These pictures show the new Saab 9-3X ahead of its scheduled public debut at the Geneva motor show in March.
Based on the Saab 9-3 estate, the Saab 9-3X variant adds beefed-up ride height, tougher-looking front styling and a body kit to give the junior Saab a semi-SUV look.
The Saab 9-3X is a first for the compact executive segment. While Audi, Subaru and Volvo all have estates based on a similar concept, they use larger models as a base.
“The 9-3X is an efficient all-rounder for anyone who doesn’t want or need an SUV-type vehicle,” said Simon Padian, Saab design chief.
Audi is expected to follow Saab’s lead at Geneva with a similar concept for the A4. And Volvo is tipped to have an XC50 waiting in the wings.
The Saab 9-3X will be available with a choice of two engines, a 210bhp 2.0-litre petrol turbo and a 180bhp twin-turbo 1.9-litre diesel. Both will have the option of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
The petrol version of the Saab 9-3X will be available only with Saab’s impressive XWD four-wheel drive system, which includes an electronically controlled centre diff capable of shifting torque across axles as well as fore and aft.
Ironically, the Saab 9-3X diesel will be front-drive only, despite producing 295lb ft of torque compared with the petrol model’s 221lb ft.
There’s no word on whether Saab will offer other engines, although until the last minute, the 9-3X's launch was being planned around the 277bhp 2.8-litre turbo V6. That engine is no longer slated to appear.
Four-wheel drive and front-wheel drive Saab 9-3Xs will also have different ride heights. The XWD variant gets a 35mm ride height boost over the standard 9-3, while the front-wheel drive car makes do with an extra 20mm.
Although there are no interior pics yet, Autocar understands that the cabin does not get a makeover like the exterior.
As well as tweaking the engine range at the last minute, Saab has cut back its sales projections; it plans on selling just 100 9-3X models in the UK this year.
Detailed specifications will be revealed at Geneva, but they’re expected to be based around the top-spec Vector Sport and Aero trims. The 9-3X models are also tipped to carry a £3k premium, pushing prices to around the £30k mark.