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Concept-Saab 9-X Air BioHybrid Convertible Preview

Concept-Saab 9-X Air BioHybrid Convertible Preview

By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012


Critical Knowledge:

  • Convertible concept designed in parallel with 9X BioHybrid Concept
  • 1.4-liter, Saab BioPower engine
  • Uses E85 bioethanol fuel and hybrid technology
  • Unique Canopy Top and wraparound glass, including rear screen
  • Offers 4-passenger seating with sports car proportions

Introduction
First introduced at the Paris Motor Show, Saab debuts the new 9-X "Air" BioHybrid Concept Convertible in North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The concept comes some 25 years after the automaker's first convertible was unveiled and this newest Saab concept hints at what future droptop design may look like. Designed in parallel with the 9-X BioHybrid Concept, the 9-X Air BioHybrid shares the same highly-efficient powertrain-a small, 1.4-liter, Saab BioPower turbocharged engine that uses hybrid technology and E85 bioethanol fuel.

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Design
Offering a distinctive silhouette, the Saab 9-X Air BioHybrid Convertible Concept features a unique Canopy Top and wraparound greenhouse. Designing the car in this way allowed Saab to completely alter the usual appearance of a convertible, thus creating a more dynamic coupe look. Prominent rear pillars mount the flat-folding Canopy Top and also anchor a separate, recessed rear screen. The stand-alone rear screen is located between the raked rear pillars.

The Canopy Top is itself a development of the "Targa" principle. Instead of a roof section that manually detaches, the 9-X Air Canopy Top is a fully powered operation, folding away in the trunk for storage. Smaller and lighter than a conventional soft-top, the Canopy Top takes up less trunk space as well. To reduce weight, even the fiber choice was carefully considered, as Saab designers saved nearly 220 pounds, compared to a metal folding hardtop. The fabric is durable and provides effective road noise insulation. The automaker has filed for a patent for this innovative feature.

Saab says the 9-X Air breaks the mould of conventional convertible design because it provides 4-seat accommodations within a sports car's close-coupled proportions. With the top in the down position, the 9-X Air is a convertible that offers turbulence-free motoring, Saab says. This is due to the rear screen that works in tandem with a small wind deflector on the top edge of the windshield header roll, which actively deploys, rising and falling with the car's speed. The screen helps prevent back drafts at the rear, since air flow over the car doesn't get sucked back in through an open rear deck, the automaker says. With the top up, the car looks like a true coupe. Another benefit of the Canopy Top design is that the glass area of the rear screen, larger than a traditional convertible's "stitched in" screen, provides the driver with a wider field of vision.


Hardware
The Saab 9-X Air BioHybrid Convertible Concept shares the same powertrain as the 9-X BioHybrid Concept: a highly-efficient, 1.4-liter, dual overhead cam (DOHC), Saab BioPower engine that combines what the automaker calls "engine rightsizing" with turbocharging, the use of hybrid technology, and E85 bioethanol (85% bioethanol/15% gasoline) fuel. This permits the car to deliver the performance of a sporty car while still boasting a significantly reduced environmental impact, Saab says.

The engine produces 170 hp at 5200 rpm using gasoline, and 200 hp at 5000 rpm using E85. Torque numbers are 170 lb.-ft. between 1500-5200 rpm (gasoline) and 207 lb.-ft. at 1750-5000 rpm (E85). Running on E85, carbon dioxide CO2 tailpipe emissions are projected to be just 107 g/km over the combined cycle, very favorable, according to Saab. This is important because vehicles that go farther on a gallon of gasoline (or E85), emit less CO2 into the atmosphere. In Europe, it's not so much fuel consumption today that is increasingly center-stage but CO2 tailpipe emissions, which are linked to taxation. In the U.S., meanwhile, consumers are only recently becoming aware of this issue. Saab says it always advocates small engines, with turbochargers for performance when required. The intercooled, turbocharged engine in the 9-X Air BioHybrid Convertible Concept is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission with an automatic clutch, sequential gear selection and steering-wheel shift controls. The next-generation GM Hybrid system consists of an electric motor/generator with a lithium-ion battery pack. There's also electric power boost, regenerative braking, automatic fuel cut-off and automatic engine re-start.

The 9-X Air's front suspension is comprised of damper/coil struts with aluminum lower A-arm and an anti-roll bar. In the rear, the suspension is a torsion beam axle with two trailing links, coil springs and dampers, and an anti-roll bar. Steering is rack-and-pinion with electrical power assistance. The 9-X Air rides on 21-inch wheels and tires.


Safety
Saab takes full note of safety considerations with the 9-X Air, outfitting it with a complete arsenal of electronic stability and braking systems, as well as Lane Departure Warning. A front-mounted camera scans the road ahead, flashing warning messages on the driver information display when the car veers across lane markings. This same camera also monitors light sources at night, with small shutters that automatically "hood" the car's high headlamp beam from approaching oncoming traffic. Pop-up roll bars fitted behind the 9-X Air's rear seats provide additional occupant protection.

Technology
Saab took a look at the driver information zone and executed a fresh approach in the 9-X Air. The new design features a flat, arc-shaped surface which houses a row of five embedded display screens illuminated in green 3-D graphics. This includes both an "infotainment" screen and a control panel in the driver's door. Saab also worked with Sony Ericsson to showcase the potential for seamless, Bluetooth wireless connectivity with multiple portable devices, such as PDAs, mobile phones and iPods. Thus, the streaming of entertainment, data and satellite navigation functions are enabled through the in-car interface, automatically transferred to the vehicle even while the device remains in the user's pocket. Saab says that the smarter the device, the more functions in the car that can be enabled: the same unit can be programmed to lock or unlock the car remotely, raise and lower the Canopy Top, as well as remotely change in-car presets. This capability eliminates the need for a separate key fob or remote controller, Saab says.

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