SvD’s Initial 9-4X impressions

The first of many 9-4X reviews due out this week (as they’re testing them in rural Virginia outside D.C. as we speak) comes from SvD (English translation). While only a preview, it gives us a good look at the process. I was invited, but unless I can get out of a very important meeting tomorrow morning, there’s likely no chance I’ll make it down (but I’ll have my own 9-4X video review up soon after if I have to drive to Detroit to do it!). Sometimes I wish I my day job were an auto journalist :-P.

Apparently Victor did make it after all, even though Michele Tinson, SCNA’s PR head, told me on the phone last week he probably wouldn’t be able to. All that means is that the man is a machine, and works harder than anyone I’ve ever met.

“He sits in the back seat of a white 9-4X front of me and waving to the gleam of gold buttons on his blue blazer,” says Karin Henriksson (SvD’s US correspondent) and laughs.

More of Karin’s observations after the break.

First Gear: Peking to DC

To start everyone’s Monday off, I gathered the stories that are kicking of our week of Saab news.

Getting the bad press off our chests first, ChinaCarTimes.com has an article up about why they think the Saab-Hawtai deal is going to fail. For every point they raise, I have a response that pretty well shoots it down. When they project out that Spyker is going to continue bleeding money at last year’s rates, they ignore the progress they’ve made and how much further along they are on their way towards getting to the break even point. Never once do they mention Antonov. And their pessimism about China approving the deal doesn’t take into account the ties between Hawtai and Bank of Beijing, let alone their new factory in Ordos. They do have a pretty good summary of the background though, including the names of the players at Hawtai and the tangled web that exists between GM, BAIC, and SAIC. I’ve been working on an in depth analysis piece about Hawtai over the weekend and I’ll have it up sometime midweek that helps everyone understand the bigger issues and why I’m much more optimistic about a deal (hint: one of the answers to Saab’s issues is in Mongolia).

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Also in China, spotted outside a Westin hotel you can see a 9-5 next to it’s possible distant cousin, a Hawtai B35 (Hyundai Santa Fe with a Cayenne face). Other outlets are saying it’s a dealer– it’s not, it’s a hotel.

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Finally as we speak, the media is test driving a fleet of 9-4Xs around the suburbs of Washington, D.C. as part of the second leg of its reviews. They should have some great weather so expect a slew of great reviews in the next few weeks. That coincides very well with deliveries of the 9-4X, which should be showing up in dealers in mid to late June– only five or six weeks away!

9-4x vs. 9-5 SC (Size comparison)

In March I compared the 9-5 Sedan with the 9-5SC.

Now its time for the 9-4X to be measured against the 9-5SC.

First of all I have to say that the pictures are not to the same scale, although Jeff helped me and has tried to size the pictures accordingly. The picture in the middle gives a rough comparison of sizes.

I won’t comment on them as I’ve seen both side by side, and I know which I would choose.

BTW, is there interest in a 9-3SC vs. 9-5SC comparison?

Fuel Wars: 9-4x vs. the Diesel Competition

I decided to pull out a part of the comment thread from our earlier 9-4X Test Drive post for discussion on the main site, since this subject often gets a lot of attention around here. Commenter dbv thinks that the 9-4X’s gas mileage is going to be a “deal breaker” for him, I’m assuming on price. I’m not trying to be argumentative with him at all (don’t mistake my sarcasm in my comment for facetiousness, it’s late here :)), I just thought it was about time to let the numbers tell the real story. Maybe it will shed some light for International Saabers why I really don’t think the lack of a diesel option is going to kill the 9-4X, especially in the US market. Click past the break for the full thread.

Read moreFuel Wars: 9-4x vs. the Diesel Competition

9-4x First Impressions and Analysis

The first official reviews of the 9-4x poured in to us at the end of last week, and by all accounts they’re extremely positive. We’ve gotten about 30 tips to the articles (and we appreciate all the emails!), but we waited until today to post (and I’ve delayed it now twice due to breaking news :P) to get official permission to use images and quotes from articles– trying to be ethical is always fun, but usually not as fast as I’d like.

These first reviews were held in Northern Virginia on a rainy thunderstormy day in March which we covered briefly here. This is the first of at least two rounds of first drives, aimed at long-lead publications that need more time to get ready for print. One of these testers was James Bell of the Motor Press Guild who came away pretty impressed, as we mentioned in our earlier post.

“…rest assured that this vehicle should put this venerable brand back on discriminating shopping lists across the country.”

In his review at Expressen, Matt Davis went a step further. He suggests that it might be “the car that saves Saab.” For those of you who want to read these first reviews of the 9-4x, by all means skip this article and go right ahead. Here are the links.

Car and Driver

Automobile Magazine

Motortrend

Autoweek (added)

Autocar

Expressen (English Translation) – more to come from Matt Davis when his whole piece goes online soon.

9-4x test drive outside Swedenburg Winery. Photo by James Bell

For those of you who want a more my take and reflection on these writers conclusions from a very personal viewpoint, click past the break.

Read more9-4x First Impressions and Analysis

Saab Sponsors Aspen Shortsfest

Last week, Saab sponsored the 20th annual Aspen Shortsfest, which attracts an audience of over 30,000 guests annually, from local residents to Hollywood A-listers. All movies are under 40 minutes, and many go on to win Oscars in the category. The mountain west market, as CJ can tell you, could be a huge source of sales for the 9-4x. It’s great to see Saab going after this area aggressively (and better to see that there’s still good Spring skiing on Little Nell behind the 9-4x 😉 ). Saab uploaded a picture of the 9-4x on the streets of Aspen to their Facebook wall, and you can see their “Think Independently” video booth after the break.

Read moreSaab Sponsors Aspen Shortsfest

Build Your 9-4x

For all of you who might be interested in a 9-4x but haven’t checked in with your dealer to find out pricing information, we have two resources you’ll be interested in checking out. Until saabusa.com can get retooled, which should be happening soon, this is your best bet.

First up, carsdirect.com has a configurator for the 9-4x up, which allows you to select every possible configuration, from FWD to XWD, Base 3.0L, Premium 3.0L, and Aero 2.8XWD. (Also, for non-US Saabers who want to play with it but don’t know a zip code, try mine- 10011). Unfortunately at the end of the process, they make you submit your name and email to get a pricing analysis. Which leads us to the next site which doesn’t do that…

Truecar.com has an even more in depth configurator, which shows invoice and dealer cost. One interesting note I took from playing around with them is that the Aero gives you a lot for your money when it comes to options– if you want the most for your money and you care about a sunroof and navigation, it’s best to just opt for the Aero rather than optioning out an XWD 3.0 Premium. I don’t expect the FWD versions to sell well in the Northeast, but in warmer climates they should certainly make a dent.

Read moreBuild Your 9-4x

Positive Impressions of the 9-4x

Today was the first press day of the new 9-4x outside Washington, DC today at the Swedenburg Estate Winery in Middleburg, VA. While the severe thunderstorms made the weather atrocious, it may have actually shown off the incredible abilities that Saab has baked in with their XWD system. While impressions are embargoed on the car for a little bit longer, James Bell from the Motor Press Guild came away with a good feeling. From a USA Today blog post:

Bell test drove the new 9-4X crossover today and snapped a photo of it outside the Swedenburg Winery in Middleburg, above. While the embargo hasn’t lifted yet on driving impressions, he says “rest assured that this vehicle should put this venerable brand back on discriminating shopping lists across the country.”

9-4x test drive outside Swedenburg Winery. Photo by James Bell

We’ll have much more coverage of the 9-4x from the New York International Auto Show later in April and also follow up once articles are published.

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