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The story of the 9-3 Phoenix

February 20, 2013 in Jason Castriota Design

Saab_93_nose side copySaabsUnited can finally bring you the 9-3 prototype, designed by Jason Castriota. The first images of this car was sent to us in early august 2011, these were three blurry computer generated images that has not surfaced until february this year. Why we waited to release any images or photos until now was out of respect for the work that Jason Castriota did for SAAB and in the hopes that the car might one day actually be produced.

We have since then received a number of images and photos of varying quality. During this time we kept a very good relationship with Jason and now it seams that this car will probably never be built, however it does not mean the end of this story.


Being able to present this car to the world in the way we do here, we hope that it will gain the recognition it deserves and that it could one day lead to a situation where we can take our place behind the steering-wheel of a Saab, once again designed by Jason Castriota. Over the past 6 months I have come to know Jason well and I’ve come to greatly respect him and the work that he did. Everyone of course have different taste but when you really understand how and why a car was designed in the way that it was, you come to respect and in the end appreciate the car in a completely new way.

So the time has come for us to present the SAAB 9-3 Phoenix. Its mission, to replace the current Saab 9-3 Griffin that was in production until 2011. Shortly after Spyker took over SAAB Automobile AB, about two years ago now Jan Åke Jonsson & Victor Muller got in touch with critically acclaimed designer Jason Castriota, Jan Åke Jonsson gave Jason the mission to design a new replacement for the aging Saab 9-3, another important piece of the mission was also to reduce current design costs by as much as 40%. They met first in Geneva and then again a month later in New York.

In 2007, GM made a design study in Rüsselsheim, Germany for the replacement of SAAB’s 9-3 line. Simon Padian supervised the design language but the general work was performed in Russelsheim and Detroit where GM had placed the majority of its designers and engineering assets. This study resulted in a clay model and a number of computer models which we have presented here previously. Designing a car is a major undertaking and Saab in 2010 needed a replacement for the 9-3. The management at Saab felt that a new design language was needed in order to further separate Saab from GM.

Jason Castriota’s mission from Saab was to design a car that captured the historical roots of the company while bringing out something new that could be based on the new flexible PhoeniX-platform that Saab had developed for a couple of years. Another criteria was that everyone needed to instantly see that the car was a Saab, without looking at the logo, while at the same time feel that the car was ground breaking and new. Having these criteria in mind you can understand the difficult job Jason was given, considering the long and important history of different designs that Saab has. To keep thing simple, Jason was given free reign to create a car within certain limitations and this is what he accomplished.

Designing a car is of course in the end a compromise of what you want the car to look like given the restrictions of what the engineers can create. Jason has said in many interviews that there was a give and take, and in many ways the process was challenging but also rewarding. The design pushed the engineers to revamp the entire platform to push the wheelbase out, to tweak the aerodynamics, and to make the car more composed on the road. But in the end, the most important factor was of course something different but very elementary.

This is as close to a final version the design team got. An Aero version is being presented to the Chinese delegation from Pang Da & Youngman, May 27th  2011. ©SaabsUnited

This is as close to a final version the design team got. An Aero version is being presented to the Chinese delegation from Pang Da & Youngman, May 27th 2011. ©SaabsUnited

Early on, it was made clear to Jason and his team that time and money were vital factors. The car needed to be designed, constructed and more or less ready by the end of 2011 in order to be launched at Geneva 2012. Looking back at December 2011 when the team was still working hard on finishing the project, the car the body design and it’s related engineering was nearly completed, but the final data would not be ready until spring 2012, which meant that the car would not be completed until the fall 2012 at the earliest.  In the end the interior proved to be the largest hurdle to complete in the compressed time frame and limited budget, as significant technology and material changes kept moving the target and in turn the time necessary to finalize the design.

Normally when a car leaves the development phase and is prepared for production, it takes about 6-8 months to find out how to build the car, which parts to install when and where. SAAB used a GM virtual system which greatly decreased this phase in time and costs but given the details we’ve found out about the development stage of the car, the earliest production versions of this car wouldn’t show up until early 2014.

In September of 2010 Jason was also given the task of developing a brand new concept car that would hit at Saab’s new design language. This car also had another purpose, Saab was short on cash, in reality Saab desperately needed a financial partner and Saab needed to get eyes focused on themselves somehow. The Phoenix concept car was presented at Geneva 2011 and really caught the eyes of the world. The car ultimately ended up being one of the most talked about car by reporters from all over the world who visited the auto-show, mission accomplished. Having Saabs situation in mind gives us a better understand of why the Phoenix concept came to be, why iQon, eAAM and the ePower were all the subject of many Saab press releases ahead of when they were originally supposed to be presented.

In October 2010 the first prototypes of the 9-3 Phoenix were completed and it was placed next to a number of other design studies that were ordered including the old GM version made back in 2007. Jason’s version was picked and the design team was instructed to make a 5-Door hatch and a Convertible. Rather than develop a sedan followed by a hatch variant,  the management team decided to develop a real 5-Door hatch-back without compromise and this version then came to be the “main” version of the 9-3 Phoenix.

There were of course other development projects in progress at SAAB, one of them was the 9-5 (SC) SportsCombi which was considered vital to future of SAAB. The 9-5 SC still had issues with the electrical system and D-pillar construction which wasn’t strong enough. Another issue that engineers were busy with was the installation of an advanced rear-view camera, a component that drivers get used to very quickly and in the end rely upon and thus has to work at all times. A lot of work also went into getting a diesel into the 9-5 and 9-4x.

Due to the lack of funds which really started to show at the end of 2010, some resources were claimed to be moved from the other projects to focus on the 9-3 Phoenix, since this car was considered to be the real money maker and most important product for the Chinese market. To shift focus towards the 9-3 Phoenix was a calculated risk made by managers, obviously under great pressure to deliver but also great evidence of the confidence the management team had for the work Jason Castriota did at SAAB.

The power-plant is of course one of the key aspects of a car. The 9-3 Phoenix was to be launched with a 1,6 liter turbo engine, codenamed N47 and made by BMW. The N47 was originally a 1,6 liter 136 hp engine which was developed into a HOT engine by Saab delivering hp in the range of 200-220. This high-output engine found its way into other BMW products now in production. Since 2009 Saab had worked on a BMW two liter engine, codenamed B48 whose engine block could be used with both gasoline and diesel. A diesel engine is normally about twice as expensive to make, compared to a gasoline engine, having the same engine, with some minor change in components only, being able to work as both a gasoline and diesel engine is highly cost effective.

The work with BMW did not stop there. GM had offered to sell SAAB start-stop technology developed by GM at the price of 25 million USD, a price that was just too high. In the end BMW provided the start-stop technology to SAAB and work progressed for a significant amount of time.

Meanwhile development of the 9-3 Phoenix progressed and it was decided that the car would be launched in two versions, the Vector and the Aero. The Vector version having 17″ wheels with the option of 18″, the Aero would be shipped with 18″ and having options as high as 20″. Chromed components in the lower area of the front as well as chromed rear-view mirrors distinguished the Aero from the Vector variant. From people who have seen and worked on the vector variant, we heard that despite being the economy version of the car, it had a sense of quality that was unlike anything Saab had previously delivered and it was  equipped to a level far above what the competitors had.

During the complete design process a lot of compromises were made between engineers and designers, one of the main issues that Jason Castriota focused on was lengthen the wheelbase and shorten the over-hang (area in front of the front wheel). Some of the things Jason did not get were a brand new type of headlights and wing mirrors and thus major component sharing took place with the 9-5 as this was much more financially efficient. Even so a facelift was planned for about 2-3 years into the production phase where the 9-3 Phoenix would get the brand new type of headlights and mirrors, roughly at the same time as a facelift for the 9-5 was scheduled. Considering the timeline discussed, this would have happened in mid 2014. An overall facelift and re-design of Saab’s other products was also on the table including a new sports car called the 91 Sonnett as well as a 2+2 sports car based off the PhonieX Cocept to be called the Sonnett..

SAAB Sonnett

The new SAAB Sonnett (design-study only) ©SaabsUnited

This car was something that I know Victor Muller had dreamed about for a long time however one of the things that were not included in Saab’s business-plan. The car could become a reality if Saab had managed to establish a working partnership with Youngman and Pang Da, sadly thought that did not happen. The image on the right is one of the versions made in different design studies and in no way the final version.

All the time up to the final day SAAB Automobile AB was alive, December 19th 2011, Jason Castriota and his team were working on finishing their beautiful car and up until then, facing the reality that they were working even though the possibility of not being paid, was a real threat. In the end, Jason Castriota worked for Saab for almost two years, even though Saab failed to pay for his team’s services for the last 8 months of their efforts.   Regardless, JC and his team believed in Saab and pushed forward with their work to give the company the best chance for survival.   Along the way, they managed to establish a more cost and time efficient design process that was nearly 40% cheaper than what Saab had done before, delivered a brand new concept car,  and almost finished the 9-3 replacement and its variants.

My first impression of this car was mixed, I felt that it was something brand new and something I had to get used to. I felt the same way about the Phoenix concept car and when I think back in time, I’ve felt exactly the same way about every new car Saab has launched. Since I’ve come to appreciate and love every car that Saab has ever made I felt that this was probably a good thing. Today I’m as in love with this car as I am with any other Saab and I believe that if it would have been produced, it would have been loved by a lot of people and greatly earned it’s place as a true Saab-Saab in the history of this great brand.

Jason Castriota Saab 9-3 Phoenix

This is the prototype that was shown in october 2010. This car was made for wind-tunnel testing. ©SaabsUnited

225 responses to The story of the 9-3 Phoenix

  1. Reaction 1: what the h–l is that?!?

    Reaction 2: Why is it so bloated? What were they thinking? Id rather have the griffin thanks!

    Reaction 3 (after a short break involving crushing disappointment): hmm, actually its not THAT bad….

    I reckon with a few visual tweaks (like getting rid of the horrendous lower bumper “smile” and a rethink of the blacked out rear door glass dividers) and a few more months spent on the design this could have been a great looking car.
    Bit of a shame overall though as i have been waiting for this day for a VERY long time and the car i thought this would be….. Hasnt arrived :(

    Any more pics Tim? Please change my mind!

    • Ok, now the last picture of the wind tunnell mule is REALLY growing on me, but that lower grille! Argh!

      • That smile in the lower air dam is extremely aerodynamic and many other automakers are using it on their 2014 sport models. Case in point:

        • Aerodynamic yes, but not very nice to look at. In my opinion anyway….

          ….. The 4 series above! Haha! (not joking)

          I guess ill have to take a look at jc’s 9-3 in a few days time, maybe my mind will change. The side profile and little “swish” in the doors that continues up the rear bumper is v cool though.

        • To me the Bimmer looks like the mix between a growling bulldog and a Caiman.
          Honestly, is this a car for people who are into road rage…

          • correction – “this is a car for people with no imagination”. I personally see MOST BMW’s as white goods, replaceable items that serve a purpose, but have no real flair/redeeming features (read MOST). I’ve had a look at the 9-3 phoenix again today and….. well….. i just can’t seem to like it :( such a crying shame as SAAB really deserved better than this (unless this isn’t the final model?), especially seeing as it must have been shown to various people high up in the company throughout the design stages? the “eyebrowed” 2008+ models look FAR better than this in my opinion.

            Roll on the interview though! Really looking forward to it :)

          • To me it looks like an angry boss =P

  2. The Sonett looks awesome though. Any more pictures of that one???

    • Not me, sorry to say. Looks like a Mercedes CLS. Never liked that design.

    • I also think the Sonnet is much better, but I would have preferred the Aero X as the model for a new Sonett

    • Agreed. The Sonnet drawing looks killer! Very sharp lines, muscular, elegant. It looks like a complete game changer to me.

  3. Seeing it for the first time, I didn’t go “wow”, but rather “hmmm”. There’s something familiar about this car – these front lights… Fiat Marea… no… Ford Focus. Perhaps. There’s something plasticky about the front. After some more consideration, I like to think it looks like the nose of a 9-6.

    The sideline definitely says OG 900 to me. A little awkward design, but with strong Saab cues. I’ve always been a sucker for 900.

    Is it a strong design? Not groundbraking for sure, could have been better. Would I buy it? Yes. Would it save the company? No, I don’t think so.

  4. I’d like it much better with a traditional Saab bonnet line:

    But the first picture (CGI) looks much better!

  5. I like it. It’s like all Saabs, different but in a good way.

    I can’t understand what Nevs is going to use as their replacement for the 9-3. Why design a new car again when they already have one that is almost ready (at least the design). It must be way cheaper to pay Jason for his work than to design a totally new 9-3.

    Nevs, come on, just build it.

  6. Thanks Tim … I was really eager to see this!

    This car gives me a strange feelings:

    – I look at the picture of the back you posted some days ago and I really love that snapshot of the back
    – I look at the front, bonnet and grille and I really like them
    – I look at how the lines flow into the windscreen and I really like them
    I really like the sides and I really like them
    – I look at the overall car and I do not like it

    it is really strange, maybe I just miss the balance/proportions between the parts …. very strange!

    • I think it may be the angles in these two photos. Some of the early pictures of the new 9-5 did not look so good at certain angles, but when you could see the car in person, walk around it, sit in it and drive it… was wonderful! From what I see here, I think I like it and would like to see more photos from more angles. Another color wold be good to see also. Too bad SU can’t have a “build your new 9-3″ app to let us see it in different colors with 360 degree rotation! :-)

      • Yes, you are right … also the NG 9-5 was giving me the same feelings, especially at the connection between sides and tail …

    • The really difficult matter and great art in design and sculpture will always be the wholeness as a wholeness a not just a sum of details…- Rather few designers – and almost no -“family-car”-manufactures – are capable of doing this…. It takes talent. lots of experience, artistic matureness and a philosophy to get there…
      “Its a proof of high culture to say the greatest matters in the simplest way” (Emerson)

  7. I think it’s pretty clear from these comments – the majority of us don’t feel that this car would’ve saved Saab. NEVS, you may build something else…

    • Well you know it was never just one product that would save the company. This car would replace one other car, not all the others…

      Saving Saab was a combined effort of all their products…

      • Which was all the more reason to have a smaller, more niche model, like a 9-1, or a new Sonnet. Audi has the TT, VW has the Golf R, BMW has the 1-series M model, Nissan has the 370Z, Mini has the Cooper S, and on, and on… These are products that can draw people in, even if they end up buying another of those manufacturers lesser products.

        • Nick, you get it. A replacement model would have never “saved” Saab and won’t make NEVS successful either, EV or not. What has been needed for decades was a 9-1 entry level Saab. The Saabaru 9-2 was a decent rebranding effort, but wasn’t around long enough to have any sort of impact, except maybe a negative one since it was a Subaru, not a Saab (though I liked it). But honestly, NEVS really needs to consider a small gas engined Saab—-efficient, fun, affordable—-to build a foundation for their business. A “foundation” of $50,000-plus electric cars will doom them before they even start. I hope they understand that.

          • The 9-2 was ok from an exterior point of view, but once I sat down in the driver’s seat, I was very disappointed. Subaru seats are flat, and HARD. They didn’t even bother to cover up any of the interior details to look like a SAAB. But the seats were unforgiveable… Yuck. SAAB seats are legendary for their comfort.

            • Yes, the best, most supportive seats I’ve ever had in cars (and I’ve had lots of cars) were a Peugeot 505 and Saab 9-5. I’ve also had a variety of Cadillacs and Buicks with VERY comfortable/plush seats and a lot of legroom—-but on longer trips, the Peugeot and Saab seats seem to be better for the back and thighs—-more support where you need it even if the seats aren’t as cushy and immediately comfortable like the Buick/Caddy seats.

      • True, but I don’t see how this sells better than the old 9-3. Looks wise, it appears to be a step below. Maybe, this could’ve been the 9-2.

  8. Not good enough. The design by Padian (am I correct) was way better. This one doesn’t look at all like it came from one designer. It’s not consistent. My advice..skip this one and put it in the museum.

  9. People are so judgemental on the basis of a few photographs – I recall the negativity in May 2002 when the 9-3ss was launched and when the first images of Dame Edna emerged….

    You only have to look at Andert Tunberg’s books to see how the NG900, 9-5 and 9-3SS evolved during the development process….

  10. First of all, thanx Tim for the post, impressive work
    About the design: Not in my taste.
    Someone mentioned SsangYong and I agree. I am aware of that it should not be easy to love the design of a new car when yo see it the first time. You should be pushed into a new direction even if you don’t want to and after some time you start to like it and understand that you have grown to a new level.I can compare with Alfa Romeo 75 that I totally hated when I saw it for the first time and then started to like more and more. I could also compare it with beeing a David Bowie fan loving, Hunky dory to Diamond dogs albums and then get Low, Heroes an especially the Lodger album where I never where able to follow
    So I am a bit sceptic about this design.

  11. I was wondering which exact car did this 9-3 remind me of and I finally got it – it’s a modern-day Dodge Lancer!

    I’d rather have a Saab though.

  12. Not good at all. I actually feel embarrassed for Jason C., but to tell you the truth the Phoenix actually had terrible proportions, much like this. This is really disappointing to say the least.

    It looks like an 10 year old Hyundai hatchback mixed with the new Chrysler 200. Real, Real Bad.

  13. Perhaps it is a new Saabaru if Saab had been the lead designer, rather than Subaru. Either way, not good.

  14. Can we see it from face forward, the back? I think the angle it is shown, doesn’t give the complete design story. I think to give an honest opinion, one must see the (complete) design.
    I could love this car in Black, or even can see this car beautiful in Eucalyptus Green and with more aggressive wheels.

    Jason and his team should be commended for such beautiful work with limited money as well as time, and hopefully this sad and really tragic story can have the HAPPY ENDING IT DESERVES!

  15. that thing would not have saved SAAB, it looks half way between a wedding and funeral car.

  16. Looks a bit Chinese or more than a bit… And a cheap. Maybe build to entertain Chinese investors (pangda and youngman)

  17. Thank you very much for sharing this story.

  18. If NEVS launch this car, it will sink without trace. Bland, dull, boring and just plain ugly. Anything NEVS produce has to compete across the whole market, not just the sector that appeals to old farts. Sorry, but for me this is a non-starter.

  19. Hmm, it may need time to sink in, but at first glance, I have a preference for Padian’s version and the design cues from the 9-X biohybrid.

    Now it looks like Jason’s Phoenix is strongly influenced by the 5 door classic 900, which IMHO is not looking very nice. But again, we can only see it from one angle and it may grow on you as you get used to it.

    Otherwise the other design features of 40% less parts, small overhangs and longer wheelbase are great!

  20. I really need more pictures with better lightening and other angels than this to make a definit remark about whether the design is poor or good.
    But looking at Jason’s Maserati GranTurismo which is one of the most beuatiful designs among modern cars, I can´t see this new SAAB design working without altering many key design features.
    A SAAB design for me is a car that is unique and beautiful for 5, 10, 30, 150 years from now. Like the one I got, og9-3 Aero. 😉
    Watching Top Gear US last night with the Viggen competing againt rubbish US cars I felt proud owning a SAAB.

  21. I have to admit that the first thought thru my mind was WTF is this? But after looking at it for a few minutes a have to say that a really like it, it grows on you and there is a lot of nice touches.

    The only thing I don’t like is the flat roofline, makes it look way too big, a sloping roofline would have made it a slam dunk!!!

    A real shame it was never built!

  22. Not the game changer and Saab saviour we all hoped for. Proportions all just plain wrong and, and the styling is weird and not agressive enough and just wouldn’t cut it with opposition.

    It may just take time to grow on us but I fear for the future if this is it.

    Why no rear views ????????

    • We’re only allowed to give you these at this point. But just for you I colored in a cosmic blue version of the released rear 3/4.

  23. Why is it so hard to make modern version of the 9000 hatch and call it 9-3? The cars have grown that much in 20 years.
    The modern high bulky (and safe) front end just doesn’t work with the c900 slope anymore.
    Even the OG 9-3 and 9-3 sedan’s have high trunks that balance the designs nicely.

  24. Looking at the photo from October 2010, I could have voted ‘it needs more work’. But what the photo from May 2011 shows me (i.e. after it had more work done to it) is that the work went in the wrong direction, so I had to vote ‘don’t like it at all’.

  25. I’ve been tring hard but I simply don’t see any SAAB in this – it strikes me totally as SAAB modified Subaru Impreza specially the front.

  26. The fact that it’s a hatchback is a real plus for me! Overall the styling is…”ok”. Could use a “character” line of some sort along the side.

    Sonnet? The spelling of the original one was “Sonett”…supposedly meant “so neat”. Would want a new Sonett to be small…like a real sports car should be, not huge like a Corvette.

  27. You know, the more I look at this design (and especially from the photos in Auto Motor & Sport), the more it looks like a Tatra, especially from the back.

    Now I love Tatras, but I don’t see it as a compelling design aesthetic for Saab.

  28. I looked, and looked, and looked….and waited before critiquing someones long hours of work.

    But… Its just not a pretty car , based on those (admittedly not great) pics. The rear part from behind the rear doors somehow looks like it is from a different car than the front . The proportions don’t seem to be harmonious for some undefined reason.

    All in all, it was, and it looks like it was a) rushed, and b) done on a budget.

    Maybe it was still a work in progress, but if this close to the final form, then the Germans wouldn’t have had anything to worry about. It needed to be a pretty car, not ‘a quirky car’ . Unfortunately, it isn’t . The most recent 9-3 was/is a pretty car, certainly in sedan form.

  29. It’s so ugly it almost hurts my eyes. For the first time I’m actually glad Saab went bankrupt and someone else took over.

  30. Looks underwhelming to me, but that’s just my opinion.

  31. I must say I am disappointed although I never liked Jason’s work so far. I almost feel happy that it was never released. I love Victor for trying to save Saab, given his track record with Spyker one should have known that he could not maintain the design language of Saab. Saab is all about functional, Scandinavian, less is more design. This is nothing like it. It has strange proportions and a lot of unnecessary details like that bump on the hood. This look more like a Huyndai or a Subaru, cheap and asian. I am really happy that Simon Padian made the last design in production for Saab. I really love the Aero X and all the late models which can be derived from that extremely successful design study. Padian´s early design for the next 9-3 is fantastic from my point of view. We should elevate Padian for his work as the last true designer at Saab. Let’s not mix this up with the great hope we had for the new 9-3 concerning the technological platform and the new power trains etc. The new 9-3 would have been a fantastic car if it would have been built, but it would have deserved a true Saab design.

    Griffin up Padian. Long live Saab!

  32. The more I look at it, the more I appreciate this car and the work of Jason Castriota. I particularly like the aerodynamical solutions chosen here and there.

  33. From the a-pillar to the end it is a typically Saab. i ‘ll see the 900 classic style. And thats what i like. What i really like. But the front looks like a little bit Audi (front lights)/Opel(side front view)/…. To much copy paste in my eyes. I would like see the front of the 9-x air on it… this is, with one view, a typically saab. But this front is at the first view NOT a saab.

  34. The front end is heavy. But that’s pedestrian safety for you. All cars will look like this soon.

    • That’s really a shame if you’re right. Maybe pedestrians need to put a helmet on or stay in bed. Or maybe governments should leave us the hell alone—-instead of inventing crisis after crisis and stupid solutions. Good lord.

    • This is true, I spoke with Jason briefly last night and he said that a beefier front end is what you will see on all front engine cars very soon because of such things as pedestrian safety. Thankfully for sports cars, the engine placement means that they generally will not change. For most of us and the types of cars we drive though, we will see pretty dramatic changes in front end styling to comply with such rules.

      • I don’t know if this applier to the whole world, but here in London, pedestrians simply are NOT looking when they cross the roads, hence increased accidents.
        They all seem to think roads are part of the pavements, but this could also be, that with raised roads joining pavements [hence humps at junctions], pedestrians think they own the roads too.

  35. I think that it is absolutely wonderful. Job well done Jason Castriota and team!

  36. That is one ugly, cheap looking rig. I let it go a day to see if it would grow on me and ……….. hell no.

  37. Interesting read, amd hats off to Jason C for sticking with it. Are there any better pictures? I need to see the 3/4 hatch view for the back. These pics look pretty similar to the current 9-5. I really like the 9-5, but I was hoping for more of a throw back to the 900 styling. Post so e better pics so we can get a good feel for the car! Thanks Tim!

  38. Finally after looking at this car 1000 times I understand what I do not like about this car …. as mentioned before, if I look at the parts of the car I like them individually … I like the front/grill that I find very modern and aggressive … the bonnet that is sculpted also transmits aggressiveness …. I like the way those lines flow into the windscreen … I like the sides of the car …. I like the picture of the back that is a re-styling of the classic 900 back (the car that made me fall in love with SAAB)

    the problem to me is how these parts work together in terms of design language … the front is quite squared and very “loaded” from a design point of view, like for example that nose in the top centre of the bonnet, with several lines that flow together (it reminds me of the concept that Jason called “liquid design” of the Phoenix) …… while the tail is very rounded, curvaceous and overall very clean in terms of design, a very good example of Swedish minimalist design …

    to metwo different design approaches that do not work together …

  39. Thanks SU for sharing. To me the part after the C-section , from this angle, looks like a shitting dog. It should look more powerful and expressive . The front I could used to, but to me it’s a bit to sweet/soft.

  40. I keep thinking how sad it is that none of the frenetic energy described in Tim’s excellent article resulted in a new Saab, no matter what you may think about the design. Thanks for sharing this great story and photos. There are simply no companies making interesting vehicles anymore except for maybe Land Rover Jaguar.

  41. Now that I’ve had a few days to let the design settle in—-I consider it “very good” or at least “better than satisfactory.” I think for me—-the idea is to compare it with other products that are available in this size range and probably price range. From my point of view, it boils down to how it stacks up against the competition from other manufacturers—-not to previous Saabs, or “what it could have been” or other Saab concepts that never made it to production. I’m looking at it in a functional way—-if this car were introduced, what would I think of it compared to other cars in that category that I would consider buying? And taken in that context, I’ve declared it a winner. Maybe not the “Champion” I would have hoped for (yet) with a comfortable margin of victory—-not that maybe—-but certainly a win I could be very happy driving. I think there are a few things that would improve the look—-things that wouldn’t be that hard or expensive to accomplish. I would lower the “wings” grill on the front end down a few inches—closer to centerline instead of so high up. This design makes the car look like it has an open “big mouth.” That could also serve to eliminate the horizontal bars that “continue” into the headlamps—not needed. Some other treatment could be inserted in that space. I mentioned earler that I’d like some of the sheetmetal to be rounded out/smoother instead of creases. That might be too costly. My idea was at the rear of the car, near the C pillar—-smoothing/rounding things out could make the car look like vintage ’60s Saabs—-a good thing. And yes, part of it would be for “retro” nostalgia—-but really, it’s just a better look in my opinion—-the “retro” aspect being a bonus for those who like that sort of thing.

    • The world has moved on from ‘retro’. Just ask Jaguar, if you don’t believe me.

      • I tend not to overthink it. If the idea is to TRY for a retro design, maybe the world has moved on. If the idea is to create a great design—and in modifying/improving it, you end up with retro styling cues—-so be it. Frankly, for me, “retro” isn’t because I’m longing for yesterday. But “retro” might very well be the end result if I’m desiging the car—-because a lot of the cars that have been designed lately look like generic trash. A lot of cars built in other decades—-the 60s come to mind—-were and are works of art, passionate. And if the world has also moved on from non-metallic real colors—-in favor of gray, silver, black and white exclusively—-screw the world. And screw the manufacturers who are saving a bundle of money by forcing 4 or 5 boring colors on us and making us believe “the world has moved on” from a wide color pallete, simply because they no longer want to offer 14 or 15 colors—common practice as recently as the 1980s. They seem to do a wonderful job of making sure “changing tastes” always save them a few bucks on manufacturing.

        • I don’t always agree with you, Angelo, but I would love to see more colors offered as well. I also think that some of the creases need to go – and I would kill for a retro Jag!

  42. First and foremost, Jason Castriota was and remains the wrong designer for SAAB. The udnerstated sportiness and elegance of SAAB was lost on the cartoonish and “matchbox” design sensibilities of Castriota. This to me is evidence of Jason’s failure to understand and evolve the design language. From his widely panned Phoenix concept to this monstrosity, the car looks sluggish, heavy and the proportions belie the design purity of SAAB. “Born of Jets” this is more akin to born of Blimps.

    I have worked with Simon Padian, and Anthonly Lo (whom was responsible for the Aero X). Simon is ten times the designer Jason could ever be. Period. Some of the renderings and design concepts from Simon would simply bring tears to the eyes of many. His almost innate understanding of where SAAB should be headed is simply remarkable. I have copies of some of these renderings and I will contact Simon, and with his permission I will gladly submit them to this site.

    That said, Viktor Meuller was another blunder, if you’ve ever seen a Spyker, you will understand why Jason’s design language appealed to him so, and why it was the antithesis of what a SAAB is. I am not a purist, yet I think the evolution, however drastic must speak to the values of a certain brand.

    • Wow, I’d like to see some of these design very much! I agree fully with you – Simon Padian, Michael Mauer and Anthony Lo designs are my favorite – so clean and beautiful. And they had that “wholeness” Troels is talking about in earlier comment to this post. Simple, light and very beautiful design. The only problem was an interior – seemed like no one really cared about it in concepts. For me the best future Saab is an updated 9-X BioHybrid and 9-X Air as a relatively small 9-1. With a more clean, natural and scandinavian interior, without focusing on gadgets and electronics. Light wood, clean lines going all over the interior, not chaotic. Great ergonomics, more physical controls, no stupid menus or touchscreens you cannot operate while driving. Volvo interior is the closest so far. And OG 9-5 which I drive :)

      • Michael I concur.

        That said, the interiors were a function of limited resources thus “GM parts bin” diving was a common compromise. What we had in our personal design wish list in renderings and mock-ups were light years ahead. I have to say that even the new 9-5 was a huge compromise. And a disappointing one at that.

        I will contact Simon in the next few days and I will see what I can do.

        • You are such a lucky person to have worked on these designs and in this team, I wish I had that opportunity too :) So sad to think that lots of concepts and ideas did not turn into production. I guess it’s even more sad for you since you’ve seen them and participated in creation. I wish we’ll see some too or better – something will make it into a new Saab car. By the way where did the former Saab design people go – different places, or still working as a team somewhere?

          • Simon is at Hareide Design, Anthony is with Renault, and Michael of course is at Porsche. Many have scattered and found work in other design studios. Some from what I understand have been retained by NEVS. Strangely enough when Viktor came on board I had hoped SAAB would take the lead in electrified propulsion. That was not part of his vision at all.

        • Axial,
          As an owner of a NG 9-5, I would LOVE to see what was planned for the interior of the car. I had ’99 and ’03 9-5s, which had interiors I absolutely loved.

        • Axial,
          any news? :)

    • Axial

      I agree with you. The design from Simon Padian, and Anthonly Lo shows us pure Saab Styling.

  43. Why do I get the feeling—-that if OUR Saab was still in business, thriving—and this model was introduced, for sale, at dealerships, ready for delivery—-the comments would be almost 100% favorable? The same people who are panning it because it wasn’t built and won’t be built—-would be crowing about how great it was, if it made it to production, as a Saab.

    • Incorrect, Angelo. Did you ever notice how many moved on to other brand e.g. stopped buying Saabs because the company didn’t deliver what the customer would have wanted. The NG 9-5 sedan springs to mind even though it looks great.
      I’m personally sooo tired of having to compromise when it comes to cars. Heck even an OG 9-3 looks better than the JC design I’m afraid. Would I spend $40-45.000 on a car like this? No. Didn’t do it on the 9-5 facelift (downgrade) either.
      If NEVS is ever going to build a new 9-3 hatchback with a IC engine they better do it right and for people who don’t want to own three cars but one that’s freaking fantastic. The way Saabs used to be. There aren’t that many potential customers left to be honest and almost half of the people that voted in the poll don’t like this.
      I’d feel a lot better knowing the car had at least a practical cargo space that the new team can copy? For the ‘non-battery’ version.

      • No, I wouldn’t spend 45K on a car like this, or 40K. Fully loaded, I’d consider 35k. Base model, I’d consider high 20s. There is Saab’s real problem—-pricing structure. They moved upmarket without staying anchored at the entry level and they lost their way. It’s funny—-during the Muller months, I don’t recall ever seeing an advertisement for the 9-3. I did see a few advertisements for the 9-5, a 50K car with no sunroof. Even the “venerable” 9-3—-had a market. But if you don’t reach that market—-you lose. Saab lost.

        • Angelo, you cannot make “fully loaded ” cars in Sweden and sell them in the US for $35k, without losing your ass.

          The SEK in 2002 was 10.6 to the dollar. It is currently 6.34.

          Therein lies your problem.

          • Oh Christ, Help Us. Is this true in the U.S. too? I guess for cars imported from Europe, they’ll automatically be butt ugly in the front then? Same with Japanese/American cars?

            • The above was a response to the discussion about pedestrian safety and uglier than hell front ends. Not sure how it landed here! Anyway Scand, if you’re right about not being able to sell a smallish, well equipped car in North America, built in Sweden—-fine—-we’ll have to push NEVS to work on getting things up and running in China to export from there. If that’s how you can compete around the world, so be it. The established, industrialized nations—if their labor unions have priced them out of the market—need to take a back seat to China I guess while they sock it to us. I want that car, so I’ll buy Chinese.

  44. I’d say it’s quite hideous.
    The whole idea of a Kombicoupé body is to have a large car look sporty. IMO, the roof section is too long and flat. The rear should start swooping a lot earlier. The rear just looks too big.
    I love the ridges in the hood, and the wind tunnel mockups headlights are alright, but in the see through model, they just don’t look agressive enough.
    My overall impression is a quite dull looking car. Nowhere near as agressive as it should be.

    • If you like that (which I do too, a lot) then I think you’ll like the rear 3/4 of Jason’s 9-3.

  45. This is the car that the NG 9-3 should have been – that, and a higher quality interior and we might still have Saabs.

  46. Looks like the front of one car was grafted on to the rear of another. I’ve owned just about every SAAB from the 96 on and would be the owner of an NG 9-5SC if it had been produced. This design represents the first SAAB that would cause me to buy something else based on the styling.

    Perhaps that is a good thing. SAAB didn’t sell enough of the models I owned, so maybe something like this would appeal to a broader market.

    Nonetheless, I hope this design is never produced. Having owned SAABs back when there were so few of them that owners waved as they passed, would make it difficult to know that I was wincing each time one of these went by.