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Video: Jason Castriota and the Saab PhoeniX Concept

March 2, 2011 in Saabology

My thanks to Jason for giving his time to walk Saabs United readers around the Saab PhoeniX concept from the Geneva Motor Show.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAJyHLll9sw

66 responses to Video: Jason Castriota and the Saab PhoeniX Concept

  1. The best parts of this design is the elegant and light wings and the interior.
    The worst is the huge “hole” in the side along the door-panels – especially in relation to the small glass-area.

  2. Great video!
    Yes, I do like the concept, with the reasons Castriota expressed. It’s like a little Batmobile, and that’s just too cool.

  3. Brilliant in every aspect.

  4. I’m really liking the design language in the PhoeniX the more I see of it, my opinion of the flying buttresses has certainly gone from a “hmmm” to a real appreciation of their beauty and purpose. But it’s especially nice to see the return of the “classic” logotype. Interesting that a potential 9-7 got a name-drop, just hope if it ever materialises it’s not another god-awful SUV…

  5. Thanks Jason! It really starts to grow on me.

    “someday a 9-7″
    Think big!

  6. The whole thing makes a lot more sense after hearing Jason speak. It is a concept car, made to provoke and to go a bit further. Personally, I think VW’s design philosophy with only very gradual evolution is downright dreary. Although I don’t expect the new 9-3 to be as wild as the Phoenix, I still like when people have the courage to be bold. All good things takes a bit of getting used to.

    • Even JC said the new 9-3 would not be as wild as the PhoeniX. I really like what he said in that the front end of the new 9-3 will have some of the style and volume of the PhoeniX, but the rear will be more practical and iconic Saab. (Hatch!) He also said the lines will be simpler and more fluid because it will not need all the details the Phoenix had to get the 0.25 drag coefficient for the type of sportscar it is hinting at (i.e., new Sonett?).

      The statement that the PhoeniX and Aero-X are two poles for design cues to broaden Saab’s language is OK by me. Sonett and the 99 and classic 900 were never identical, but all welcome designs for different types of cars.

  7. It really have grown on me, and now that I understand the “wings” function i like them as well.
    Jason really knows exactly what he is talking about. I am very impressed about him as a person. Really a bold designer with a lot of heart and brains. And no Diva at all.
    He has got two feet on the ground while beeing up in the air at the same time.

    • Yes, now that I know the meaning of the “wings” they make a lot of sense. Imagine how boring an ordinary wing had been on the Phoenix.

      Things make sense now. I like it.

      But the new 9-3 is going to be a lot more sensible. Being the bread-and-butter car. ;-)

  8. Form follows function, that was what we were expecting, but Jason caught us off guard. I was thinking aero of the past and this is aero of today. Being a Formula 1 nut I can definetly relate to the aerodynamics Jason is talking about. Both the wings and the lower section of the car has an aerodynamic purpose and that´s what the urSaab designers would have done if they did it today.

    And clamshell hood! Perfect!

    • Exactly! He focuses in the esense of Saab design and do not fall in the trap of (only) taking up past design features as gimmicks in a new design.

      Jason up!

  9. Swade! look at your headline: It should say “Castriota”, not “Catriota”
    :-D

  10. A said on March 2, 2011

    9-7??? Are they looking into the A8 and BMW 7-segment???

    • I’m all for it, but only after a few solid years of profit. Every non german manufacturer has tried, and failed, to enter that market segment. And the investment to make compared to the limited number of units you can expect to sell makes this a highly risky venture. If SAAB is also thinking of putting a new Sonett on the road they should focus on that since I think it’s a cheaper adventure.

      Having a nose bleed from slow selling Sonett is not as bas as bleeding out of your nose and ears with 2 risky projects.

      • I fully agree. Talking about learning how to walk before you can run.. then a 9-7 should not even be on the drawing table now. If not even VW could do it with Phaeton and Volvo struggling with S80 I would recommend Saab to stay off. The 9-5 is all we need right now.

        Ps The only market that could motivate a 9-7 might be China. But then the car has to be bulit there as well.

  11. I think this is a true Saab despite what some might say! The more I see of it i like it even more… I’m betting this car will end up in some movie in the near future, it’s that striking! Cheers to Saab and bring the Sonnet back:)

  12. Off course a Phoenix should have wings!!.

    This car is as much about symbolism, as it is about showing what the new 9-3 will look like.

    However I actually like Castriota, and I think the new 9-3 will be intelligent, driver oriented, understated, but at the same time feel very sporty.

  13. JL said on March 2, 2011

    Thanks for a great interview! Jason Castriota seems to be a darn good guy and a true SAABista and a true part of the SAAB team. Very reassuring and very nice to see. Makes me believe in a great SAAB future more than ever before :-)

  14. Every time Jason takes his time to talk more at length as he does in this video he really do make much sense.

    He is good at this interview thingy.

  15. This video clearly had a calming effect on me. Thank you for that.
    Yesterday, I thought of a lot of details in the PhoeniX as plain stupid but now I undestand that they´re not. I still don’t think this design is beautiful though, but it seems to be clever and that is very important.

  16. I don’t know… if these concepts works on a future 9-3, I mean to make it really saabish, since the PhoeniX itself is not so “saab” at first sight.
    I SAY “NO” TO RED INSTRUMENTS / HALO. Green forever.
    Cheers.

  17. My biggest takeway:

    1. 9-3 and a CLAMSHELL HOOD!
    2. The front wheel placement (More forward, less overhang)
    3. Strong Aero touches on the rear wheels
    4. The front wing extending into the lights

    I’m liking it more and more.. Perhaps in the future “AERO” as a model will mean that — heavy diffuser and back treatment.

    And the inside is really good. I downloaded the app, love the interface. Wish it could be 3D but I know the expense. The 45 degree flat screen is perfect.

  18. If Saab ever make a 9-7, it should either be a competitor to the Mercedes S-class, or a true terrain vehicle, something like a successor to the Volvo C303 series.

    But if Saab want to sell me a car, it either has to be a next gen 9-3 coupe or preferably, a new Sonett.

    • I think a SAAB 97 should be a practical 7-seat MPV – Think Galaxy / Sharan / etc with a big injection of SAAB/JC pizzazz!

      • I hope that won’t happen.
        An MPV can completely ruin a brands reputation because there is no duller or less glamorous vehicle out there. There’s a reason why BMW, Audi, Cadillac or Jaguar make MPV’s. PERHAPS Volvo could pull off a new retro styled Duett.

        A brand new true terrain vehicle, perhaps agressively marketed towards different countries armies, giving it a sort of H1 Hummer reputation.

  19. To complement this very interesting video – Great work, Swade! Thank you, Jason! – I can recommend this other video, where Jason talks with some people about the coming 9-3. It’s been posted in comments a few times before (TobiasE may have been first) but things are moving at such a furious pace at the moment, that I expect most people will not have noticed it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeJ_QMcIsuE

    Here’s my attempt at a transcription of an interesting snippet, starting at 1:10, where Castriota talks about which parts of the PhoeniX will find their way to the new 9-3:

    Other guy: …[unintelligible] and the grille?
    Castriota: Also the shape of the front. You’ll see that very round… almost nose cone, and you’ll see that strength, that muscular [unintelligible]. The rest of the car will be very clean, very Saab, in a more traditional way. So it’s… striking a balance.

    • I am please to hear that 2012 9-3 will be available in Hatchback Form,

      as Castriota mentioned.

      Big Surprise, Big Wow, Can;t Wait

    • I watched this a few hours after posting my comment below and at the end, when asked about specific 9-3 plans, Jason said they have signed off on three body styles (he wants five) and he was willing to confirm the convertible given the iconic need for its next generation. He then said the other will be “true Saabs” and with a few more sentences, he said there will be a hatch and not a sedan. I do recall an SU post that discssed this – it think it was the multi-part interview Swade did with Jason.

  20. Wonderful interview, and a million thanks to you both!

  21. Seems like I’m warming up with this design. I appreciate the fact that form seems to follow function in Jason’s design features. Very saaby, indeed. And of course it’s a concept car aiming at provocation and various opinions. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I can see shapes of both the old 92 and the Sonett… Having seen more pictures and videos of the concept, there are also a couple of features that really got me – such as the power dome hood, or the window in the hood showing the engine. That’s really cool. There is even something in the front that catches me, although the lights still look like Honda Civic or Accord to me. The frontal edge of the hood, cut straight but slightly drooped downwards, however, reminds me of the current 9-3. I’d love to see this in the NG 9-3 or 9-1/2. … Still, I dislike the 9-3 Griffin and especially the Independence Edition Convertible. I doubt that this represents Jason’s way of thinking. Maybe it’s just the color.

    • I agree. I am liking more aspects of this design to explore ideas and make points. I was glad to hear him say, though, that many style cues on the PhoeniX are exaggerated from where they will end up in production cars, including the front end. Photos of the direct on front end shot of the grill show that center opening as getting a little too much like a wide mouth grin. (Think how the front grill on the Mazda 3 has evolved recently. I used to really like the Mazda 3, but the latest “big grin” is just too much.) A slightly less exaggerated version of the PhoeniX front end should look very nice on the new 9-3.

  22. After watching this video I feel something akin to a sigh of relief. While I love this car, I was in the same camp as others who felt “hmm… can I really see this as the future of Saab?” But now that he expresses it in terms of, timeless minimalist understated Saab for bigger cars like 9-5 and “9-7″ while this language for more youthful sportier cars like 9-3 (and sonnet?) seems to make a whole lot more sense and is definitely something I could back 100%.

  23. Brilliant!
    Thank you Jason!

  24. My eyes are wet, of… satisfaction, happiness and anticipation. I was initially thrown off by the PhoeniX, disappointed and not happy at all. After this walk-around with JC (thanks a million Swade), I can only agree with previous posters – it grows on you, and when I really understand there is a reason for all these “things” going on, design-wise, form still follows function, and there are a lot of heritage and DNA. This was the extreme example for a specific purpose – to cause discussion, excitement and feelings. The team at Saab has obviously done exactly that. A bulls eye!
    Now I really feel I want that new 9-3. The design cues mentioned to flow through from the concept, answers many of my wants/needs in the new model, both on and under the skin.
    1. Clam shell bonnet with “muscles” ala 99.
    2. Front wheels forward. less overhang
    3. Front design, word mark with wings flowing into lights (and beyond?)
    4. Hybrid – Electric power reserve with torque vectoring (love that term)
    5. iQon – makes me drawl, answer to my thoughts for the last 5 years, love the power subscription idea.
    6. Made by Trolls in Sweden (one of my few connections with the mother country as an expat Swede)
    Saab is truly reborn, and if, as VM states, 2010 Saab were starting to crawl again, 2011 we are walking, 2012 we will be running, well, count me in in that race….
    Saab – my choice!

    (hmmm, now should I get that 9-3 sc aero griffin xwd anyways….???)

  25. The great comments above reflect the importance of understanding what the end result of this design exercise was supposed to be. In a comment I made yesterday, I mentioned my feel-good connection to this concept car and the Saab brand happened as I slowly read the press release that tried to relate what Jason did in this video. He took it further and answered some of my remaining questions about other design elements and his discussion of how the concept relates to the Saab evolution of design, including the new 9-3 was priceless!

    I’ve been at the Saab stand at various shows in past years as design folks were explaining a car to media (with and without video) but I’ve never seen the delivery and passion that Jason brings to the discussion. Pehaps his “talk fast” New York background helps. ;-)

    Thanks Swade and Jason for a fine production. I suspect this video will be found and posted elsewhere!

  26. Thanks for this, and nice job Swade!

    A bit disappointed that my favorite part of this car, the rear-glass and rear-end treatment, aren’t slated for the new 9-3. :(

    But I’ll get over it. ;)

  27. He has a great presence in front of the camera and I like the way he speaks of SAAB. Good Job Jason! I actually really like the front end and the openings along the bottom of the car. I hope we get some of those vents on the 9-3. Makes it much more aggressive looking! Keep the green tint on the lights though. It’s a winner! :)

  28. That helped a lot in understanding some aspects.

    Form follows function. And then? Do you want to show the function openly, or do you want to cover it in some kind of shell? JC answered that question quite clearly, since a lot of the aerodynamic elements of the car are very prominent, and can be seen.

    The question really is what Saab drivers prefer. I must say that I believe it to be more elegant if the function is covered, not openly presented. While being highly interested in technology, I don’t need to look at it all the time. Instead of a spoiler/wing, I’d rather have a shape that doesn’t need one (probably not possible with a car having such superb drag coeeficient that apparently still is to act like a super sports car), etc.

    I would really like to know if the sculptured, BMW like hood has an aerodynamic function as well. Swade, any chance to ask JC or an aerodynamic engineer?

  29. All my worries have evaporated and I have to say it again: This man is a genius. He seems to have thought everything over. Everything has a purpouse: either being of technical use or attracting attention to the brand. We’ll see a lot of what is useful in the 9-3 and very little of the radical touches.
    I still wouldn’t buy this car. But it hasn’t been designed to be bought.
    Congratulations, JC, congratulations.

    • And yet many here were all so ready to jump to the conclusion yesterday that it had not all been thought through or that JC did not really understand Saab. (In fact, I was very disappointed yesterday to see some comments from people implying JC had ruined Saab design because he was not Swedish….not you, bk-aero, but some others did.)

      Jason seemed ready for that in acknowledging that parts of this concept would be controversial….and he kind of smiled when that was mentioned…..knowing that that was partly his intention. The worst thing would have been if the media and attendees at the show had ignored the PhoeniX. Looks like he achieved his goal, and knew what he was doing. Bravo, JC and your design team!

  30. SWade — great interview. Incredibly informative. Really assists in an understanding of this concept and what it means (and does not mean) for Saab’s future — and future Saabs. Jason C. is an extraordinarily impressive person and a great “front man” for the company.

  31. OK, so I haven’t been overly positive about this concept car, mainly because I feel that it is a bit too cluttered (for my taste) obscuring the nice Saab design cues that Jason is so passionately talking about. In such I have been fully commenting on the outside design of the PhoeniX. What I left out is that this is a FULL concept car, it’s riding on an existing platform, it is using an existing motor and it is powering an existing drive train. Putting all that together in such short time, starting at a company that was barely off life support last year is a Major feat!
    In Jason Saab has found a very passionate guy who still has his feet firmly planted in reality, I’m convinced after hearing this very informal interview.
    The frankness with which Saab people are answering Swade’s questions again provides us with much more reliable information than what reaches the motoring press through the official Saab PR channels. Swade, Please Don’t Go!
    Or at least become our new Djup Struppe in some official Saab function.

  32. And now being even more excited about the new 9-3 hatchback to come…..I guess it is time to start saving my money for my next Saab. :-)

  33. I think the car is bold statement – just what is needed.
    Lets face it in 2024 there will be people complaining that the new 2025 9-3 has lost its way, that there is not enough Phoenix in the car :)
    There will probably even be a campaign to “bring back the wings”. Of course some one will still be campaigining to dust off the OG 900 tooling even then ;)

    • By 2025 I want my flying car! After all, when I was growing up we were told in the 2000s everyone would have a flying car. :-)

      And with Saab’s aircraft heritage, they should be on the front lines of that….in another 12 years or so….

  34. I couldn’t have said it any better or wished for a better ambassador for Saab. Great work Jason.

    It just works. From the grill form piercing into and through the headlights, to the way the surfaces of the rear decklid form a subtle convex then concave curve right at the lip, it’s all done beautifully. Get some rest man, and hopefully I’ll be getting you a round of drinks soon enough in NY.

    Geneva has been a huge coup for Saab, just imagine what next year will be like?

  35. I came to respect this man as a whole new entity, an asset to Saab for the forthcoming years after this interview.. He believes in Saab, and he breathes Saab. He is very passionate on design and understands it…and I am sure after many many interviews, he has turned himself to “11.”

    Big Props to Jason Castriota and Thank You for your contributive work, and congratulations as this is your very first design for Saab :) You have a very great PR skills to being able to explain meticulously. Now take a great sleep Jason, you are seemed very exhausted..

    Btw What is Swade’s last question to Mr. Castriota? did not get it.

      • It gets better. Here’s Chris talking to car design news going off about supercars and their boring designs, like the Veyron’s A-pillar. The scary thing is, he sounds just like Charlie Sheen. I can just seem him screaming “I have tiger blood running through my veins! Winning.” Cue dramatic music in the background from the Ferrari stand and it all adds up to one hilarious picture. I actually respect the guy, he’s funny too, but he must have been having an off week here.

        • So what has Chris Bangle going for him to talk down each design and designer that he encounters? His not doing anything interesting from 1992 until 2001 at BMW, finally culminating in the BMW 7 Bangle Butt? Or his RR flying brick design?
          He sounds like a very frustrated, disillusioned and sour man who is coasting on his seniority and is taking respect for granted. We have zillions of these kind of guys in academics. They did something interesting in a very distant past, but should now be better off in a nice cozy and dusty little office in the basement. Unfortunately they tend to come out for the coffee and cookies at seminars and then start harassing the young and bright. Ugh, nasty breed.

  36. Thanks a million, Swade! Strong work. If I can’t make it to Geneva, having you there to report is the next best thing!

  37. The more I see PhoeniX the more I love it. It’s got to be the basis of a new Sonnet, pleeeease!

    I can now see why VM can contemplate giving up Sypker when he has such a briliant designer and team at Saab. He can have his cake and eat it all in one great company.

    Saab are on the up!!!

  38. “just to confirm : you do own Aero, do you?”
    Haha, eat this professor Bangle ! :)

    Wish we could hear about the red color scheme in dashboard and interior ?

  39. Love the concept, great designer, and like I said from the day Jason came on board.

    “the new and improved Chris Bangle version 2.0 is in town”.

    Not in a bad way though, he will do to Saab what Bangle did to BMW. Try to stretch the limits, see the extremes. thats not so bad.

    And one last thing. Volkswagen/Audi called. They want their red interior lights back.

  40. I really DO like the PhoeniX, save for a few concept-only aspects that won’t be seen in future Saabs anyway. I like “buttresses.” They’re flamboyant in the way European exotic sports cars are–which is exactly an element I’ve felt was lacking during some of the GM years.

    I really like Jason Castriota (and not just because we share the same first name ;) ). It sounds like he will bring to Saab exactly what it needs, aside from Jan-Ake and Victor Muller (and often overlooked factory workers and dealerships).

    I was skeptical I’d be able to have the opportunity to feel this way about Saab’s future, as has been mentioned by many others… I’m genuinely excited about where they’re going, and thankful they’re still here.

    *proud Saaber*

  41. Great video, thanks Swade and the whole SaabsUnited team.

    Anyone else notice the view from the rear side looking forwards (at around 3:40 time on the video) – so reminiscent of the old pre 99 SAAB shape.

  42. The future will be wind tunnel efficiencies and while this concept is out there it does serve a purpose. A cd of .25 is not easy to get and this clearly shows the engineering might of Saab. I am very pleased with this. It shows the engineering world that Saab is here and has their finger on the pulse of the automotive future.

    To those that are nervous relax. They needed to make an engineering statement that showed the automotive press that Saab is serious about automotive design and won’t be sitting on the sidelines. It’s clear to me that Saab will be a design and engineering leader. This is the direction Saab needs to go in my opinion. I’m excited for the future. Put my name on the list for the next Phoenix based 9-3.

    Unfortunately most of the automotive press is uneducated about car design and will probably be clueless to the engineering fortitude before them.

  43. Just for reference here is a list of cars and their CdA.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_drag_coefficient

  44. Clamshell hood: YES
    Red dash lights: NO NO NO NO, I will never buy a car with other dash lights than green

    I appreciate Saab’s efforts in creating a new design language but is that necessary to do every few years? However, the Aero X was in my view much better and less axtravagant with more possibilities to put something on the road than this ” thing”. Even if it’s just a concept the wings on the side are just plain hideous even if their shape follows the function (as it should be).

  45. BT said on March 7, 2011

    Ok, I have to admit, I’ve been on the fence about the PhoeniX until I saw the video and got Jason’s very thoughtful and insightful explanation. I have to say, I’m won over, both on the PhoeniX itself, and Mr. Castriota. Way to go!

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