Saab Aero X: The Concept That Should Have Saved Saab
While spending some time looking through old pictures I had taken at auto shows past, I stumbled upon a concept car I loved since the moment I laid eyes on it. I had nearly walked right past the Saab booth at the very first Los Angeles Auto Show I ever attended, in 2007. After all, I was 19 years old, and nobody under the age of 40 ever seriously considered purchasing a quirky little car from a quirky little Swedish manufacturer, even when it was owned by the biggest player in Detroit. Ignoring the car adorned with a crowned griffin would have been an oversight, especially since Saab was showcasing its newest concept car: the Aero X.
It was clear that the “Born From Jets” tagline had at least some effect on the design team, even if most of the brand’s roadgoing automobiles were rebadged Opels. The most apparent application of that tagline was the Aero X’s doors that were attached to the windshield and slid upward and forward, like a jet fighter canopy. It’s hard to describe in words, so here’s the Aero X promo video that shows the things in action (0:50-1:02):
The canopy-style design also meant no A pillars, giving driver and passenger a full 180° forward view. In a bit of supercar design prophecy, the Aero X features only LEDs as lighting sources, inside and out. Fan-shaped wheels and a body shape made to invoke an airplane fuselage all pay homage to Saab’s aerospace past. On the inside, physical buttons compliment acrylic touch zones that appear to be suspended in glass, not quite succumbing to the sterile feel of just a touch screen by itself.
The official press release for the concept stated that the Aero X was powered by a twin-turbo 2.8L V6 that produced 400hp and was able to run on E100 bioethanol, in addition to normal gasoline. A seven-speed automated manual powered all four wheels, and drivers could activate gear changes through paddle shifters. Saab’s computer models estimated this powertrain, combined with carbon-fiber bodywork, would propel the Aero X from 0-60 in just under 5 seconds.
Those numbers mean little, because the Aero X was more a design study than an engineering one, and a beautiful body is the thing that draws crowds at an auto show more than anything else. Did anybody really care that the Jaguar C-X75 featured electric motors and gas turbines? Hell no, because nobody in their right mind would believe Jag was going to stuff engines that revved to 17,000rpm into a production car. People loved it because it was pure automotive pornography, even if it was just a pipe dream. Unlike the C-X75, whose design inspired the C-X16 and thus the forthcoming F-Type, Saab never had the chance to adapt any part of the Aero X into their future lineup because, for all intents and purposes, Saab now exists in name only as a subsidiary of a Hong Kong-owned energy company. It’s a shame, since the Aero X truly explored what Saab could create when it wasn’t limited by its corporate parent.