Tuesday, March 29, 2005

At a Northeast Region Aftersales conference last week at Foxwoods we were treated to an introduction to the 9-7x. I am no fan of any vehicle in this segment (except maybe the MB G-Wagon in its early iteration with a diesel engine, rubber floor mat and manual everything--this truck was never imported), but even I had to admit that the 9-7x is handsome. Fortunately, the styling works. Where the 9-2x looks like a Saab only from the front, and a Subaru from every other angle, the 9-7x does not look like its sibling GM360 stable mates at all. The complete absence of moulding and cladding from its flanks contributes to this, making the profile, while not especially Saab, more importantly, not especially Envoy/Trailblazer.
The interior is a different matter. Overall, it's well done. I appreciate, that as opposed to the 9-2x that has no Saab DNA in its interior, that the 9-7x interior designers made an effort here, with mixed results. The ignition in the console, the 9-5 cupholder in the dash, the color of the wood, the design of the dash vents, and even the printing on the dash switches all look very Saab. However, you can't just pull an instrument pod, no matter how good and how complete, out of the parts bin and fool people. This is my biggest complaint in a 9-2x as well. Speedometer in the center, tachometer to the left, other gauges to the right.....in one oval pod. Same goes for the shifter and steering wheel. They're OK, but I've seen them before, and where the driver will have such intimate contact with them, they should have been more Saab as well.
I did not get a chance to drive the 9-7x. I really want to. I want to like this truck. Of all the trucks in its segment (full frame SUV with solid rear axle), it is clearly the best looking and perhaps is the best driving.

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