Saab has released the first pictures of the 9-X Air concept that will be shown at the forthcoming Paris show.
Behind the usual show bling, the 9-X Air is being billed as the next-generation 9-3 Cabriolet, planned for sale around 2013/14, and built on the next-generation GM Delta 2 platform.
Key to this switch — until earlier this year the 9-3 was planned on a shortened Epsilon 2 — is a desire to minimise exhaust emissions and fuel economy by keeping the next 9-3 close in size to today’s model.
With this in mind, Saab is exploring new ideas for an open-roof car on the 9-X Air, eschewing a conventional canvas folding roof or fashionable metal-folding hardtop in favour of a new concept of a lightweight two-piece fabric and glass design.
A series of patents are being sought on this design, which Saab says is an in-house concept, developed by its own engineers rather than a supplier system. The rear window forms the aft section of this roof, sliding away into a compact pocket behind the rear bulkhead, while the forward part features a folding canvas roof engineered to move like that on a Mini Convertible.
The idea is that the canvas roof can fold away, leaving the glass screen up, which acts as a wind deflector to keep the cabin free of turbulence for four occupants. Many convertibles are equipped with mesh deflectors to cut turbulence, but they usually fit over the rear seats meaning they can’t be used when four people occupy the cabin.
The 9-X Air is also hinting at Saab’s future engine strategy, using a hybrid-assisted 198bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that can run on bio-ethanol fuel. Saab says it has projected CO2 emissions of just 119 g/km when running on petrol, and 107 g/km when running on ‘E85’ bio-ethanol.