Saabaru will come to UK

Feb 2nd

Saab has released this first teaser picture of its Impreza-based 9-2X, while the Swedish company’s UK bosses still fight to bring what was originally a US-only model to British dealers.

Originally dubbed 9-2, Saab has added the X to emphasise the car’s four-wheel drive and link it with the 9-7X SUV being launched in the States in the summer of 2005.

Power comes from two Subaru four-cylinder boxer engines: the Impreza’s 227bhp 2.0 turbo, complete with minor fettling to the turbo-charger by Saab, and a normally aspirated 2.5-litre with 154bhp, as used in the Legacy here in the UK.

The 9-2X will be unveiled at the LA Motor Show after Christmas, before going on sale in the US next June. But UK bosses are leading a European campaign to get the car sold here; right-hand-drive production isn’t a problem because of the Impreza underpinnings.

‘Some other countries have shown an interest, but we will see how the US roll-out goes first,’ said UK MD Jonathan Nash. This means a decision can be expected in mid-2004.

The biggest worry is the car’s lack of ‘Saabness’, according to Nash, especially inside where it has adopted much of the Subaru interior, itself not the Impreza’s strong point. Pricing is also proving a major headache.

‘The cost would be somewhere within the 9-3 range, and could be just a few hundred pounds away from the 9-3 Aero,’ said Nash. Saab intends to pitch the 9-2X above the equivalent-power Impreza at around £22,500 for the top-spec model.

The second-generation 9-2X, due late in 2006, will be a ‘world car’, which means European sales are guaranteed. Nash says work has already started on what will be a joint venture between Saab and Subaru, instead of the Swedes piggy-backing on Subaru’s development. A diesel should form part of the plan.

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