Story: Will Sabel Courtney
IF LOOKS COULD CHILL
Saab’s roots lie in the subarctic tundras and forests of Sweden, and they’re proud of their heritage, so they wanted to be sure their new concept—designed to set the style for the next generation of road cars—properly reflected their homeland. The black trim running along the roof of the cabin is meant to be reminiscent of a block of exposed ice, while the silver sheet metal resembles liquid mercury being blown backward along the car’s haunches by a howling wind. Those twin winglike handles extruding off the rear aren’t just to remind you of the company’s aircraft-construction past; they’re designed to catch air and direct it back at the car’s rear, generating additional downforce and keeping the tail planted at high speeds.
When the time comes to climb in, don’t paw around for a door handle, because you won’t find any on this sleek-sided machine. Instead, touch pads pop the doors open with the press of a finger. Of course, if you’re in the mood to show off, you can even open them by remote.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Once in the driver’s seat, don’t get distracted by the roll cage–esque beams stretching through the cabin. The real highlight lies on a dashboard touchscreen angled toward the steering wheel. This is the portal to the IQon infotainment system—and it’s the future of how drivers will interact with their Saabs.
IQon controls the car’s stereo, navigation and settings using Google’s Android operating system—just like millions of smartphones and tablet computers. The car’s built-in cellular modem connects to the Internet whenever the PhoeniX is running, allowing it to pull in real-time information such as the weather forecast. And like a smart phone, it’s designed to download and use apps created by outside developers. Angry Birds is probably off the table (at least while you’re driving), but so long as it doesn’t endanger the car’s occupants, pretty much anything the cleverest phone in the Verizon store can do, the PhoeniX can as well. It’s not science fiction, either; Saab already has a fleet of production cars on the road testing out the system.
While the PhoeniX’s slippery skin is more or less a flight of fantasy, the mechanical components are much more practical. The PhoeniX uses what’s called a “through the road” hybrid setup, in which a conventional engine powers one axle while the other is propelled by an electric motor. In this case, the front wheels are motivated by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder generating 200 horsepower, while the rear receives energy from a 34-horsepower electric motor. Together, Saab claims the two motors spur the PhoeniX from 0 to 60 in no time, still netting 47 miles per gallon. Fun to drive without burning through gas cash—if that’s the future of Saab, then consider us ready for takeoff.