Saab’s all new 9-3 will make its debut at the 2012 Paris show, according to company sources.
The new car is crucial to the Swedish maker’s plans to become self-sustaining as an independent manufacturer and should push Saab into profit for the first time in many years.
As well as featuring much more dramatic styling than recent Saabs, the next 9-3 will also have a new electric four-wheel drive system. Developed with engineering specialist American Axle, it will deliver as much as 10 per cent better economy than front-drive versions of the 9-3. Sources say the new 9-3 is just under 4.7m long and slightly wider than today’s 9-3.
Jason Castriota, Saab’s new design director, told Autocar that the styling has been fundamentally finished, with only final details, such as the headlamps, still to decide on.
At least one version of the car will be powered by the UK-built 200bhp, 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine used by the Mini Countryman. Saab and BMW announced the deal the day before this year’s Paris show.
Saab will also announce a supply deal for new diesel engines, but company sources would not be drawn on the likely source, saying only that “both parties are open to explore further opportunities as part of this relationship in the future”.
Engineering sources say the new electric four-wheel drive uses a newly designed multi-link rear suspension and two electric motors, one to drive the wheels and one to control the torque vectoring between the rear wheels.
Relatively inexpensive, the set-up uses a small 1kWh battery to power the rear axle when rear-end traction is needed. Today’s mechanical XWD 4x4 transmission will be replaced by the new electric rear axle on future Saabs.
The 9-3 will be based on a new architecture developed by Saab, loosely based on today’s 9-3 platform. It’s expected that a hatchback and cabrio version will be launched, but there’s no news yet on whether an estate or saloon variant will get the green light.
Insiders say that they expect to sell an annual 80,000 units when all models of the car are on sale. Saab engineering sources told Autocar that they have just 24 months until the start of 9-3 production at the Trollhättan plant, with cars rolling off the production line at the beginning of October 2012.