This spunky and largely forgotten compact wagon was branded Saab (a Swedish company, but owned by American company General Motors at the time), and built by Subaru (a Japanese company, but 20 percent of it was owned by GM at the time).
The 9-2X was essentially a rebranded and restyled Subaru Impreza, earning it the nickname “Saabaru.” The 9-2X differed from the Impreza only in trim, suspension tuning, and distribution channels.
The car was a hurried response to Volvo’s plans to import its compact S40 and V40 sedans and wagons to the United States. Neither of Volvos, as it turned out, sold especially well here.
While the 9-2X, which was only available as a wagon, wasn’t very Swedish under the skin, it looked very much like a Saab. The front-end styling was spot-on, and the Impreza wagon’s swoopy C-pillar looked right at home on the faux Swede.
The 9-2X lasted just two years in the U.S. It was introduced for 2005, and for 2006 received a slight horsepower bump for both the base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and step-up turbo 2.0-liter four. Because it was Subaru-based, the 9-2X was only available with AWD.
The Saab 9-2X racked up just over 10,000 sales during its two-year run, making the car something of a rarity today. What follows is Consumer Guide’s original review of the little Saabaru, complete with specs and engine specs for 2006 model year as well.
Consumer Guide Review of the 2005 Saab 9-2X
Saab taps the holdings of parent-company General Motors for its new entry-level model: a 4-dr, all-wheel-drive wagon based on the Subaru Impreza. The 9-2X gets Saab-family styling alterations, but uses Impreza’s bodyshell and powertrains. Two 9-2X models are offered, both with horizontally opposed 4-cyl engines and standard AWD. The base Linear has 165 hp. The turbocharged Aero mimics the sporty Impreza WRX, with 227 hp and a functional hood scoop. Both offer a 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic. Antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, torso- and head-protecting front side airbags, and 16-inch wheels are standard; the Aero is available with 17s. Leather upholstery and a sunroof are options. The 9-2X is aimed at a more upscale market than Impreza, and it has different nose, tail, and wheels. The interior design is shared, but the 9-2X gets different upholstery and Saab’s active front-seat headrests designed to minimize whiplash injury.
With similar weight, identical horsepower, 9-2X mimics comparable Impreza models. Nonturbo Linear versions with automatic transmission adequate for routine work, livelier with manual. Aeros fast–7 sec 0-60 mph–but have little power below 3000 rpm, and suffer a delay in throttle response due to considerable turbo lag.
Test Aero with manual transmission averaged 17.6-20.1 mpg in mixed driving. No opportunity to measure with Linear. Aeros require premium-grade fuel.
Saab suspension tuning softens ride slightly compared to Impreza. Still, ride always firm and suspension readily transmits small, sharp bumps. Aero ride harsh with Sport Package’s low-profile 17-inch tires.
Crisp, rewarding, with added grip, security of standard AWD. Saab retunes Subaru steering for slightly more positive feel. Fine stopping power, and–in contrast to comparable Imprezas tested–firm, easily modulated brake-pedal feel.
Sound-deadening added by Saab pays off in generally subdued noise from engines, tires, wind compared to Impreza. Still, road noise copious from Aero’s available 17-inch tires.
Simple, user-friendly gauges, control layout carries over from Impreza, with Saab upgrades to cabin fabrics elevating overall ambience, especially with Premium Package’s leather upholstery.
Room and Comfort (front)
Good head clearance, but very tall occupants will want more rearward seat travel. Seats comfortable, supportive. Steering wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope, as in some premium compact rivals. Lack of power seat adjustments another competitive deficit.
Room and Comfort (rear)
Sufficient head room for those up to about 5-ft-11, but leg room tight if front seats even halfway back. Entry/exit hampered by fairly deep step-down, narrow thresholds, doors that should open wider.
Wagon body style, 60/40 split folding rear seats make for versatile little hauler, though cabin storage space stingy.
Saab’s changes to exterior styling, sound deadening, and interior trim do their part to disguise this car’s Impreza origins. And the versatile wagon body style and all-season AWD traction have some appeal. But there’s no hiding the tepid base engine, the turbo’s quirks, or the modest interior space. Still, 9-2X, like Saab in general, lies off the beaten path, which should mean friendlier price breaks than you’ll get on the more-mainstream competition.