Against The Odds, Saab's First Crossover Comes Good 2011 Saab 9-4X – Click above for high-res image gallery As we assembled media and executives sat down to dinner in Washington, D.C. the night before driving the 2011 Saab 9-4X, a waiter leaned over my shoulder with a bottle of sparkling water and poured it into a waiting rocks glass filled with ice and a lemon. He paused, staring intently at my glass. Clearly flummoxed, the dinner service ground to a halt. "May I, sir?" As I had no earthly idea what was troubling him, I nodded. "Certainly." He picked up the glass, reached into its mouth and fished out the lemon only to squeeze it with much theater. The wedge yielded but a drop or two of juice. "Dry!" he pronounced with a mixture of pride and embarrassment. Perhaps reading the confusion on my face, he followed this proclamation by saying "You can 'ell becooze.... it was... ah.... reluctant to float." He then disappeared into the back of the restaurant for what seemed like minutes, reemerging with a new glass filled with ice and a noticeably plumper wedge of citrus riding atop the rim of the glass. You just never know what's going to hold up a car launch. Stick around in this business for a while, and you'll see how labor unrest, cash crunches, bad mergers and natural disasters can wreak havoc on a new automobile's gestation and production schedule. We thought we'd seen it all, but the poor folks at Saab are surely trying for some kind of record with the number of calamities threatening to scrap not just the launch of this 9-4X, but the Swedish brand altogether. In fact, this handsome looking crossover is already late to the party – it was originally slated to launch in 2009 alongside its General Motors' platform-mate, the Cadillac SRX. Given the strong initial sales of the SRX, you might think that Saab's ownership expects big volume out of its first proper crossover (the late and not lamented 9-7X was an SUV and the 9-3X is little more than a wagon on stilts). But based on our conversations with company officials, not so much – they're looking to shift just 10,000 units globally in 2011 – a seemingly trifling sum until one looks at Saab's miserable sales figures worldwide. Continue reading... Based on looks alone, and despite its tortured birthing and ill health of its parent company, the 9-4X deserves a chance. At once crisp and organic, this Saab looks nothing like its more angular Ramos Arizpe, Mexico-built cousin. From its cantilevered roof to its sweeping "hockey stick" greenhouse, ice-block blue headlamps and full-width LED taillamp band that echoes that of the 9-5 sedan, Saab has done a remarkable job imbuing brand hallmarks old and new into this simple two-box form. That's partially because Saab, which long functioned as an engineering nerve center for GM, was responsible for a large percentage of the development of both the 9-4X and the …
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