting. accident. However, when a collision is unavoidable, what ever will happen, will happen, the severity of the injury or death is beyond the control of the human being regardless of the brand I do not understand your point here at all. If I, the driver, had chosen to take on a telephone pole with the smallest Fiat, I probably would not have walked out of the wreck on my own feet compared to hitting the same pole with a 9-5? The choice of car… Read more »
Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 6 months ago
Ken H
Guest
Ken H
5 years 6 months ago

The 5-series that failed in the TV test was loaded. And here is the key element – a BMW is designed to have 50/50 weight distribution unloaded. When loaded it becomes rear-heavy, and becomes thus a oversteering sledgehammer.
A Saab, on the other hand, will be balanced when loaded, and is therefore more stable when pushed to the limits. This does also apply to other front heavy FWD cars, of course.

(too) Many a times we can see articles about fatal accidents reading “lost control during overtaking” accompanied by a picture of a wrecked rear-wheel drive car…

Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 6 months ago

Why would the cost of production of the “Russian SAAB” based on old technology be Twelve Thousand Dollars, at the time a “Swedish SAAB” would cost much more?

I haven’t seen that particular figure, but I imagine that domestic production means less import taxes. And once the R&D costs have been recouped, you can reduce the price a bit. Older models = less R&D to pay for.

And yes, RWD is more sporty. On dry asphalt. But if you’re designing a car for winter roads, you do not have the luxury of being able to use RWD. It is FWD or AWD.

Red J
Member
5 years 6 months ago
I’m sorry, but most of what you are saying is so utterly wrong, that I must cry. Oversteering cars are the worst that could happen to any normal driver, as you have to react against the normal believe. At high speed, a FWD car has more straight line stability that any RWD car, pure physics. DSTC is only a renamed TSC because the companies begun to use trademarks for a system that everybody uses. And a car that need electronic help to keep a straight line is not worth talking about. The moose test you are talking about (see Merc… Read more »
Ken H
Guest
Ken H
5 years 6 months ago

“By the end of the wonderful ride, I took a decision to Sell the SAAB, and buy a BMW 523 (MY 2001).”

May I ask if you still have this car?

Osama Dajani
Guest
Osama Dajani
5 years 6 months ago
Dear All: Most of the accidents occur due to Excessive Speeding & Reckless driving. Others could be attributed to high risk taking, lack of concentration, and over confidence in personal driving skills. Don’t worry, Drive carefully and hopefully you’ll be safe. RED J: Kindly read all the articles related to SAAB in various Auto magazines, and you would find that although SAAB is an excellent, nevertheless, it has always been criticized by the auditors whom have taken it for test drive. Rune: In a hot arid desert like Saudi Arabia or UAE, there’s no difference between FWD or RWD, as… Read more »
Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 6 months ago
Well… I guess I am of the reckless type. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving behind a column of cars going 60 kph. The speed limit was 90 kph… Normally, this poses no problem and I thought this time was no exception. I accelerated to 90 kph, passed 5 cars (or so) and a truck (or two). At this point I had actually managed to get past all of them, and there was still plenty of road to go before meeting with oncoming traffic (first of which was a big truck). I gently eased back into the right… Read more »
RS
Guest
RS
5 years 6 months ago
SAAB is an excellent, nevertheless, it has always been criticized by the auditors whom have taken it for test drive. Osama. first part of the sentence is true, the second part isn’t. Saab is often also praised by people who test drive the car. If you like Saab driving characteristics in general there is a good 95% change you will appreciate the new 9-5 also. (read Zippy’s or any Saabers reviews of the car). If the author is in love with a RWD cars there is no way he will mark Saabs above brands like B and M-B. Until compared… Read more »
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