The Phoenix seems too stylized to say much about Saab's design future under Castriota, whom Muller announced as his new chief designer, at last year's show. The Phoenix has much more surface tension than the Saab Aero concepts designed under GM. As good-looking as those Aeros were, they now look like the bubble-wrap the Phoenix came in. The car may be a bit busy, but it is gorgeous, and hints that if nothing else, Castriota plans to use early Saab raindrop shapes as a design theme. It has been designed as a 2+2 coupe. The tail, with its many LED taillamp bulbs, looks like something designed for Spyker. While there's no sign on the Saab stand of Muller's 9-2 design proposal, the Phoenix concept riffs off its raindrop shape. Castriota calls the design theme for a "sporty three-door hatch" the "aero-motional" aesthetic, and the inspiration for the 9-5 and 9-4x. The Phoenix has a 1.6-liter turbo four rated 200 horsepower, Saab's new "V" all-wheel-drive system developed with supplier American Axle, and a Google Android-based Icon infotainment system.
Muller has designated Phoenix as the name for Saab's flexible architecture, which debuts under the new 9-3 he promises for calendar 2012. The car started with GM's Epsilon platform, but Saab has made enough changes to call the platform its own, or Phoenix, and the new 9-3 "will show to you what an independent Saab organization can do."
Muller calls the coming Saabs, including the 9-5 SportKombi unveiled here, as "drivers cars" that will emphasize small-displacement, turbocharged engines. Muller has just sold his interest in, and Saab's connection to, Spyker, the independent sports carmaker that made it possible for Muller and his investors to buy Saab to Russian entrepreneur Viktor Antonov. Muller says he proposed the sale to Saab's board so the small sports carmaker could raise additional cash. If Muller and his board had held on to their interest in Spyker, he said, their shares would have been diluted to the point at which they would have lost control.
So automaker Muller has gone from being an automaker who made something like 300 cars in a full decade to an automaker who can build 80,000 per year. That's how many Saabs were sold worldwide in its first full year of independence. Eighty thousand per year, globally, would be total failure for most mainstream automakers. In its first year of independence, Saab has managed, one way or another, to stay out of the mainstream.
|Saab Phoenix Concept|