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  #1  
Old 22nd June 2005
matt221 matt221 is offline
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Default 9-7 Review in the Detroit News

http://www.detnews.com/2005/autoscon...G01-223533.htm
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  #2  
Old 22nd June 2005
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One of the best reviews yet

Here's the whole story text and comparison chart


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Product preview Saab joins sport-ute crowd

9-7X is more refined, quieter than its General Motors brothers


By Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec -- Erick Cook, the retired mayor of Fairfield, Ohio, is so nuts about Saabs that he has owned or leased 15 of them in his lifetime.

When he heard that General Motors Corp.'s Swedish brand was launching its first sport utility vehicle, the 9-7X, he "nagged and nagged" his local dealer until he got one -- the first one off the line in Moraine, Ohio.

The 60-year-old Cook recently used his silver 2005 9-7X to tow his 1994 Saab 900 convertible down to his new home in Charleston, S.C. Later, he had plenty of nice things to say about the new SUV as he relaxed on the beach at nearby Edisto Island and chatted on his cell phone.

"My wife and I have not found anything we don't like about it yet," Cook said. "I'm so glad Saab finally made an SUV. I like to sit up higher. In a Saab 9-5, you sit close to the ground and you can't see around other traffic. You don't have that problem in the 9-7X."

He added: "My 9-7X had a sticker price of around $39,000. What I expect to see happen once it catches on is for prices to go up significantly."

In fact, they will. The all-wheel-drive 2005 Saab 9-7X is on sale now at a starting price of $38,990, including a $720 destination charge for the base model with the 4.2-liter I-6 engine. Saab says there will be a limited run of about 1,800-2,000 2005 models in a few colors. The 2006 model, which goes on sale later in the year, will start at about $40,000 for the six-cylinder model and $42,000 for the V-8 model.

Saab executives celebrate the fact that this is the first Saab with a V-8 engine and the first with adjustable pedals. What it doesn't have, though, is a third row, which would have been cramped, or two-wheel drive, a feature that might have made more sense to buyers in warm climates. All 9-7Xs come with all-wheel drive.

The success of the five-passenger 9-7X is critical for the long-term health of the tiny automaker, which is now a wholly owned GM subsidiary.

In the past, Saab says, 30 percent of its buyers left the brand to buy a four-door SUV. But some critics worry the 9-7X is little more than a Chevrolet TrailBlazer wearing a Saab badge -- a fake Saab, in other words. The 9-7X is a sibling of the midsize TrailBlazer, Buick Rainier and GMC Envoy. The 9-7X is more refined than its brothers, however, with a stiffer and quieter ride than the TrailBlazer and Envoy.

Even though the 9-7X is body-on-frame, the classic truck setup, it doesn't feel that much like a truck.

That's because it uses a specially tuned version of the TrailBlazer's chassis, with firmer shocks, a thicker front stabilizer bar and rear air suspension, as well as a quicker-ratio steering gear for better control and more precise handling.

The 9-7X rides on 18-inch Dunlop high-performance, all-season tires, mounted on alloy wheels. Four-wheel disc brakes with antilock are fitted.

From the inside, the Saab 9-7X has a decidedly un-GM-like look and feel, and that may be its greatest attribute. It's in the cabin of the 9-7X where the "fake Saab" argument seems to fall apart. The parent company wisely embraced key Saab design cues, such as the center-console-mounted ignition switch, the green backlighting and the grid-patterned vents with the rubbery knobs. Anyone who has spent time in a classic Saab sedan will feel instantly at home.

The quality of the materials -- especially the instrument panel, door trim and leather seats -- in the cabins of the test 9-7Xs I drove rivaled those of upscale competitors from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and looked and smelled like a Saab. And they are better than the Chevrolet and GMC models we've tested.

The Saab cabin can be ordered in a variety of choices, including monochromatic black or a striking two-tone and has such deluxe features as standard dual climate controls.

Rear-seat passengers are pampered with separate radio controls, a dual-mode fan, vents, 12-volt outlet, map pockets and two overhead lights.

After test-driving several 9-7Xs during the media launch of the vehicle here, I worried, though, that some women might not feel comfortable in the Saab.

I found the steering wheel to be massive, and didn't like the deep-set gauges and hooded instrument panel. The instrument panel is angled toward the driver, which tends to shut out the passenger.

I also had the sense there was some unfinished work with the 9-7X. The glove box feels cheaply made and flops down with a clunk when you open it. There is no optional power liftgate, a feature you can get on competitors like the Lexus RX 330, and a real necessity because the tailgate is heavy.

Despite Saab's reputation for innovation, including the first seat belts as standard equipment, there's really nothing to write home about in this area. I was expecting the Swedes to raise the bar on technology like iPod integration or adaptive exterior lighting anything -- but was disappointed.

On the outside, the 9-7X is clean, low-key and not cluttered with bodyside moldings. In that respect, it strives to be true to minimalist Swedish design. The execution seems to fall apart in the rear, though, where the Saab SUV looks nondescript and can easily be confused with the Acura MDX.

In side profile, there is not a dramatic difference between the Saab and its sibs. The wheel arches have been modified, and the center pillar is blacked out, but the basic silhouette is strikingly similar among the GM sport-utes.

The 9-7X is most distinctive in front view, where it wears the signature three-port grille of other Saab models. The 9-7X has a 1-inch lower ride height than GM's other midsize SUVs, making it easier to climb in and out of -- something that Cook noted.

Buyers get their choice of two GM engines. The twin-cam 4.2-liter six on the 9-7X Linear model makes 290 horsepower and 277 pounds-feet of torque.

Traveling along the steep hills north of Quebec City, my test vehicle with the I-6 engine made a deep hum when it was lugging three passengers and a couple of suitcases uphill in fourth gear. The 4.2-liter engine gets a modest 15 miles per gallon in city driving and 21 miles per gallon on the highway.

The pushrod 5.3-liter V-8 -- a workhorse GM truck powerplant that comes standard on the uplevel 9-7X Arc model -- is a more impressive choice, delivering 300 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque. It can tow up to 6,500 pounds and features GM's displacement-on-demand, which improves fuel economy by deactivating cylinders in some situations. The 5.3-liter engine gets 15 miles per gallon in city driving and 19 on the highway.

Both engines are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, which seems old-fashioned and inefficient next to some of the modern five- and six-speed gearboxes offered by competitors from Europe and Japan. The 9-7X has a long list of standard safety features, including antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and side curtain air bags that protect all outboard passengers.

The one intangible that can't be quantified in a specifications chart is service. Jay Spenchian, the new general manager of Saab Cars USA, says "service will be the tiebreaker" when it comes to battles between luxury products. The 2005 9-7X comes with a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Saab owner Cook, who says years ago he had a Saab lemon replaced with no questions asked, says that's one of the key reasons why he's stuck with the brand. "I've had fantastic treatment," he said. "I can't imagine that it's going to be any different with the SUV."
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  #3  
Old 22nd June 2005
apzer09
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The sticker really shouldn't go up, especially when GM is cutting the prices on its midsize SUVs. Does anyone know if there are going to be any new options? A nav system should be on the list as well as park distance control, and rumor has it the Envoy Denali has rain sensing wipers. That would be good for the 9-7x to have since the 9-3 and 9-5 offer it.
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  #4  
Old 1st July 2005
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GRIPEN GRIPEN is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apzer09
The sticker really shouldn't go up, especially when GM is cutting the prices on its midsize SUVs. Does anyone know if there are going to be any new options? A nav system should be on the list as well as park distance control, and rumor has it the Envoy Denali has rain sensing wipers. That would be good for the 9-7x to have since the 9-3 and 9-5 offer it.
I read it somewhere that the '06 9-7X Arc V8 will have cylinder deactivation during cruising speed. I think it will deactivates 4 cylinders. This should be interesting to see how much it will help to improved the fuel efficiency.
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  #5  
Old 1st July 2005
apzer09
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GRIPEN
I read it somewhere that the '06 9-7X Arc V8 will have cylinder deactivation during cruising speed. I think it will deactivates 4 cylinders. This should be interesting to see how much it will help to improved the fuel efficiency.
Supposedly the V8 with the Displacement-on-demand will get about the same fuel economy as the 6 cylinder.
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