NEW_CAR_PREVIEW

Concept-Saab 9-X BioHybrid Preview

2/24/2012
Critical Knowledge:
  • 1.4-liter, 200-hp BioPower turbo engine that's E85 compatible

  • 6-speed manual transmission

  • Regenerative braking

  • GM next-generation hybrid system

  • Solar roof cell harnesses power from the sun

  • Evolution of Aero X and 9X concepts with cockpit-designed interior

  • Seamless wireless connectivity with multiple devices

  • Rear cargo deck with automatic sliding door, "friction" loading system

  • 21-inch wheels
Introduction
Looking toward the future, the designers at Saab give us a promise of a potential compact premium car for the youthful buyer accustomed to on-demand multi-media access, and who wants a responsive, responsible performer that offers maximum flexibility. The result: Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept, featuring the patented GM next-generation hybrid system, a 200-hp, 1.4-liter BioPower turbo engine optimized for E85 fuel, solar cell to capture energy, regenerative braking and numerous other features.

Design
Saab 9-X BioHybrid's design is focused on the wants and needs of young drivers in the compact premium market niche, the manufacturer says, adding that designers purposefully created a bold vehicle design with efficient, yet eco-friendly performance, a fun-to-drive experience, and easily-accessible high-tech communications. The actual design evolved from the Aero X concept coup_ first shown in Geneva in 2006 and the 9X concept that debuted in Frankfurt in 2001. The longer roofline helps aerodynamics and provides more rear head room and interior space. Inside the new 9-X BioHybrid concept is a cockpit interior, seamless in-car connectivity, and a rear cargo deck with automatic sliding door and "friction" loading system.

The rear design features active aerodynamics to reduce drag and fuel consumption at highway cruising speeds. Upper and lower bodywork reshapes as the roof spoiler extends automatically to lengthen the roof line, while an underbody diffuser deploys from the rear bumper's bottom. The rear spoiler rises during heavy braking (from over 62 mph), which creates additional downforce over the rear axle. Heavy braking is also indicated by a reflector that increases brake light visibility underneath.

White leather seats in front and black leather in back further accentuate the interior. Instead of a floor-mounted center console, there's a driver-focused layout with an instrument panel that sweeps out of the top of the door moulding and arches across the driver. A small, touch-sensitive panel in the center of the vehicle permits shared climate control and interior lighting. The driver information zone-a flat, arc-shaped acrylic surface of multi-layers-has five display screens in green 3-D graphics. An infotainment screen and control panel are in the driver door moulding, while another infotainment screen (for navigation and other uses) is accessible for the front passenger. The driver can adapt, operate, or minimize all displays and menus via steering-wheel-mounted controls. Rearview camera screens are firmly within the driver's eye above the main displays.

Features include touch-sensitive keyless entry: the reason the 9-X BioHybrid has no exterior door handles. The car also lacks large door mirrors, which are unnecessary with the use of 9-X BioHybrid's small, retracting rearview camera pods. These pods also add to the vehicle's aerodynamic, clean design and further reduce aerodynamic drag at speed. A glass roof includes a large solar cell. Its function, besides aesthetic, is to capture the sun's free energy and add charge to the hybrid battery pack. This works whether the vehicle is being driven or is parked.

The rear cargo deck area sports an innovative electrically-powered slide-out floor that's activated when the tailgate's bottom half drops down over the rear bumper. The top section, hinged from the roof, can be opened separately-to allow easier placement of smaller items inside. High-friction rubber carpeting covers the entire floor area and the back of the folding rear seats. When the tailgate is opened, aluminum bars in the floor automatically raise slightly above the high friction surface, making it easy to slide items inside. The bars lower when the tailgate is closed, so the high-friction surface can grip the items, securely holding them in place. The rear seats are in the default or fold-down position unless otherwise changed.

Hardware
Power for the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept comes from the 1.4-liter, BioPower turbine engine optimized for E85 fuel, and assisted by GM's next-generation hybrid system. Together, these two technologies provide more synergy than either one alone. The hybrid system increases accelerative power, which also improves throttle response, GM says. The right-sized BioPower turbine engine benefits from additional fuel economy. The 9-X BioHybrid also utilizes solar power, thanks to a large solar cell in the glass roof that harnesses the sun's power and adds charge to the hybrid's battery pack when the vehicle is parked and during driving.

The electric motor acts both as an engine-powered generator to charge the battery pack and support various vehicle electrical loads as well as capturing kinetic energy during deceleration and storing the energy in the battery pack, a charge known as "regenerative braking." The 9-X BioHybrid's sophisticated electronic system manages all voltage interfaces, AC/DC and the 12-volt in-car supply.

Coupled with a 6-speed manual transmission with an automatic clutch and steering wheel controls, the 9-X BioHybrid is estimated to generate 170 hp at 5200 rpm and 170 lb.-ft. of torque at 1500-5200 rpm (gasoline) and 200 hp at 5000 rpm and 207 lb.-ft. of torque at 1750-5000 rpm (E85). In terms of performance, projected data suggests 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds (E85) and 8.3 seconds (gasoline).

The 9-X BioHybrid concept's suspension has damper/coil struts, aluminum lower A-arm and anti-roll bar in front, with torsion beam, two trailing links, coil springs and campers andante-roll bar in the rear. Steering is rack-and-pinion with electrical power assistance, while hydraulic, dual-circuit, vacuum booster brakes provide stopping power.

Safety
The Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept includes a full array of electronic stability and braking systems. The 4-passenger compact has 4-point seat belts in the front seats that extend electrically from the seatback sides over each front-seat passenger, connecting by a central buckle. In addition, a lane-departure-warning system, using a front-mounted camera, scans the road ahead, warning the driver via flashing messages on the driver information display if the vehicle veers over lane markings. The camera also monitors night light sources to automatically "hood" the 9-X BioHybrid's high beams at the approach of oncoming traffic.

Although not yet announced, the Saab 9-X BioHybrid is likely to also include a full complement of air bags, including dual-stage front air bags with rollover sensor, and side-impact and/or head curtain air bags.

Technology
Bluetooth or WiFi seamless wireless connectivity with multiple devices, such as mobile phones, PDAs, and more, is enabled through the development of a streaming data interface by Saab and Sony Ericsson. The nomadic devices, depending on how "smart" they are, can lock/unlock the car, remotely charge in-car pre-sets, or upload its own displays. Saab hopes this functionality appeals to young buyers who want easy multi-media access while on the move.

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