Hoping to broaden its customer base, Saab introduced its first-ever sport utility vehicle a couple of years ago: the 9-7X. It's new to the Saab lineup, but the vehicle is familiar in some aspects. The 2007 Saab 9-7X shares its underpinnings with General Motors' midsize SUVs, which means there are a host of domestic utes that are broadly similar to Saab's latest arrival.
Saab has sought to distinguish the 9-7X from its platform-mates by modifying the suspension tuning and revising its exterior styling and interior trim to give it a look and feel that's uniquely Saab. The SUV features Saab's trademark three-port grille and European-styled headlamps. Its profile is devoid of big bumper offsets or protruding shapes, giving the 2007 9-7X a low-key, distinctly European flavor. In a break with Saab tradition, no turbocharged engines are available. Instead, the 9-7X comes with either a 290-horsepower, 4.2-liter inline-6 or a 300-hp 5.3-liter V8.
The 9-7X has a lot going in its favor, but at the end of the day, it will likely disappoint those craving the uniqueness that has become Saab's stock in trade. The SUV's upgrades serve to shroud its GM roots, but fall short of disguising them completely. It also faces stiff competition led by vehicles such as the Acura MDX and Mercedes-Benz M-Class; both offer excellent performance as well as long lists of safety and luxury features. Though competent enough, the 2007 Saab 9-7X is one best left to die-hard loyalists determined to have a Saab nameplate on their SUV.
The 2007 Saab 9-7X is a midsize four-door SUV that seats five and comes in two trims: 4.2i and 5.3i. Standard equipment on the 4.2i includes 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, faux wood interior trim, eight-way power-adjustable and heated front seats (with driver-seat memory), a power moonroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an MP3-compatible Bose stereo with an in-dash CD changer. Additionally, all vehicles are equipped with an OnStar communications system that offers one year of a new service called OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation. Optional equipment highlights for the 9-7X include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a navigation system.
Saab drivers will feel right at home in the 9-7X's interior. Traditional brand design elements such as the cockpit-inspired center stack and center-mounted ignition will be instantly recognizable to aficionados. Wood grain trim on the dash and contrasting seat upholstery and door inserts do their part to give the 9-7X the progressive Scandinavian feel of other Saab models. Those who look closer will see the cabin's GM roots, a resemblance that cheapens the Saab 9-7X next to stylish rivals like the Touareg and XC90. Cargo capacity measures almost 40 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 80 cubes when they're folded.
Unlike all other Saabs, the 9-7X cannot be equipped with a turbocharged engine. The 4.2i trim comes with a 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine capable of 290 hp and 277 pound-feet of torque. The 5.3i packs a 5.3-liter V8 good for 300 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission that directs power to a standard all-wheel-drive system. Towing capacity is 5,500 pounds for the six-cylinder 4.2i and 6,500 for the V8-powered 5.3i.
Achieving the road feel of a European sedan using an American truck chassis is no small task, but Saab engineers put the double-A-arm front suspension and multilink, solid-axle rear setup through a boot camp of geometrical adjustments, while stiffening the frame and revalving the shocks. Indeed, the 2007 Saab 9-7X has a more stable ride and more responsive handling than any of its GM counterparts. However, less expensive SUVs like the Explorer and 4Runner still run circles around the Saab when it comes to driving dynamics. Brake feel is another weak point, as the pedal lacks the confident, linear action expected in a premium-brand SUV. Both the standard inline-6 and optional V8 provide more than ample power, but neither has the refinement of the engines offered in the 4Runner or Touareg.
The Saab 9-7X comes standard with stability control, a tire-pressure monitor, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The 9-7X received a mediocre three out of a possible five stars for driver protection in NHTSA's frontal crash test. Front passengers fare a bit better in the same test, with a four-star rating.
A tire-pressure monitor is standard on all 2007 Saab 9-7Xs. The SUV's standard OnStar communications system now offers one year of a new service called OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation. This feature allows customers to talk with a live advisor, who then sends directions via the customer's OnStar setup. Its chief benefit is that it allows drivers to access directions without taking their focus from the road.