Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saab 9-X Air

It's just over 25 years since Saab unveiled its first four- seat convertible, a car based on its 900 model that became the most popular rag-top in the world.

In a new take on topless motoring the Swedish carmaker has come up with its 9-X Air concept car.

It will be revealed to the public at the Paris Motor Show next week and Saab says it's a glimpse of what a convertible from the company could look like.

Featuring what Saab calls a canopy top, the 9-X Air is not like other convertibles as it incorporates prominent rear pillars which curve upwards to mount the flat folding roof.

This is not dissimilar to Ferrari and Ford sports prototype endurance cars of the 60s which never resulted in production versions. With the top down in the 9-X Air, occupants can enjoy open-top motoring free from buffeting, while with the cloth top in place, the 9-X Air assumes the appearance of a solid-roofed coupe.

The 9-X Air's raked rear pillars – which have a separate rear screen between them – support the canopy top in a design development of the classic Targa roof principle.

However, instead of having a manually detachable roof section, the Saab canopy top will be power operated, neatly and quickly folding away in the boot, taking up very little load volume. Saab has already filed a patent for the design.

The roof design allows a clean, sculpted body contour for the 9-X Air, but there's no mistaking the car as being anything but a Saab, for its Scandinavian-inspired design links as directly as ever to Saab's aircraft heritage.

With a purposeful stance, and minimal front and rear overhangs, the effect is complemented by the single, wraparound window graphic, and smooth, uncluttered body surfaces.

Anthony Lo, director of advanced design at General Motors Europe, says of the car: "Like her sister, the 9-X BioHybrid, this car is all about efficiency in design and performance. It offers important benefits in weight-saving and packaging, as well as giving us the freedom to take convertible design forward."

The 9-X Air showcases seamless, wireless connectivity (Bluetooth) with one or multiple devices (mobile phones, PDAs etc).

Designed in parallel with the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept, the 9-X Air shares its distinctive frontal styling, together with its highly efficient powertrain. The small, 1.4-litre Saab BioPower engine combines measures for more responsible performance: smaller engines, turbocharging, the use of biofuel and hybrid technology.

Running on E85 fuel (85 per cent bioethanol/15 per cent petrol), the engine delivers 147kW, giving zero- to-100kmh acceleration in 8.1 seconds and CO2 tailpipe emissions of 107g/km. Compared with normal petrol, the environmental impact on a source-to-wheel basis of using E85 is even more beneficial.

The exterior of the 9-X Air is defined by the prominent C-pillars, or buttresses, that provide the rear mounting for the canopy top – a powered, flat-folding roof developed from a Targa top principle. In a further break with design convention, the 9-X Air dispenses with a boot lid.

Instead, a large storage compartment, big enough to accommodate two golf bags, slides out from underneath the rear light bar. To save weight, it is spring- loaded, without power assistance, and slides on rollers.

Inside, the 9-X Air's driver information zone encompasses the top of the door moulding as well as the traditional dashboard. It's a fresh execution of Saab's traditional, driver-focused cockpit layout and dispenses with a central, floor-mounted console.

The zone is a flat, arc-shaped surface, within which a row of five display screens is embedded and illuminated in green 3D graphics.

In cooperation with Sony Ericsson, the 9-X Air's in-car interface enables streaming of data, entertainment and satellite navigation functions, which are transferred automatically to the car while the driver's PDA, phone or iPod remains on board, and the smarter the device, the more functions are available.

The same unit could also be programmed to remotely lock /unlock the car, raise or lower the canopy top, and even remotely change in-car pre-sets.

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