Based on the platform of the upcoming 2013 9-3 model, the Saab PhoeniX Concept previews the design of the company’s future models and introduces a new design language called “Aeromotional Design”, which builds on Saab’s aeronautical heritage.
Designed by a team led by Jason Castriota, the PhoeniX is a 2+2 coupé powered by a BMW-derived 200 hp 1.6 liter engine coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox and the eXWD electric rear wheel drive system.
The design features a sleek, muscular body. The front end has a new bold interpretation of Saab’s signature three-port grille and a front-hinged, long hood with two prominent ripples.
The side view is characterized by the flared sill line which rises rearwards from air outlets at the base of the front fenders and by the roof-mounted wing-like profiles that channel air from the side across the rear deck to increase downforce without increasing drag.
These distinctive elements visually connect with the profiles above the side windows, which integrate tiny cameras, mounted on slim stalks that minimize airflow disturbance.
The rear end has a distinctive lighting zone that extends across the full width of the car, continuing the light motif already established in the 9-5 and 9-4X series.
Other concept-like highlights include the absence of visible handles and the upward-opening ‘butterfly’ doors.
The DLO design is characterized by the dark-tinted A-pillars and roof, with integrated transparent surfaces above the seats.
The 2+2 cabin features clean, minimalist forms and a driver-focused instrument layout. The DynaCage concept uses the car’s underlying structure as a distinctive design element.
An additional highlight is the IQon infotainment and communications system, which is based on the Google’s Android operating system.
Below we report the design details selected from the official press release.
The shape of the PhoeniX appears to be molded by the wind, just like its iconic Ursaab forebear, the prototype for Saab’s first generation of cars. Coupé proportions are defined by clean and curvaceous bodywork that wraps around 20-inch alloy wheels in a signature Saab ‘turbine’ design.
The frontal styling features a bold, stretched interpretation of Saab’s signature three-port grille in which the central wing form is now dominant.
Wrapped by the car’s outer skin, the chrome-less opening encompasses the full width of the nose, including a deep middle portion and extremely narrow outer sections. Saab’s traditional central grille bar is evolved into a body-colored wing form. At the tips of the wing, nestling almost invisibly, are powerful LED headlamps and indicators. This new frontal styling theme is likely to be seen on future Saab production cars.
Below the grille, the main air intake area features active shutters which close up at speed to improve aerodynamic efficiency when less engine cooling is required. Slim, body-colored ‘winglets’ carry front fog lights.
The long hood features two prominent ripples that flow from front to rear into the disguised cockpit pillars, adding muscularity and hinting at an underlying structure tightly wrapped by the bodywork. A ‘cut-out’ in the center of the hood where it meets the base of the windshield reveals part of the engine bay, and is presented in the same black glass as the upper cabin and roof area.
Re-introducing a design feature from the classic Saab 900 series, the hood is front-hinged and has a semi-clamshell closure with the car’s muscular front fenders.
The stretched look of the bodywork is emphasized by a flared side sill line which rises rearwards from air outlets at the base of the front fenders. Like the cabin glasshouse and roof, the dark, translucent sill reveals structure beneath the outer body. The design motif also echoes the exposed sills of Saab’s first open-topped Sonett sports car.
Butterfly-opening doors, remotely-controlled or touch pad operated, provide enhanced access to the low-slung cabin. There are no visible door handles or mirrors; tiny cameras are mounted on slim stalks to provide rearward vision for the pilot and minimize airflow disturbance.
The PhoeniX’s distinctive wing elements are also focused on aerodynamic efficiency. These roof-mounted profiles explore the benefits of channeling air from the side of the car across the rear deck to reduce lift forces for greater high-speed 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.
The glass roof and rear screen flow down as a single panel into the tail of the car. This tapering graphic echoes the teardrop shape seen in Saab’s first prototype, the iconic Ursaab, and its descendents. The sharply chopped, kamm tail, with a near vertical face, is also redolent of Saab’s first coupé, the Sonett II of 1966.
A distinctive rear lighting zone extends across the rear of the car, continuing the full-width light motif already established in the 9-5 and 9-4X series. The tail, brake and indicator lights are housed within an arch of dot-like ‘perforations’. To extend the PhoeniX’s outer and inner body design theme, the rear face of the car and its venturi underside are also black, like its upper cabin and deep side sills.
In true Scandinavian tradition, the PhoeniX’s 2+2 cabin adopts clean, minimalist forms. Multiple buttons and controls are largely replaced by flush mountings and touch-screen surfaces.
Like the car’s exterior, the cabin also features design elements that seek to reveal the car’s underlying structure. And, like all Saabs, the layout of the instrument displays and controls is driver-focused.
The interior’s DynaCage concept gives it the ‘stripped out’ feel of a competition car. This effect is created by the use of aluminum-colored metal elements which form a network of exposed ‘beams’ through the center, sides, front and rear of the cabin. It represents the roll-cage of a competition car, reflecting Saab’s rallying heritage with its early cars. Body-hugging shell seats and a short, high-mounted gearshift add to the purposeful effect.
The driver-focused instrument layout introduces a fresh execution of a long-established Saab tradition. It features a single pod in front of the driver – shaped to mimic the afterburner of a jet engine – where all driving data is digitally presented in tandem with a head-up display. Either side of the pod, images from the exterior door cameras are shown.
A separate unit is pulled forward of the front fascia and inclined at 45º to driver to accommodate Saab’s industry-leading IQon infotainment and communications system. For good ergonomics, the 8-inch touch-screen is as close to the driver’s finger tips as the steering wheel.
Saab IQon (see separate release for full details) is a ground-breaking car communications platform using Google’s AndroidTM operating system. Based on pioneering ‘open innovation’ with third-party service providers and applications developers, it comprises an embedded computer platform which seamlessly connects to the internet when the car’s ignition is switched on. The touch-screen provides access to audio and entertainment streaming, online navigation, on-board music storage and smartphone-like downloading of applications.
The angled positioning of the white IQon module also creates potential for additional cabin storage space between its rear face and the front bulkhead.
A raised spine runs through the cabin between the front and rear seats. Positioned on top and next to the driver (where else on a Saab?), is the stop/start button, a short gearshift lever and touch-screen climate controls.
The PhoeniX cabin also breaks new ground with the introduction of red for instrument illumination and ambient cabin lighting, even including the floor. Flexi-glass sheet under the close pile carpeting carries LED light tubes, which are exposed by perforated holes in the carpeting. Combined with red seat linings, the red-on-black interior theme is warm and engaging. It also reminds occupants that a fiery heart lies at the center of the PhoeniX.
That fire also burns in the surprisingly spacious cargo deck. The floor features the cabin’s ambient lighting effect and is extended by flat-folding rear seatbacks. The luggage compartment is accessed by a wide and deep opening tailgate, its closure lines ‘breaking though’ the tapering rear glass/body form.
The floor is fitted with a cargo track, similar in principle to that seen in the 9-5 range. Following the shape of the rear screen above, it carries a telescopic dividing rail that can be moved to multiple positions for the convenient stowage of different sized items.
Inside and out, the PhoeniX showcases new design directions that will be part of future Saab products.
Rippling bodywork sheathes the Saab PhoeniX like the skin suit of a speed skater. It is ‘aeromotional’ design, a language inspired by Saab’s aviation roots and the passion that forged its first cars.
“Our company is being re-born and the PhoeniX is a celebration of the pioneering spirit and enthusiasm that took Saab into the automotive business,” says Jason Castriota, Saab Automobile’s Executive Design Director.
“It ushers in a new generation of Saab design. We call it ‘aeromotional’, adding passion and emotion to cool Scandinavian aesthetics.”
Picking up the design baton of Saab’s 2006 Aero-X concept, which helped shape the cars of today, the PhoeniX will play a key role in molding the Saab cars of tomorrow.
A central aeromotional design theme is the juxtaposition of complexity and simplicity, of technology and organic purity, of Scandinavian fire and ice. This is demonstrated by the way the upper cabin area is presented as a black, translucent glass ice block. The whole shape appears to burst through the tight bodywork as part of the inner structure that lies beneath.
“We’ve encapsulated the cabin in a teardrop-shaped ice block and then shrink wrapped the whole structure in a liquid-like skin,” adds Castriota.
“It’s as if we’ve blown mercury over the car in a wind tunnel. The liquid skin wraps around the nose and stretches rearwards, clinging to the car before detaching very cleanly at the rear.”
“This concept also shows there is great heart and technical substance just underneath bodywork. We wanted to communicate a connection between the outside and the inside of the car and this large, translucent ice block, housing our passengers and the mechanicals, helps us to do it by creating visual depth and interest.”
Flanking the roof are wing elements resembling the vestigial wings of an aircraft. They are shaped to collect turbulent air and direct it onto the Phoenix’s rear deck, enhancing high speed stability by reducing rear lift forces. Aerodynamic efficiency is key to the design and the PhoeniX is projected to cleave the air with a Cd value of just 0.25.
At the rear, the glass screen seamlessly sweeps down from the roof through the tailgate, while appearing to erupt though the car’s rear flanks. The shape hints at the teardrop-like rear styling of the first Saab car, while the ‘sawn off’ and aerodynamically efficient kamm tail was inspired by Saab’s first coupé, the Sonett.
Inside the 2+2 cabin, simplicity and technology come to the fore. Fresh expression is given to Saab’s driver focused instrument layout; Saab’s innovative IQon infotainment and communications system is installed, and touch-screen functionality eliminates many visible buttons and controls.
The cabin design strategy adopts a minimalist, ‘stripped out’ feel, with slim competition-like seats and metalized interior sections that mimic the exposed network of a rollover cage. A red color theme for instrument illumination, seat decor and ambient lighting adds a feeling of warmth to the cabin – with echoes of the turbocharged fire that burns inside the PhoeniX.
Surprising versatility is revealed by a deep opening tailgate which gives access to a flat cargo deck, including fold-flat rear seatbacks. The floor is fitted with a cargo track for adaptable load carrying, as seen in the 9-5 range.