PhoeniX European Tour 2011 – Trollhättan

I finally got to see the PhoeniX concept in the flesh. It is certainly not what we are used to from Saab and I liked what I saw.

Rather than attempt to take the world’s best picture of the PhoeniX, I instead opted for calling some attention to various details that caught my eye.

More follows after the jump:

Let us start the tour inside the PhoeniX. The cockpit is typically where a driver spends most of his time and it should be neat, functional as well as comfortable.
The pedals are not the strong point of this concept.
Behind the steering wheel, we see the feed from the side cameras that replace the mirrors a car would usually have. The big screen features the IQon system.
The seats caught some flak in our comments section. They look thin. That could mean they are not comfy, but as far as I know, it is impossible to tell without actually sitting in them. I was stuck behind a rope of some sorts and there was an usher present at all times. If it is possible to develop a thin seat that is still comfortable, then Saab would be the company that I trust to achieve this. I think the seats look great. I am not sure I am quite ready to abandon leather just yet. If it did not say ‘moo’ in a past life, it is usually not worth it in the long run.
One of the doors was open and I could certainly live with something like that. The red lighting is a bit much though. I love the green lighting in my 9-5. In case Jason still follows us here at SU: Why red? Is it because of The Muller Man? (My apologies to Victor, but you recently received a new nickname in the comments section — an affectionate one if I may add)
Which neatly brings us back to the exterior of the car.
There are quite a few things happening on the side of this car. The flying buttresses have received a lot of attention. Jason’s video was shown on the wall in front of the PhoeniX. He talks about how the buttresses helps shape the airstream and stabilize the car at high speeds. What he does not mention is that they finally found a neat place for the camera on the side. The mirrors are finally gone and replaced with these small and hopefully not so fragile cameras. We have seen side cameras in Saab’s prior concepts, but the design looked a bit odd on the 9-X BioHybrid. The flying buttresses neatly ties it all together.
Closeup of the side. This is not your average asian rice cooker. You either hate it or you love it. Make up your mind as I am sure SU will post a poll one of these days. If we have not already that is.
Long time readers may remember some of the discussions we had when the NG 9-5 was first revealed. What was going on behind the front wheel well? The answer was ‘nothing’. There was no extra channel for the air to escape, it was just makeup. The PhoeniX finally does something about it. Open the door and you get to see all the way in to the wheel. This design improves airflow. I wonder if this will also help keep the well free of snow and ice that can sometimes get packed inside there? I hope we get the chance to test this ourselves one day!
This is how it looks from the other side, with the door closed.
In case you were curious about those lights… I know I was! The turning signal was on, and the eyebrow (or part of the wing if you like) flashes yellow. I am not sure how visible this would be on the road, but I liked the idea.
From the rear, there are two flashing yellow arrows (>>) on each side that serves as the turning signal. I found them a bit hard to spot, and even more difficult to nail in a picture. It still looks cool though.

61 thoughts on “PhoeniX European Tour 2011 – Trollhättan”

  1. Haven’t scene a lot of comments on it, but that steering wheel, as weird as it seems, looks like it would feel nice in high speed cornering.

  2. To be honest, I hated the PhoeniX a little bit when it first was revealed. I don’t hate it anymore, but I’m still far from loving it. I do love the fact that it was made, though, and the attention it draws.
    I will soon get to see it in reality myself, maybe then I can finally make up my mind, but I don’t really count on it.

    • Well Lars, if someone walked up to you tomorrow, handed you a set of keys to this PhoeniX and told you “here, you take it”, how would you feel?

      I know what I would do, I would dance a little victory dance, then I would smile wide and maybe even drool a little.

      So to me, it is far from butt ugly. The 9-5 or the PhoeniX? That I can’t answer yet. PhoeniX or the Aero-X? Oh boy…

      • No it isn’t ugly. But most Mercs aren’t ugly neither in my opinion, and I still don’t want them.
        I’d lose credibility if I said I would turn down an offer to take the PhoeniX, wouldn’t I? Sure I’d accept it.
        My concern is that I don’t think it has the clean lines Saab has always been standing for, though. The 9-5 clearly has and so does the Aero-X.
        I still believe that the new 9-3 will be a Saab-Saab in all aspects and I am, very much looking forward to it.

  3. They got the rims finished !!!
    At Geneva the rims where single colour, and it wasn’t that great, but the CGI’s had this two colour theme and looked terrific.

    It looks more finished here. 🙂

  4. One thing that hit me today at the museum was watching the Aero X and the PhoeniX togheter. While the Aero X almost got a royal and mighty feeling to it, the phoeniX is the car that looks the most fun to drive. The Aero X looks heavy, long and grunty while the smaller PhoeniX actually looks ready for action – light and nimble. I would love the Aero X in my bedroom, as art. The Phoenix would be my gocart in the driveway.

    • I have also gotten that feeling, even though I have “only” seen the Aero X in reality and not the PhoeniX yet. The Aero X feel more majestic, a bit like a Rolls-Royce, when the PhoeniX (according to the pictures) feels more like a sporty Lotus. That is very exaggerated, but you get my point.

  5. A liquid Italian in an American muscle car.

    First impression Phoenix: “Well I could like it”

    First impression Aero X “Wow this is the future”

    • I hope JC is concious of Boccioni, but will also study Flaminio Bertoni.
      (let’s start a bout of name-dropping 😉 😀 )

      • No doubt that JC will know about the latter.
        I am less sure regarding Boccioni but that does not make the similarities in the form-languages less interesting. On the contrary I find those connections between different times and contexts very awakening for the curiosity. Can there bee some thing in our time stimulating those way of expression?? And could there be some hidden connections to the 1910ths Italy ??
        What I do find interesting is not so much the names but the questions about times, cultures and form-languages and the possible connections.

        • Interesting indeed, but I’m too far from being a sociologist or Italy-expert to contribute much. Maybe ‘time repeats itself’ is suitable here. No doubt JC will know about Flaminio Bertoni, but I hope he’ll study his works too. The Citroën Traction Avant has just beaten the Jaguar E-type in my mental beauty ranking list for cars.

          • Yes, the Citroën Traction Avant is indeed among the best car-designs ever made! 🙂
            Like you I was also thinking about the repeating s in time – phenomenon in my writing about.Phoenix/Boccioni.

          • Hey that’s nice to see a link between them, hope JC reads this.
            Let’s call it New Futurism…and in the process possibly gain some fame by being the first on record to use that name 🙂

  6. Interior lighting should always be green is a Saab. Red is way to hard on he eyes IMO. I am very excited about the new 9-3 and look forward to what magic JC pulls out of his hat.

    • I agree. There is a reason why green is used in aeroplanes: green is scientifically proved to be the most comfortable color for human eyes. I was recently a passenger in a Kia Cee’d, which by the way is a nice and priceworthy car, but it really hit me how annoying the red dashboard and instrument lighting was and could have been enough to put me off from hypothetically buying such a car.

    • IIRC, Jason explained the use of red on the interior as the Fire part of his Fire and Ice design concept for the PhoeniX. I, too, hope the Fire part never makes it into production. Red instrument panels are too harsh on my eyes and are a definite deal-breaker for me. OTOH, there’s no reason in this day and age that the instrument lighting can’t be customized by the driver according to his/her preferences. In fact, the following is from Ford re: the 2008 Mustang (

      “For the ultimate in vehicle personalization, Ford Mustang offers the industry’s first color-configurable instrument panel. Mustang owners can mix and match lighting at the touch of a button to create more than 125 different color backgrounds to suit their personality, mood, outfit or whim. For 2008, Ford also lets Mustang owners color even further outside the lines with an available interior ambient lighting package. This unique feature offers the option of illuminating the front and rear footwells and front cupholders with one of seven colors.”

      If Ford can offer this in the Mustang, Saab can certainly offer it in their automobiles.

  7. I just have to get my two cents in…
    First the thin seats: I think they look good, and would dare to say that a thin fibreglass or other stiff shell, lined with a Tempurpedic type foam (properly heated and ventilated somehow…) would work nicely.
    The turn signal integrated in the headlight? Horrible from any standpoint other than looks. If you really want a turn signal to be visible to oncoming traffic, you -don’t- hide it in the glare of a head light. It needs to be in a dark space of its’ own to create maximum contrast when used.
    As far as green vs. red lights on the instruments… Isn’t red the least “damaging” to human night vision? I personally like the green lights better, but from a practical/safety standpoint? Maybe someone with medical or air force/pilot training can fill in this gap?

    • I have seen red used on flashlights and such for “low light” operations. However, most (if not all) aircraft cockpits use Green for lighting the console.

      Red usually indicates “warning”, so having green as the “ready to go” atmosphere and Red for warning indicators makes sense since we have tied those colors to situations.
      I was test driving the Pontiac G6 and G8 at the time we were considering buying our first Saab. I must say, the red dash-lights were cool when I was 18…. but now in my mid 30’s…. rather irritating.

      We know how that ended…. Nightpanel won.

      Keep the green!!

    • Today, people seem reluctant to draw attention to the fact that they are driving a car that doesn’t have turning signals integrated into their side mirrors or something. It often goes completely unused. The only reason there are any thumbprints on the turning signal stalk at all, is that it also controls the hi-beams.

      I see them changing lanes willy-nilly, leaving others to guess ‘when?’. They bumble into roundabouts without providing any clue whatsoever that they plan on leaving it soon. Oddly enough, they do respect intersections, but mostly so they can blame others in case someone finally hits them.

      In that respect, the turning signal could be limited to a small flashing bulb on the dashboard — it would not make much of a difference.

      • An interesting coincidence Rune, as I have also noticed these people.

        The ones I see most frequently have decorated their vehicles with small round badges front and rear in the form of a blue and white propeller motif. Also more recently some of them are instead using four interlinked chromed rings overlapped horizontally.

        There is also a noticeable tendency among these two groups to drive extremely close to the rear bumper of non-members of their cults, occasionally flashing their headlights for some reason. Many of them apparently enjoy holding conversations on their mobile phones while travelling at speed close to the rear bumpers of those non-cult-members too.

        I wonder if there is a connection between these two groups?

      • Ah, so this American trend has finally crossed the Atlantic?! Then, no doubt, you’ll soon be introduced to the ‘Rolling Stop’ at intersections too.

      • In Denmark I guess 2/3 are using their turning signals WHEN they are turning – and everybody can see that they are doing so! Very very few (I guess less then 1%!) understands that you with the signals should show what you INTEND to do in a short time!!
        The Swedes are much better (also) in this discipline.

    • In combat situations you use red light to avoid being seen by the guys trying to shoot holes in you, this is because the human eye is the least sensitive to red. Unfortunately this also makes it very difficult to read the damn map that you’re trying to decipher to find your way to the closest ditch.
      So, yeah, red is the least ‘visible’ of all colors and so red lighting will become very tiring very soon.

    • I can provide one answer (Streber alert):
      The human eye can detect emitted light with wave lengths between about 400 nm to 800 nm. 400 nm being violet light and 800 nm being red light. Wave lengths of green light is in the middle of this range and thus the color causing least stress to humans (probably because our nature most of the time is green. If we would have lived and developed on Mars then red might have been the way to go). Looking at red or violet/blue light for longer times causes the eyes to become tired quicker since these colors are harder to detect while being on the border of the visible light spectra.
      Anyone that have made military service might remember the shooting instructor recommending you to look at the green grass or similar to relax your eyes, when tiering your eyes from aiming for too long.
      Long story short. Green light relaxes the eyes while red and violet/blue light strains the eyes.

  8. Honestly: no matter how hard I try to like it, I still hate it, from every angle. Minimalism is what we need.

  9. I haven’t been looking at this car much lately. I think these pictures of it is the best I’ve seen seen this far. I’m not just saying that. It’s some crudeness over it isn’t it? Also the wings are silly, even if they was made for conversation. I don’t mean crudeness in bad way. The interior when saw it earlier looked kinda messy and busy. It still does but i now see the Saabness of it and also its pretty freak’in StarTrek. StarTrek Next Generation that is. The exterior also is a bit to busy for a Saab to say the least, but the from the front 3/5th of it and the general stance of the car i like a lot and that will sell beyond the usual saab boarders . That is if this damn Dutchman delivers his magic again because he needs to. i have great comfort in that he left his childhood cars and failed speed cars projects for these very real cars.

    He is also responsible for Swade having the job he deserves and making sure that the day he thinks of taking up accountant’ising again he will be to old to remember how it’s done.

    Really nice work those pictures.

  10. Was busted today by Maserati spyder.. it was wet, i won the start.. after we both got grip he just crushed me on “saab overtake speeds”. While he does not have that much more hp maybe 50 more and prolly more weight than 9-5………. That is seriously upsets me that i still be beaten like a kitty on NG9-5 with no tuning available.. Instead of doing concept cars and buy 1.6 engine fix a motor which can handle 2 tone 9-5. cmon i can only bit shit cars like inifiniti, mazdas mps… But when Euro car or tuned sti / evo race with me i am always crushed. Where is viggen?

  11. I finally have to give my gut reaction to the Phoenix exterior design —

    1. it’s ugly

    2. it’s busy (as Spykers seem to be, also)

    3. the rear visibility from the driver’s seat appears to be awful, which would be a deal-killer for me in any car.

    By contrast, adjectives I might use for the old Aero-X include “graceful” and “attractive”.

    As a potential customer for the new 9-3 (in MY ’15 or so), I’m watching this with interest.

  12. What’s most interesting about the Phoenix concept is not really whether its pretty or not, but what Saab wanted to communicate with this design. They clearly wanted to show that this car was symbolic for the direction Saab is headed in. A break with the classically elegant Saab, the Phoenix is a fresh new initative from new owners, pushing Saab in a more aggressive and expressive direction. The Phoenix is also clearly a product of the current design climate, where designs in general are much more expressive and loud purely to get attention. So what about the Phoenix itself? Overall I’d say it looks unfinished and unrefined. A lot of different ideas have come together and they’re fighting with each other. Which is kind of ok since its a concept, I just hope they keep the good parts on the production version, like the front, the overall stance, the seat fabric and the logo. Some parts Saab should discard: The awful rear light / panel, the flying buttresses, some of the busy surfacing and red lighting.

  13. My thoughts on the PhoeniX:

    Was it the best choice to make a concept sports car in the form of a coupe when the current task for Saab is to learn how to walk? I might have made a bold hatchback that has some more forms of the coming 9-3 successor. In this way Saab would have told more about its near future which would have created more awareness towards real coming Saab cars. Now the coming Saab customers are still wondering what the next Saab will look like. Having said that, I still like the PhoeniX a lot as it has many Saab features and with slight simplifications it could be a production car.

    Pic 1: It looks like a car from a Cars Movie with that smile 🙂

    Pic 2: Yes, the pedals could be more bold. One thing surprises me: only 6-speed manual gearbox(!). Where are the DSG-type transmissions etc? If it would be in some kind of plans, here would be the place to show it…

    Pic 3: The cameras show nicely the surroundings: the right one shows the old 99 in the background and the left one the ceiling (?) as the door is open. IMO the screens should not be placed in the middle of the dashboard as you are looking away from the road when looking back through the screens. Maybe they should be placed in the A pillar.

    Pic 4: Nice placing of the seat belts! It would be nice to know the weight and material of these seats and whether they would handle the weight of the passenger in a crash. Also the thin design gives way for more space in the back seat.

    Pic 5: Who dares to put these butterfly doors on a production car first?

    Pic 6: I would like to see how this car looks in a wind tunnel with smoke going through these wings and in the lower parts of this effective looking body. Are the lower lamps rear fog lights?

    Pic 7: From this angle the A pillar looks quite thick.

    Pic 8: I wonder how much air these turbine wheels are sucking out from the brakes etc.

    Pic 9: Imagine the looks of this panel after 1000 kms of gravel road…

    Pic 10: I wonder if these LED driving lights are so deep that there is less excess light to make driving in fog easier.

    Pic 11: Why does the rear remind me of a Ford Mustang? With this amount of space for rear lights there might have been more creativity as well. With this size of exhaust outlets the fumes of the 1,6 Turbo shouldn’t have problem exiting 🙂

    • I think it would be much better if carmakers made it possible for the driver to chose the light they want.

      The RGB Leds are so cheapy and the electronics for changing the colour are really simple.

      Then noone can say that ‘I don’t want this or that car because of the lights in the needle or other lights.’

      • It would be cool if the LEDs in the doors turned red when opened. While properly closed they should of course glow green.

  14. I like the overall shape of the car. Sometimes it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. I am looking forward to the test drive when it’s sitting on the lot.

    Just a thought.

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