Just prior to the opening of the 2011 New York International Auto Show, Saab invited journalists to take a quick look at its most striking vehicle in a long while: the lushly curved, ground-hugging PhoeniX coupe. Although the Swedish automaker says that its PhoeniX suggests the next-generation 9-3 series, a prudent person wouldn’t bet that Saab dealers will be promoting anything like this eye-catching coupe in the near future.
Then again, Saab has come up with surprises in the past. Way back in the 1950s and ‘60s, the nonconformist Swedish company was known for following its own path, creating an occasional stunner along the way.
Ever since Saab separated from General Motors as part of the latter corporation’s downsizing, its future stood in doubt as several suitors failed to come into play. Finally, in February 2010, Spyker Cars of the Netherlands took over the company. Even within the past few weeks, news reports indicated that financial troubles hung tight, though a reworked 9-5 sedan for 2011 has attracted favorable attention.
Enter youthful Saab designer Jason Castriota, who created the PhoeniX concept exhibited at Chelsea Pier in Manhattan, and then at the New York Auto Show itself. First exhibited at the Geneva (Switzerland) auto show in March, the coupe’s “Aeromotional” design is said to be inspired by Saab’s aviation roots.
Specifically, it harks back to the “aerodynamic design principles and passion for innovation that inspired” the Ursaab, the company’s first automobile. Furthermore, the PhoeniX–with its “teardrop, liquid metal” forms and jet canopy-inspired “glasshouse”–yields a “sneak peek” at the automaker’s “new design direction and future technologies.”
Like other ultra-stylish sport coupe concepts, the 2+2-passenger PhoeniX holds “butterfly” (scissors-style) doors. Unlike most, it’s propelled by a turbocharged 1.6-liter gasoline engine that generates 200 horsepower–but augmented by electric rear-wheel drive. The result is “intelligent” all-wheel drive, coupled with benefits of a hybrid powertrain, including start/stop operation and a fuel cut-off. The battery pack for the rear-drive unit is charged via regenerative braking.
Occupants may also enjoy the Saab IQon infotainment communications system, which uses an embedded computer platform that seamless connects to the Internet when the ignition is switched on. A touch-screen provides access to navigation, audio, entertainment, on-board music storage, and applications downloading.