Saab Aero X
It's time for Saab fans to take the Aero... the Aero X, that is! We took it out for a test flight
Few vehicles are as striking or innovative as the Aero X. We like the aeroplane-style roof and intricate interior, yet - above all else - we love the fact Saab has built it all. Frustratingly, it isn't going straight into production but, with a range of models to follow in its wake, culminating in a new small sports car, Saab's future is looking brighter than ever.
With a jet-style opening canopy, a stunning supercar shape and a space-age cabin, the Saab's all-new coupe, the Aero X, was the star of this month's Geneva Motor Show - as one Italian maker will grudgingly agree. The Aero X stole the limelight even from Ferrari's new 599GTB on the adjacent stand.
While a smaller production version won't arrive in dealers for a few years, the styling and interior will inspire a whole new range of Saabs. So, to see what buyers can expect, Auto Express took a test drive in Sweden.
Viewed on a show stand, there's no doubting the concept is a looker, but catch sight of the Aero X at speed and it takes your breath away. As long as an Aston Martin DB9, and as modern as yet-to-be-revealed supercars such as Audi's R8, it's distinguished by a vast bonnet and wraparound windscreen.
The bold nose houses complex head-lights with intricate floating layers and super-bright LEDs. The polished alloy wheels - 22 inches in diameter at the front and 23 at the rear - are a work of art, too, as they resemble miniature jet engines. However, the most incredible feature is the canopy roof. Its complex mechanism took months to perfect, and watching it in action is a joy. First, the small side doors pop out, then the entire windscreen and roof move up, revealing the two-seater cabin.
As the roof and integrated doors slide forward as well as up, Saab says you could park the car in an average-sized garage and still be able to get out - although just to be on the safe side, sensors prevent contact with anything solid. Inside, the Aero X is just as remarkable. As with the headlights, the dash is made of floating layers on to which information is projected.
Power comes from a 400bhp 2.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine running on bio-ethanol. All four wheels are driven through a seven-speed transmission, similar to Volkswagen's DSG sequential system. In the front suspension of the unique chassis, the springs and dampers are mounted upside down, allowing the bonnet to be as low as possible.
Ignition is by means of a 'mouse' on the transmission tunnel; sliding it forward selects a gear, and lifting it raises the roof. Saab wasn't keen on us verifying the claimed 4.9-second 0-60mph time and 155mph top speed of this priceless, unique machine, but the engine certainly sounds mean. Yet more amazing is the jet-like driving experience.
Accelerating along the test track with no A-pillars, a 180-degree view and a glass roof, it feels as if you could pull back on the steering wheel and take off! And with all that glass, it's tempting to look anywhere but ahead, such is the novelty of seeing scenery rush by from every angle. So it's a pity the Aero X isn't going into production. At least not yet.
Designer Anthony Lo told us a crossover SUV would be next followed by a new 9-5 - and both are likely to be inspired by the concept. "After these models, we'll have an image car such as the Aero X, but done on a smaller scale." It can't come soon enough.