Saab will declare its independence as a carmaker with the launch of an all-new 9-3 in late 2012. Rebadged as the 93, the new model will also mark the reintroduction of a hatchback version reminiscent of the classic 900.
Saab is working on a new platform — known internally as the ‘Phoenix Architecture’ — that will underpin the next-generation 9-3 family as well as the eventual replacement for the latest 9-5, which has just been launched.
It’s expected that the first car based on the Phoenix Architecture will be the new 93 saloon, which is currently pencilled in for a 2012 launch.
Getting this new car into the showrooms is a priority for a company that badly needs to boost its sales and dramatically increase its cashflow.
A cabriolet and a three-door hatchback will follow hard on the saloon’s heels. The drop-top and hatch are closely related, being nearly identical to each other up to the doors and frameless window arrangement.
The 93 Sport Wagon will be the final model in the range, sharing the majority of its construction with the saloon.
Although the 93 hatch will be bigger than the Audi A3, it is expected to be priced at a similar level, starting at around £18,000. The new model should be Saab’s most credible driver’s car since the 900 Aero was launched in 1985.
The styling of the 93 family will build on that of today’s 9-5, but the company designers are likely to make more use of an aerospace-influenced, barrel-sided look for the 93.
Inside, the wrap-around dashboard theme will stay, but the expanse of bare fascia seen in the new 9-5 is likely to be watered down to avoid overwhelming the driver.
Saab engineers have the option of fitting the 93 with the sophisticated HiPer strut front and linked H-arm rear suspension systems that are already used on some versions of the new 9-5. The company’s highly regarded four-wheel drive set-up is also on the menu.
There’s still some mystery as to the source of the 93’s engines, but it seems highly likely that they will come from outside the General Motors family.
Sources say Saab might already have signed a contract with BMW to supply BMW-derived diesel and petrol engines that are set to make their debut in the forthcoming Mini Countryman.
The company is keen on what it calls ‘right-sized’ engines, which it can modify using its extensive experience in turbocharging and engine management technology.
If true, the BMW deal could include the new 184bhp 1.6-litre, twin-scroll turbo Cooper S engine and the 112bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine used in the Countryman.
Indeed, a senior BMW source recently told Autocar that his company had “no problem” supplying engines to other car makers.
These engines are likely to be mated to the Countryman’s new six-speed manual gearbox, which has the ability to accommodate a four-wheel drive system. Saab, however, would retain its own Haldex-based XWD system no matter who supplies the engines.
Saab is also likely to offer a dual-clutch gearbox in the 93, given that it has already developed one for GM.
Ahead of these newly sourced engines, however, Saab is expected to launch a mildly refreshed version of the current 9-3 powered by a GM-sourced 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine.