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Looking to appeal to younger, less affluent buyers, Saab took the easy way out with the 9-2X by using the "badge-engineered" approach practically pioneered by parent company General Motors. By leveraging GM's overseas partnerships, starting with a Subaru Impreza wagon and adding some unique styling, a retuned suspension and different fabric inside, Saab wound up with the entry-level 9-2X sport wagon. Although the 9-2X came together quickly with the desired blend of style and practicality, Saab's unique Scandinavian character was largely left out of the mix.
The "X" in the Saab 9-2's moniker referred to its standard all-wheel-drive system, a core attribute of the donor vehicle. Differentiating the Saab 9-2X were its softened exterior lines with unique front and rear styling, as well as larger alloy wheels and all-season tires. Carried over, however, were two engines: an un-Saab-like, non-turbocharged 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder on the base 2.5i model, and a much stronger turbo version on the high-performance Aero.
Was the transformation worth it? In our opinion, not really. Despite a longer warranty and a more fetching appearance, the Saab 9-2X came off as a poor value at the time. Its Subaru-sourced interior felt rather cheap for a premium brand, and it didn't deliver the sort of refined ride quality one might expect from a high-end vehicle. The 9-2X also lacked upscale features like stability control, navigation and premium audio.
Not surprisingly, sales were slow. Because of this as well as disruptions with GM's partnership with Subaru, Saab discontinued the model after just two years. As a used model, the 9-2X fares a little better, especially since there will likely be good deals to be found. Subaru fans simply wanting a nicer Impreza are potential buyers. But most people looking for a premium small wagon will be better off paying more for a true, small luxury wagon.
Most Recent Saab 9-2X
The Saab 9-2X wagon was produced for 2005 and '06. Two trim levels were offered in the first year -- the base Linear and the more powerful Aero. The Linear was renamed "2.5i" for the second year. Standard features on the base model were 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth sport seats, manual air-conditioning and a single-CD sound system. The upmarket Aero was a bit more appealing with foglamps, metallic-ringed gauges, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, automatic climate control and a CD changer. The 9-2X could be further dressed up with 17-inch alloys, leather seating, seat heaters, xenon HID headlights and a moonroof.
The base Linear and 2.5i models were motivated by a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("boxer") four-cylinder engine. It was rated at 165 horsepower and then upgraded for the 2.5i model to produce 173 hp. The Aero model's engine also changed slightly. For '05, it was a 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-4 making 227 hp. The following year, it had a 2.5-liter version that made 230 hp. All engines were hooked up to a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. All-wheel drive was standard.
While the exterior styling of the 9-2X may have whispered "Saab," the interior was much less distinguished. The gauges were clean and legible, but also somewhat plain for this price point. Attractive two-tone cloth upholstery graced the seats and decently textured materials were used on the dash and door tops, but there were also hard, shiny plastics used elsewhere and a cheap, cardboard-like headliner overhead. More practical than pretty, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat helped with bulky cargo and up to 62 cubic feet of cargo space was available.
Although the suspension settings were retuned and softened for the Saab 9-2X, we found that the refined ride quality of its competitors was missing. Making up for this was a tossable character on curves and back roads, especially in Aero guise. The base engine provided enough power for around-town driving, but it felt a bit sluggish when passing on the highway. The Aero's turbo engine was a gem, though, with a broad power band and smooth delivery except for a slight bit of lag off the line. The automatic transmission tended to blunt the 9-2X's performance in either case, so enthusiasts will want to look for a manual gearbox.