Saab Aero X

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Saab is delving into its past to reshape its future with a radical concept car aimed at redefining the brand.

The sleek two-seater Aero X was welcomed amid 55 tonnes of ice imported from Sweden to reinforce the General Motors-owned brand's history.

The Aero X harks back to Saab's aeroplane history to create a look-at-me concept car designed to reassure people the troubled Swedish brand has a prosperous future.

A radical cockpit-style canopy negates the need for doors, instead raising electronically to reveal a futuristic two-seater cabin.

There are also no windscreen wipers, with a special coating on the screen designed to keep occupants seeing clearly in the wet.

"This car has given us the opportunity to push out the boundaries of Saab design, to explore new directions without any constraint," explains Anthony Lo, GM Europe's director of advanced design. "It represents our vision of what a high performance car from Saab could look like."

"We have focused on harnessing the visual potential of Saab's aviation roots, as well as introducing design elements in lighting and instrumentation that have been inspired by our Scandinavian experience."

Despite disappointing global sales and question marks hanging over the brand's longevity, the multi-million dollar Aero X is a fresh injection of ingenuity and excitement for a brand struggling to make it in a hard-fought luxury car segment.

"This concept shows the exciting possibilities that are open to us as we evolve a more progressive design language for the brand," says Saab managing director Jan Ake Jonsson.

GM of Europe's executive director Bryan Nesbitt says the Aero X is all about harnessing the company's heritage for inspiration and direction for a brand that appears to have lacked both over the last decade.

"This study shows how the strength of the Saab brand heritage can inspire bold, innovative design," says Nesbitt. "As we move forward with new Saab product, we will remain focused on carefully cultivating this brand equity in the context of Scandinavian design values."

The body of the Aero X is made of carbon fibre designed reduce weight, which is down to an estimated 1500kg.

Despite the Swedish influence, the Aero X has a hint of Australia beneath its bonnet; the twin-turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 is part of the Global V6 family that's made in Melbourne.

But, in an effort to leverage Saab's environmentally-friendly image, the V6 has been tuned to run on 100 per cent ethanol. In doing so it delivers 300kW of power and 500Nm of torque.

"Turbocharging and bioethanol make excellent partners," says Saab powertrain executive director Kjell ac Bergström. "In developing this BioPower V6 engine we
have been able to take the next step by using E100 fuel, pure 100% bioethanol.

"Although the engine is optimized for E100, the engine management system will still make adjustments for any bioethanol/gasoline blend in the tank. So, if there is no bioethanol available, the customer can still use gasoline at any time."

While the Aero X is very much in its concept faze, computer simulations claim it can reach 100km/h in 4.9 seconds.

That sort of acceleration also comes courtesy of the all-wheel-drive system and seven-speed manual transmission with twin computer-operated clutches; a system similar to that used in various Audis and Volkswagens.

There is also an active chassis system, which monitors suspension input and uses a computer to adjust the shock absorbers to the conditions up to 100 times per second.

Saab has also done away with conventional light globes throughout the Aero X, instead using more efficient and longer-lasting LEDs, a technology the company says "will be featured increasingly in future Saab products".

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