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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saab 9-4x : the review

This is a rare Saab. Built 2011, only a few hundred pieces overall. Probably a collector item. One of the few Saabs attempts to break into the SUV segment. I had the opportunity to drive him to the Saab Session Slovakia 2013 and back, nearly 700 km. So how is he ?

The 9-4x was built on the GM Theta Premium platform, which is the same as the Cadillac SRX. There were two engine options, a 2.8 liter with turbo and a 3.0 liter without turbo, both petrol V6. This one has the second option, which delivers 265 horsepower and 302 Nm of torque. It has only 16.000 kilometer on the clock and an automatic transmission.

How does it feel.

The first feelings you've probably get after sitting inside are robust, comfortable and safe. You sit in a serious piece of car, very good equipped with everything you need and a bit more. The dashboard is identical with the last generation of 9-5, the ventilated electric seats are a bit different. I could find my drivers position very fast, faster than in my 9-3 aero.

You don't have to search for controls, they are where you expect them. For the Saab drivers the typical position of the starting key between the seats is there, but it's a button instead of the key. Also night panel cannot be absent. Large colour touchscreen with good GPS, enough places for bottles and cans, USB and AUX input, bluetooth for the mobile phone paired within seconds. Keyless entry and Bose soundsystem. And many other obvious things such as air condition, cruise control, parking camera etc. 

After getting to know what is where, I push the start button. A velvet V6 sound comes out without feeling any vibrations inside. It feels a bit heavy at the beginning but it disappears after a few kilometers.

I've checked the Bose soundsystem with Portishead's first album Dummy with dominant deep basses, which test the system for clearness as well as vibrations. The sound is crystal clear.

The GPS has a small but very enjoyable detail. For each road change, the GPS alerts you three times as you approach it. That's normal. The difference to what I've seen is, that here the lady voice talks to you less and less. The first warning is full, f.e. "in 500 metres is a roundabout, take the 3rd exit", the second time she just says "prepare for the roundabout" and the third time the system just makes a subtle  "ding". The usual annoying blahblah from other GPSes is gone. In my Volvo I had to switch the voice off. Not in the Saab. 

Of course all communication is in multiple languages, switchable from the menu. For example with a Volvo, you have to go to the service with a language change and pay a fee.

The obvious back seats and trunk thing : it has enough space everywhere. Actually a lot. 

How does it drive. 

The 0 - 100 kmh acceleration is 9 seconds, for the 2+ tons weight it's a good result. The automatic transmission has a shorter delay than I've seen in other cars. You have to get used to it's character. If you push too much gas, the rpm count jumps into the 5-6k rpm range and the Saab accelerates with full power. When it comes to the desired speed it switches the next gears to come to the lower rpms. At 140 kmh on cruise control it was around 2.2k rpm. Easygoing.

I've been in a convoy with a NG 9-5SC with 190 hp diesel and with Victor Mullers NG 9-5 330 hp hirsched Turbo 6. Both were much quicker than me so I had to watch out not to loose them. In these conditions the 9-4x was very brave. He could hold the tempo, easily overtake other cars. In the curves I didn't had a single feeling of instability.

It has 18" wheels and the chassis you can switch between comfort and sport mode. The difference isn't huge, the Saab get's a bit harder and it switches gears a bit sooner. It is an XWD, there was one situation, where I felt, that the XWD is working.

Otherwise the drive is very smooth and comfortable. Not slow but not a sports car. The turbo version is faster but also more thirsty. The consumption at the end was 12.6 liters / 100 km. Most of the time we were on country road. Than a little bit city and not too much highway. With a less dynamic drive it could go down maybe to 12 liters. Well it's a 3.0 V6. Who knows how diesel would work on this. Definitely not such a cool engine sound and dynamics. What about an LPG ?


Even if this is definitely not everyone's taste, it is a comfortable and robust Saab and very unique on the road. On our Saab Session it waked up a lot of attention. It is for people who enjoy smooth ride with occasional powerful push on the gas pedal. Very stable, filled up with rich equipment. Still having the saabish feeling inside as well as outside. It is a bit thirsty but not really dramatic.

I'd like to thank Saab Suchomel for allowing me to drive this Saab 9-4x for a while. In the showroom of this service is a very similar one, with only 42km on the clock for sale. Same colour, same equipment.


  1. Hi Alex, i also drove a 9-4x at the Saab Meeting in the Bavarian Forest - it has got the 2.8 Turbo engine with Hirsch Tuning and 330 Horsepower. Nice car, very quite inside and comfortable - i like it. The size of the car is good, not to big and not to small. I also drove the 9-5 II SportCombi at the Meeting - also a very good experience. Greetings! Matthias

    1. Hey Matthias, I am somehow glad not to driven the 2.8T, the desire to own it may become too strong than :)