Saab has a stunning surprise for Geneva crowds: the Aero X Concept. The study, Saab says, explores future design themes and features we will see in future Saab products. The two-seater coupe has been designed under the guidance of Brian Nesbitt, Executive Director of GM Design Europe, whose first important design was the PT Cruiser. He later penned the Chevy HHR.

The Aero X Concept was inspired by the aviation heritage of Saab and has a cockpit canopy, like those on jet aircraft. The bold design has a sculpted tail that covers a twin luggage compartment with a conventional hatch opening and sliding drawer underneath. Inside, there are no dials or buttons; Saab has used techniques derived from Swedish glass and precision instrument making to display data on glass-like acrylic clear panels in graphic 3D images. Interior and exterior lighting is LED-type.

The concept is equipped with a 2.8-liter BioPower V-6 fueled by bioethanol and, Saab says, would cut carbon dioxide emissions. The V-6 is teamed to a seven-speed, double clutch automated manual transmission. The engine has 400 hp and 369 lb-ft between 2000 and 5000 rpm, which in theory would thrust the concept car from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and give it a (limited) top speed of 155 mph. Active chassis management and all-wheel drive are featured, the latter with variable front/rear torque split. The body of the Aero X would be made of lightweight carbon fiber, Saab says.

Aero-X: Born From the Corvette

Is it the face of Saab's future? Don't expect to see the Aero X concept vehicle in your nearby Saab showroom anytime soon, but it still says a lot about the struggling Swedish automaker's future, according to company officials. Appropriately surrounded by 55 tons of ice, the Aero-X is a decidedly edgy alternative to Saab's current lineup. And that's precisely what was in mind, said Anthony Lo, a member of the Aero-X design team. The extreme proportions underscore the automaker's current ad campaign, "Born From Jets," with aerospace cues, such as the oversized air intakes. One of the more distinctive touches is the wraparound windshield, which eliminates the traditional A-pillar. A trick cantilever system raises and tilts the roof of the low-slung two-seater for relatively easy access to the interior. Think of it as "Scandinavian Cool," said Lo, playing off the popular J-Cool, or Japanese Cool design themes. In general proportions, the Aero-X is similar to the Chevrolet Corvette, and in production, it would most likely share the U.S. sports car's platform. But "I don't think Saab would ever do anything like that," Bob Lutz, car czar at Saab's U.S. parent, General Motors, conceded during an interview with Nonetheless, the Aero-X is, he said, "symbolic of what Saab could do with design." Long short of cash and product, the automaker recently won approval for a more aggressive business plan that will begin expanding its model lineup over the next few years. A vehicle smaller than the current 9-3 is a top priority, according to Lutz, as is a mid-size crossover.

The GM Vice Chairman also noted that the Swedish subsidiary is approaching the point of profitability, in part because of increased economies of scale. Going forward, Lutz said, Saab products will be largely the same as GM's under the skin, though the focus will be on differentiating ride and styling, while add-on features should allow "you to sell it at a much higher price." The typical Saab, he stressed, should command "anywhere from $1000 to $2000 over a comparable Opel or Pontiac" version.

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