Saab 9-X Air concept reinvents convertible design

More than 25 years after unveiling the first four-seater convertible to the world, Saab’s design classic takes on a new form in the shape of the 9-X Air concept car.

Set to be revealed at the Paris Motorshow early next month, the 9-X Air concept provides a tantalising glimpse of what a future convertible from Saab could look like.

Featuring a unique canopy top, the 9-X Air breaks the mould of conventional convertibles by incorporating prominent rear pillars which curve upwards to mount the flat folding roof. With the top down motorists can enjoy open-top motoring free from buffeting, and with the top up the 9-X Air assumes the appearance of a true coupe.

The 9-X Air’s raked rear pillars support the canopy top – itself a development of the Targa roof principle – with a separate rear screen located between them. Instead of having a manually detachable roof section, the Saab canopy top is fully powered in operation and folds away in the storage trunk. Saab has already filed a patent for this radical design of convertible roof.

The clean, sculpted body contours of the 9-X Air give fresh expression to Saab’s Scandinavian-inspired design ethos and its aircraft heritage. The purposeful stance, with minimal overhangs front and rear, is complemented by a single, wraparound window graphic, smooth uncluttered body surfaces and ‘ice block’ lighting themes.

Anthony Lo, director of advanced design at General Motors Europe, says: “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 and its hatchback sibling also showcase seamless, wireless connectivity, with one or multiple nomadic devices (mobile phones, PDAs, etc ).

The 9-X Air has been 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 a series of measures for more responsible performance: engine rightsizing, turbocharging, the use of biofuels and hybrid technology.

Running on E85 fuel (85 per cent bioethanol/15 per cent petrol ), the engine delivers a sporty 200hp (147kW ), giving zero to 62mph acceleration in 8.1 seconds and projected CO2 tailpipe emissions of just 107g/km over the combined cycle. Compared to normal petrol, the overall environmental impact on a source-to-wheel basis of using E85 is even more beneficial.

The exterior look of the 9-X Air is defined by the prominent C-pillars, or buttresses, that provide the rear mounting for the unique canopy top - a powered, flat-folding roof developed from a Targa top principle. This innovation in convertible design, which distinguishes between a folding roof and a complete folding soft-top or hood assembly, is subject to a Saab patent application.

The canopy top is in fabric, rather than metal, to save weight and provide more efficient packaging. It is fully automatic in operation and folds neatly in three small sections under a rear tonneau cover in the trunk deck.

Inside, the 9-X Air features innovative developments in its driver-focused cockpit design and the provision of seamless connectivity for personal nomadic devices, both first seen in the 9-X BioHybrid.

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