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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Saab 9-X Air

PARIS — Saab plans to unveil a convertible concept, the 9-X Air, at the upcoming 2008 Paris Auto Show. The concept is described by insiders as a sneak preview of the all-new Saab 9-1X concept that is slated to go into production in 2009.

Sharing design cues with the Saab 9-X BioHybrid that was shown earlier this year at Geneva, the four-passenger 9-X Air features a unique "canopy top" that is made of fabric and automatically folds in three sections behind the rear seats. The newest Saab concept measures only 174 inches long — about the length of a Ford Focus coupe.

The 9-1X reportedly shares a version of General Motors' new Delta 2 platform, which will underpin a wide range of vehicles, from the new Chevrolet Cruze and Chevrolet Volt to the next-generation Opel Astra. The baby Saab will likely be sold in North America as a 2010 model, and is expected to be offered in both hatchback and convertible variants.

Like the 9-X BioHybrid, the 9-X Air was designed at GM Europe by a team led by Anthony Lo. In addition to wraparound side glass and rear "buttresses," the car forgoes a conventional trunk and deck lid in favor of a large rear storage compartment that is spring-loaded and slides out, drawer-like, from beneath the rear lights.

The vehicle is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that runs on E85 biofuel and is linked to a hybrid electric motor. The engine makes 197 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque and drives the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Saab claims a 0-60-mph acceleration time of less than 8.0 seconds, with CO2 emissions of just 107 g/km.

What this means to you: Will the production version look as sleek and futuristic as the concept?