The car you see here is not really a Saab. Sure, it has a Saab badge, a Saab-ish face and even a Saab-esque interior with the ignition barrel quirkily placed between the seats, but don’t be fooled. Yep, this ‘9-7X’ is a particularly brazen attempt at badge-engineering.
This wasn’t the only time General Motors pulled off the trick with the Swedish brand. There was the 9-2X - a car we talked about a while ago - which is best thought of as a Subaru WRX wagon with a face transplant. But the 9-7X was much larger and packed some huge, very un-Saab-like engines.
That’s because the 9-7X is a Chevrolet Trailblazer wearing an unconvincing disguise. Fascia aside, GM didn’t even bother changing the body panels all that much. And underneath them, you’ll find the same GMT360 platform as the ‘Blazer (also used for the likes of the GMC Envoy and Buick Rainier) and the same engine line-up.
You could choose between a 4.3-litre inline-six, a 5.3-litre V8 or if you plumped for the top-of-the-range Aero model, a 6.0-litre LS2 eight-banger. Yep, the same engine fitted to the earlier C6 Corvettes, giving an output of 390bhp and whisking this hulk of Swedish-influenced Americana from 0-60mph in just under six seconds.
It’s about as far away from the traditional inline-four turbo Saab Aero models as you can possibly get, but that’s probably to be expected from a car which is built not in Trollhättan, Sweden, but Moraine, Ohio.
That said, some Saab influence did change the SUV for the better. The 9-7X had a bespoke suspension setup including firmer springs and dampers, a fatter front anti-roll bar and tweaked geometry at the front axle. The Truth About Cars noted in its 2006 review that unlike Trailblazer which “flops though bumps and corners,” the Saab equivalent had a “just right” chassis setup.
Then again, it should have handled better than a Trailblazer - it was $5000 more spec-for-spec. It should come as no surprise then that it remained a niche proposition, with 86,000 shifted from 2005 - 2009, compared to over 700,000 Trailblazers in the same period, although it did outsell the Buick.
Production was brought to a close in 2009 when the Moraine Assembly plant shut down. But GM had one last kinda-sorta Saab SUV up its sleeve: the 9-4X.
Based on the same Theta Premium platform as the Cadillac SRX, the 9-4X at least had more of its own identity compared to its predecessor. It was produced in Mexico at the Ramos Arizpe Assembly (making it the only Saab to ever be built in the country) from the start of 2011, but not for long: by the end of the year Saab went bust. 9-4X production stopped, with just 814 units built, making this the Swedish brand’s rarest ever production car. Hell, even the Porsche 918 Spyder was made in bigger numbers.
Neither car represents a particularly glamorous part of the Saab story, but both cement the company’s position as one of the weirdest to ever grace the automotive world