- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

Swedish automakers Saab and Volvo are moving full speed toward producing crossover vehicles, which do not fit into traditional classifications yet tend to have characteristics of two or more traditional vehicle segments.

Most of the crossover vehicles introduced so far as either concept vehicles or actual production models have been based on cars but have been spiffed up with sport-utility traits, such as all-wheel-drive, rugged looks and roof racks.

To date, Saab has been solely a producer of automobiles, with its line consisting of the 9-3 entry luxury model and the mid-level luxury 9-5 sedan and station wagon. It has not offered an all-wheel-drive car yet. Volvo has been edging toward sport utility vehicles with what could be considered crossovers in recent years. Its Cross Country station wagon bears appearance features of a sport utility vehicle and is available with all-wheel-drive.

At the Frankfurt Auto Show last fall, Saab unveiled the 9X concept car, which will travel the U.S. auto show circuit in 2002, starting with the Detroit show next month. The 9X combines features commonly associated with a coupe, roadster, station wagon and pickup truck into one vehicle.

Designed to deliver the ultimate in flexibility, the 9X offers seating for four people in a coupe two-plus-two configuration. It offers roadster attributes with its two power sliding glass roof panels, which also can be detached and stowed. It behaves like a station wagon by providing fold-flat seating, a flip-down tailgate, a retracting rear window and a flexible cargo securing system. It is like a pickup truck in that it has an open rear deck with a floor that electronically extends outside of the vehicle with the push of a button. The 9X also features a detachable rear roof rail. Under the hood, the 9X is equipped with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine, rated at 300 horsepower, and all-wheel drive.

In Frankfort, Saab officials said that the 9X is a signpost to the future. "It shows where Saab is going," said Michael Mauer, executive director of design. In addition, Saab will unveil in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit its 9-3X concept, which it describes as a "crossover coupe." The 9-3X, which bears distinctive Saab styling cues, combines sporty styling with all-wheel drive. Its sweeping, wraparound windshield, compact proportions and small wheel openings effectively disguise the car's "command view" stance.

Saab officials say the vehicle could serve as an entry into a new sub-sport-utility-vehicle segment as Saab plans to roll out at least one new product or concept vehicle every year for the next six years.

Volvo will offer a full-fledged sport utility in 2002. The automaker will unveil its first sport utility vehicle, the XC90, at the auto show in Detroit. It goes on sale in November 2002 as a 2003 model.

The car-based, all-wheel-drive XC90 is the top-of-the-line model for Volvo's new XC line. The XC90 bears trademark Volvo design elements, such as the V-shaped hood and the pronounced shoulders, which combine to give the SUV a powerful stance and modern design featuring gently rounded, elegant lines. "We wanted the car to look masculine and confident, but not macho," explains Peter Horbury, vice president and chief designer.

In keeping with Volvo's safety image, the XC90, which carries up to seven people, showcases a range of technologically advanced solutions in rollover protection. The XC90 will come with either a five-cylinder or six-cylinder turbocharged engine. It will be assembled in Sweden.


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