The Design Process of the Jason Castriota 9-3

There are few things that people within the Saab community have been more eager to see than the Jason Castriota version of the third generation 9-3. Even though bankrupcy came the interest never really died. We all were extremely eager to see what was hidden behind factory doors in Stallbacka.

After a few blurry renderings from a rather early state of design surfaced a few weeks ago we got a first impression of what it had looked like. Then yesterday we could publish two more pics of the design mule. This time in better resolution, but still hard to judge as they were little more like snapshots from only two angles. One even more important point that maybe did not come out clearly enough yesterday is that those pics do not represent the final version of the design, it’s more like half way.

That wind tunnel model was created in September of 2010 – just a few months after Jason came onboard – and represents a stage where design vision and engineering needs were brought together for the first time. The result went through first aerodynamic tests to evaluate where additional work was needed.

Ever since I saw the first pics I was amazed how much it absorbed some core lines of the 900 (or 99) without being a retro design. For me personally it was a proof for Jasons ability to adapt Saabs design heritage and transform it into a fresh design. While the Phoenix concept was more like the classic Castriota field of supercars I was now convinced that he could really come up with a fitting design for a high volume model.

To clarify the evolution of his design a bit more Jason was kind enough to help me by setting the pictures we saw until now into perspective regarding the state of development they originate from. He even added more pics from various states of the process and described the process a bit from his point of view.

Month 1-4 – first sketches, first 3D math model, first full scale presentation model

First Computer Model - Copyright Jason Castriota Design
Work In Progress: First Computer Model – Copyright Jason Castriota Design
Design Intent Clay Model - Copyright Jason Castriota Design
Design Intent Clay Model – Copyright Jason Castriota Design

Read moreThe Design Process of the Jason Castriota 9-3

About that sketch…

Many of you could have guessed by now, but the sketch that leaked out [read, the NDO forgot to redact] in Saab’s business plan documents was far from final. So far in fact, that I can confirm it’s pre-Castriota. Meaning, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Literally. But it’s fun to dream isn’t it?

Just for the enjoyment of Kurt Schirm, National Dealer Council Chairperson at SCNA and SU Regular, I’m posting what it would look like in the same copper that Mercedes-Benz uses. While the general idea of this car will certainly be close, you can rest assured that the real thing will be way, way cooler. As a reminder of what Jason brings to the design discussion, enjoy his latest creation, the SSC Tuatara in pictures after the break.

Read moreAbout that sketch…

CAR Magazine on the Saab PhoeniX concept

CAR Magazine are generally pretty reasonable when it comes to Saab. They, like the rest of us, tend to think that the automotive world is a much more interesting place with companies like Saab in it. That’s why one of their roving reporters was busy getting a good spot at the Saab stand while Opel, next door, were running overtime with their Geneva press conference.

Back again to Hall 2, where I should be seeing a presentation from the brand that will not die. However, it’s GM Europe, Saab’s old owners, working their way through the presentation of the new Zafira Tourer. I’m keen to see the new car, but try to get a better location to view Saab’s presentation instead.

This traditional affection is why I’ll be very keen to read their April issue and see how they explain this headline about the PhoeniX concept. It’s fair to say that early signs from CAR are not looking promising.

From their online digital preview:

A harsh assessment?

I know I’m biased, but I’d say decidedly so. Alfa Romeo would want the “Right Car” assessment because the 4C is actually slated for production. Nobody wants a “Wrong Car” assessment, so it’ll be interesting to read what the assessment is based on – some controversial flying buttresses, or the use of a real-world new platform, a new hybrid turbocharged drivetrain and a real-world communication and control system that’s made massive waves everywhere. I hope CAR bore point 1, below, in mind.

We’ve covered plenty about the PhoeniX on this site and there are a few things of note that came out of that discussion:

  1. PhoeniX is a design concept (my emphasis) and the one thing you don’t want a design concept to be is boring. You want it to create discussion, which PhoeniX has certainly done, with the vast majority of it in the motoring press being decidedly positive.
  2. Given that it’s a rather radical concept in terms of looks, it’s going to divide opinion, which is fine. The trick is to look deeper than what you see at first glance.
  3. The importance of PhoeniX is not confined to it being Jason Castriota’s first statement as head of Saab design. The looks are deliberately Jason with deliberate Saab cues, and some of that look will carry through to the next 9-3. The importance of PhoeniX, however, is not just how it looks. It’s also concerned with what’s underneath. The PhoeniX platform that it’s based on is real – and when the next 9-3 is only 18 months away, that’s an important thing to know – and the PhoeniX concept showcases some of the vehicle proportions that will be possible with that architecture.

I guess I should hold my tongue until I get a chance to read the article, but I have a feeling that CAR may have only looked at the surface to judge the validity of PhoeniX and made a bold headline out of a subjective assessment.


Yes, it’s OK. Tim’s given me the OK to continue to write here occasionally. This is one piece of subject matter that I couldn’t resist.

More photos and video from Geneva 2011

Well, let’s start with the fun stuff, shall we?

From Swisstroll, we have our inimitable host, Swade, along with Jason Castriota and Golfhunter.  Looks like they’re having a good time!!



I laughed out loud at the photo from Golfhunter. It’s certainly not the Saab 9-5, which I may add, looks absolutely magnificent in this color — Java Brown. Can you guess why I laughed?

That’s right! I chuckled at this picture because one can clearly see the Opel and the Subaru logo and banner, respectively. They both had a shot at being closely related to Saab, and neither was able to make it work. There, right in front of them, is this gleaming 9-5, full of potential and energy. I guess that you could call it schadenfreude. (Of course, Subaru is on a roll of their own, but it’s still an odd juxtaposition.)

In another bit of fun at someone else’s expense, check out the write up over at Autoblog on the Chris Bangle/Jason Castriota confrontation as noted in these pages yesterday. Hint: one of the designers was called out for “hassling” the other. I’ll let you be the judge.

We’ll wrap up with a one-minute long review of the new Saab 9-5 as posted by MotorsTV France.   Good capture.

Well, it turned out that it was all fun stuff. Who knew? 😉

Video: Jason Castriota talks to the press

This one has been posted in comments several times but I haven’t had time to get it on to the front page until now.

Jason Castriota had a meeting with various members of the press (no, I wasn’t there) during day 1 of the Geneva Show and talked about the Phoenix Concept.

The audio isn’t that great, but it’s still worth watching.

The guy complimenting Jason at the beginning of the video and then leaving the room is Dan Neil, formerly of the LA Times and now of the Wall Street Journal. Jason goes on to speak about how much of the PhoeniX concept we’ll see in future Saabs, specifically the front end going through to the Saab 9-3 replacement (“the new 9-3”, though I don’t think that name is confirmed).

He goes on to talk about the fact that three body styles have been confirmed and that he wants to do at least two more. The Convertible is one of them and there will be a hatchback, too.



More Saab ink from the Geneva Auto Show 2011

Once again, to augment the very capable and welcome coverage from Geneva by our own Swade and RedJ, I bring you the following links and information from around the internet.  Enjoy!


Via MusicforaNurse on Twitter:  I think the Saab PhoeniX hit the mark!


Take a look at the excellent photos from our good friend Golfhunter.  Well done, Jeff!


I am glad to see a little love for the new 9-5 SportCombi from Autoblog.  They call it “one sharp cargo-hauler”, and I tend to agree:

Autoblog photo of 9-5 SportCombi in Geneva

More 9-5 SportCombi photos from Autoblog may be found here.


Venerable auto media giant Motor Trend weighs in with a reminder that Phoenix was a Pontiac compact in the ’70’s and ’80’s, but certainly gives credit where it is due, saying, “The car may be a bit busy, but it is gorgeous…”


Wired magazine has a great post entitled “Saab’s Surprisingly Slick PhoeniX Hybrid” that, not surprisingly, details as much about the Google-Android-based IQon system as does about the car overall.  I love this bit:

Saab floored a lot of people at the Geneva auto show with the Phoenix, a slick gas-electric concept that provides a glimpse of the automaker’s future now that Spyker’s taken over from General Motors.


James Bell, correspondent for USA Today, says this in a very short article:

Just 12 months ago, Saab was on the verge of liquidation. Today, they are a perfect example of the spirit and energy seen in people and companies poised for growth in the post-meltdown era.

USA Today also takes issue with the fanciful prose from the Saab press kit.  I might agree….


Britain’s What Car? goes under the skin to explore the underpinnings of the Saab PhoeniX with our Jan-Åke Jonsson.

Jonsson insists that the new architecture is essential to Saab’s independence (it was sold by General Motors just over a year ago) and, although expensive, will ultimately save money.

‘We will be able to use the same powertrains in all our vehicles and build them in the same plant (Trollhattan in Sweden), so there are lots of benefits,’ he said. likes the Saab PhoeniX overall, but they dislike the winglets on either side of the roof.  WARNING: “Q” word in use!


Swade, RedJ, Golfhunter, Robin, et al: enjoy Switzerland, keep sending information!

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