Sleek, innovative and exceptionally efficient: the Saab PhoeniX concept car showcases design features and technologies which will shape the next generation of cars from Saab.
Making its global debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show and based on a new architecture which will empower the next Saab 9-3 model, the PhoeniX introduces ‘aeromotional’ design: a visual evocation of the aerodynamic design principles and passion for innovation that inspired the creators of Saab’s first car, the iconic Ursaab. The PhoeniX embraces teardrop, ‘liquid metal’ forms and a dramatic jet canopy-inspired glasshouse that gives fresh expression to Saab’s signature ‘wraparound’ and translucent ice-block design themes. The clean, muscular shape enables an exceptionally low drag co-efficient of just 0.25 and also explores the potential for airflow management through the use of distinctive, side-mounted wing elements.
Butterfly opening doors give easy access to a 2+2 cabin that blends simplicity with technology. It has a minimalist, ‘stripped out’ feel, including a new expression of Saab’s driver-focused layout and a world debut for Saab’s innovative IQon infotainment and communications system. In true Saab tradition, there is also a surprisingly versatile cargo deck. “The PhoeniX establishes a new reference point for the future of Saab product design,” says Jason Castriota, Saab Automobile’s Executive Design Director. “It symbolizes a renaissance of the innovative spirit and passion that drove Saab to build its first car. We’re now taking the visual DNA forward with what we call ‘aeromotional’ design, adding emotion, power and fluidity. This design aesthetic will shape and differentiate future models in the Saab portfolio.”
The PhoeniX’s ‘aeromotional’ design theme is inspired by Saab’s aviation roots and draws expression from Ursaab, the prototype designed by aircraft engineers that spawned Saab’s first generation of cars. The entire form of the PhoeniX is seemingly molded by the wind. Tightly-wrapped by a liquid-like skin, the teardrop cabin resembles a dark ice block and appears to erupt from the center of the muscular bodywork. Two prominent ripples flow along the hood into the disguised windshield pillars, as if barely able to contain a powerful structure underneath. At the rear, the dark screen also bursts through the outer skin of the rear deck, The tapering form hints at the teardrop rear styling of Ursaab, while the ‘sawn off’, kamm tail echoes a form from Saab’s first coupé, the Sonett.
The low, frontal styling features a stretched interpretation of Saab’s signature three-port grille. A body-colored central wing is now dominant and, in keeping with the car’s minimalist design, LED headlamps are almost invisibly located at its tips. The new grille and hood forms are among the styling themes likely to be seen in future Saab production cars. Butterfly-opening doors provide enhanced access to the low-slung cabin. There are no visible door handles or mirrors to disrupt airflow, and small cameras on slim stalks provide rearward vision.
Roof-mounted wing elements enable PhoeniX to cleave the air as efficiently as possible. They channel airflow from the side of the car and direct it across the rear deck, reducing lift forces for greater stability without increasing drag. They are a visual extension of aluminum-colored beams inside the car, which are part of the exposed DynaCage inner structure.
In true Scandinavian tradition, the 2+2 cabin adopts a clean, minimalist look. The interior’s DynaCage concept gives it the ‘stripped out’ feel of a completion car, with aluminum-colored metal elements creating a network of exposed ‘beams’ which resembles a rollover cage. Slim, shell-like seats add to the effect. Fresh expression is given to Saab’s traditional, driver-focused instrument layout. A circular pod in front of the driver, shaped like the afterburner of a jet engine, presents data in tandem with the head-up display. Angled at 45º to the driver, a separate module accommodates Saab’s advanced IQon infotainment and communications system. For good ergonomics, the eight inch touch-screen is as close to the driver’s finger tips as the steering wheel.
Under its sculpted hood and beneath its cargo deck, the PhoeniX advances Saab’s rightsizing power train strategy. Its propulsion system combines a highly efficient, 1.6-litre turbo engine with innovative, electric rear wheel drive technology. The compact, all-aluminum gasoline engine packs 200 hp and includes variable valve timing and lift control, as well as start/stop functionality, minimal parasitic losses and a fuel cut-off function. A stainless steel tank is fitted, which is lighter and less expensive than a conventional plastic design.
The engine is supported by Saab’s innovative eXWD system. It comprises a rear drive unit housing a 34 hp electric motor/generator powered by a small battery pack. Regenerative braking is used to sustain the battery’s charge. Now under development for the next generation of Saab cars, this hybrid propulsion system enables the benefits of all-wheel-drive while also reducing fuel consumption. Using a six-speed manual transmission, projected combined cycle fuel economy and CO2 emissions are just 5.0 l/100 km and 119 g/km. The driver can select one of three eXWD operating modes. The default Eco mode delivers optimal fuel and CO2 efficiency with power assistance to reduce load on the gasoline engine at low speeds; Sport mode includes maximum power assistance with torque vectoring across the rear axle for greater chassis control; and Traction mode enables optimal grip at take-off and in slippery conditions. Inside and out, the Saab PhoeniX showcases new design directions and technologies that will be part of forthcoming Saab products.