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2008 Saab 9-7X Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Saab 9-7X was new.

Most reviewers agree that the 2008 Saab 9-7X offers good performance, but in a highly competitive class, its merely good performance doesn't measure up. "The 9-7X delivers better driving dynamics and interior design than the General Motors SUVs on which it's based," says Consumer Guide. "However, compared with the class-leading Acura MDX, Lexus RX, and Volvo XC90, the Saab falls short in drivetrain refinement."

The 9-7X comes with either a six-cylinder engine or a V-8 both of which, writes Car and Driver, provide "quick getaway, plenty of passing power, quiet cruising, and torque enough to tow a lot."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Saab 9-7X offers two engine options. The 4.2-liter six-cylinder engine makes 290 horsepower and 277 pound feet of torque. The 5.3-liter V8 makes 300 horsepower and 330 pound feet of torque. According to Motor Week, "Both motors deliver solid on-road performance, though the six runs a little short on steam at the top end."

The in-line six received good reviews in general, though some preferred the power of the V-8. New Car Test Drive preferred the six, however, calling it "superb," and noting it "feels lighter in front than the V8 model and in that respect we like it better." Consumer Guide observes the engine's "brisk takeoffs and adequate passing power." Though Motor Week says, in spite of solid on-road performance "the six runs a little short on steam at the top end." The six-cylinder has average fuel economy for the class, with an Environmental Protection Agency- estimated 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on highways. Autoweb writes, "get on the gas hard for a quick pass or a spirited sprint when the light turns green, and you'll find there's not much in reserve."

Reviewers noted a boost in power and fuel economy with the V-8 version, the first such engine offered by Saab. Cars.com says it "proved to be an excellent motivator" with "plenty of oomph right from the start, and the power builds smoothly as you speed up." Motor Trend observes, "good power for passing and for steep hills, plus seamless cylinder shutoff." Edmunds varies slightly, writing, "The bigger pushrod engine does excel, but not so much in power production as in its sonic performance." For a bigger, heavier engine, the V8 gets essentially the same fuel economy as the six-cylinder -- an EPA-estimated 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 miles per gallon on highways. Part of the reason for the V6-like economy is that the V-8 uses GM's Displacement on Demand, which saves fuel by cutting the eight cylinders to four at cruising speeds.

While Kelley Blue Book thinks both engines provide plenty of power, it writes, "Neither conveys a sense of effortlessness under heavy acceleration and both would benefit greatly from a more sophisticated transmission than the four-speed automatic." Critics across the board echoed that sentiment. With five and six-speed transmissions the norm in this class, providing better flexibility and fuel economy, the Detroit News calls the Saab 9-7X's "old-fashioned and inefficient next to some of the modern five- and six-speed gearboxes offered by competitors from Europe and Japan."

Handling and Braking

Though the Saab 9-7X is based on GM's GMT360 platform (found on the Chevy Trailblazer), critics praised the Saab engineer's improvement upon the suspension, firming the springs, shocks and control-arm bushings. The revised suspension, says Car and Driver, "calms excess body motions, and a quicker steering ratio helps on-center feel." Edmunds writes that the extra attention given to the steering "pays off with good linearity and a beautifully weighted feel at all speeds, which translates into decent turn-in and good control of the vehicle." And Motor Week observes, "The ride is firmer, yet still quite comfortable, soaking up choppy roads with less bob and weave."

Some reviewers, in spite of the sportier ride, notice shortcomings. Drivers are offered "little warning when the tires have reached their handling limits," says Cars.com. "Steer through a twisty corner too fast, and the rear wheels can slip even while the suspension maintains its poise." And Autoweb calls the steering "too light and vague." However, most auto writers agree that the improvements, as a whole, amount to solid handling characteristics. Edmunds writes, "you've got a Saab that will hold its own at pay-attention speeds in steady-state corners, and reset its considerable heft capably in transitions."

All-disc antilock brakes are standard on the 2008 Saab 9-7X. Reviewers had a mixed response in this category. MSN calls them "powerful" with a "good pedal feel." Kelley Blue Book says they are "responsive," Motor Week writes, "The feeling is firm and stops highly stable," and New Car Test Drive praises the brakes for being "extremely powerful, smooth, and linear in getting the 4800-pound 9-7X down from interstellar cruising speeds to small-town puttering speeds." But Edmunds writes, "Saab just wasn't able to get past the numb feel and lackluster engagement of the dual-piston calipers." And Autoweb thinks the brakes, "while effective, required too much pedal travel for full stopping power."

Off-Roading

Most reviewers admired the 2008 Saab 9-7X's handling on rough roads -- with Autoweb singling out its "surprising dexterity and grip" -- but they stopped short of recommending it as an off-road performer. MSN claims, "This SUV isn't designed for rough off-road use, but is very stable on all types of roads and is enjoyable to drive in a sporting manner." And the Chicago Sun Times agrees, saying "The 9-7X features rugged body-on-frame SUV construction, but isn't designed for tough off-road use. However, it's stable on all sorts of roads."

All-Wheel Drive

Automatic all-wheel drive with a limited-slip rear differential is standard on both 9-7X engines. According U.S. News' Rick Newman it provides "stable all-weather traction with no need to switch between two- and four-wheel modes, as in the truckier TrailBlazer."

Hauling

With the 9-7X, Saab has issued a truck-based SUV "that can hold, haul and tow like the big boys," says New Car Test Drive, adding, "SUVs sooner or later have cargo-hauling duties to perform, and when the time comes, the Saab 9-7X delivers." And Kelley Blue Book calls it "a capable hauler."

Towing

The V-8 can tow up to 6,500 pounds, and according to Motor Week, it "offers plenty of smooth pull." And the in-line six can tow 5,500 pounds, which Cars.com says is, "still more than double some of its car-based competitors." Popular Mechanics adds, "The rear suspension has air springs to improve load leveling, especially when towing."

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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