By Andrew Ganz
Tuesday, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 8:52 am
 
Fresh from its reboot as an independent automaker, Saab has unveiled its first post-General Motors concept car, a model that the automaker says previews the next-generation 9-3.

The PhoeniX concept, inspired by the automaker's first-ever car - the Ursaab - is clearly aviation-inspired, yet totally different from the AeroX concept that dictated design under GM. A teardrop "liquid metal" shape boasts a jet canopy-style greenhouse while keeping the drag coefficient to just 0.25. Side-mounted "winglets" help manage airflow across the body of the car while providing for a unique mirror mounting location.

"The PhoeniX establishes a new reference point for the future of Saab product design," said Jason Castriota, Saab's Executive Design Director. "It symbolizes a renaissance of the innovative spirit and passion that drove Saab to build its first car. We're now taking the visual DNA forward with what we call "˜aeromotional' design, adding emotion, power and fluidity. This design aesthetic will shape and differentiate future models in the Saab portfolio."

A Kamm-style tail with LED lamps finishes things off in a decidedly mini-supercar-like look. Saab's Griffin logo gives way to a heritage-inspired aviation logo similar to the one the automaker used through the 1970s.

The butterfly-style side doors reveal a simple, "stripped out" minimalist interior where the company's new Google Android-based IQon infotainment system can take center stage.

Under its hood, the PhoeniX uses a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 200 horsepower thanks to variable valve timing and lift control as well as a 34-horsepower electric motor powered by a small battery pack. It features start/stop functionality to save fuel and cut emissions.

The hybrid system combines with a six-speed manual transmission to cut emissions to just 119 g/km of CO2 and fuel economy to 47 mpg in the combined cycle.

Saab's XWD all-wheel-drive system also makes an appearance; a trio of operating modes put an emphasis on sport, economy or comfort, depending on the driver's desire.

IQon
Saab's new IQon infotainment system utilizes Google's sophisticated Android operating system to provide "open innovation" applications available from third-party developers.

In the PhoeniX, the system is mounted on an eight-inch screen set at a 45 degree angle to the driver. As such, its touch-screen is as close to the driver as the car's steering wheel, which helps minimize distraction.

The system also stays in touch with more than 500 sensors in the PhoeniX concept car in order to keep the driver apprised of any situation that may arise.

Look for Saab's IQon system to debut on a production model soon. The automaker says it is already testing the system in a fleet of vehicles in Sweden.

Pointing to the future
Saab says that the PhoeniX rides on its next-generation 9-3 architecture, although the automaker hasn't given many more details.

At the very least, look for the next-generation 9-3 to feature a number of PhoeniX concept-inspired details, as well as the IQon system. A hybrid version powered by the PhoeniX's gasoline and electric motors also seems likely.

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