The Saab 9-6 in pictures

Last week we had a poll on Twitter, asking people which model from the Saab Museum they would like to have photographed – the Saab EV-1 concept or the Saab 9-6 prototype. Guess which car won?

Saab 9-6

Here we are, then, with a photo study of the Saab 9-6. The car is now on display at the Saab Museum after spending several years in hiding storage out the back.

The Saab 9-6 was a joint project with Subaru, based on their B9 Tribeca SUV. Saab, at the behest of General Motors (who owned 20% of Subaru’s parent company at the time), had already launched the Saab 9-2x based on the Subaru Impreza WRX. This vehicle was supposed to build on that relationship.

Even though the 9-2x was loved by those who owned it, the car was lampooned by the press for being a poorly executed mimic of a cult classic. The Saab was actually better equipped than the WRX of the time with several components from Subaru’s performance division (STi) added to the car, but it ended up selling for a lot less in an employee-pricing fire sale back in 2005.

Whilst it had nothing to do with the fire sale, GM ended up selling its 20% stake in Subaru later in 2005 and the Saab 9-6 project was cancelled. Prior to this cancellation, Saab had built two prototype vehicles – this five door model now on exhibition at the museum, as well as a three-door version.

Many will refer to the 9-6 as the 9-6x, which makes sense as it would have had a 4-wheel drive system on board, which is the usual trigger for the added ‘x’ (9-3x TTiD owners – your objection is noted). I used to call it the 9-6x as well in stories that I wrote about it back in 2005. The museum example, however, is referred to without the ‘x’ in the title so I’m going to stick to that protocol.

Click to enlarge the images.

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  1. Interesting to see how much of this 9-6 was carried over into the facelifted Subaru Tribeca! Does the 3-door 9-6 have the same interior, or was that interior more extensively reworked?

    1. I haven’t had a look inside, Jaap, but I would imaging both interiors are the same.  If I get a chance I’ll look and do a sequel story if they’re different.

  2. I was just there two weeks ago, and I have my own pictures of the 9-6.  

    It isn’t a bad car, but it also is uninspired.  The front is attractive and fits the Saab design theme, but the rear of the car is terrible — too much of the ugly Subaru rear design remains, and it probably couldn’t be fixed without unreasonably expensive changes.  The interior is very un-Saab like – that intrusive, curving center stack is about as far away from “driver-centered ergonomics” as you can get.  

    When I was there, it was parked next to the 9-4x concept from 2008, which outshines the 9-6 in every respect.  

    On the whole I am glad it was not produced.  

    1. It’s the 9-5 as we know it, morphed extensively. Also look at the Insignia. The entire “Epsilon II” programme evolved from the Saab take on a larger version of the Epsilon, a la what happened with the GM2900 (smaller 9-3 and larger 9-5).

      1. Would be interresting to get Antony Lo’s and Simon Padian’s take on this…would love to see how the design evolved….it’s interesting to read Tony Cattignani’s story on the 9-5 and 9-3SS design evolution, it would be great to hear if Simon has some stories…..

  3. I actually think the car would have been a hit – and I was very disappointed when it wasn’t produced. We had a Subaru Forester for a few days back in early 2006 and, apart from its small size, we were very impressed with it. The Tribeca’s styling – or lack of – was hideous. But the Saab (mostly) fixed that, and yes, I can remember an interview with a Subaru person saying that the Tribeca facelift was based on the 9-6.

    Subaru was going through a phase of silver plastic dashboards and the Forester was no different. In real life, it worked fine. And I don’t think we can really give out about dashboards 😉 well, my opinion at least! 
    J Fan

    1. Comparing the post-facelift Tribeca it looks like Subaru at least used most of the design.

  4. Eh, I’m not really liking this one honesty.  The front looks *ok* but the rear-end and especially the interior isn’t very SAAB-like.  The 9-4x is more appealing by several orders of magnitude.

  5. It is such a pleasure to see the Aero-X at the first picture! What a beautiful car!!! 🙂

    1. And from that angle, the Aero-X looks a lot like a modern Sonett compared to the yellow Sonett III behind it in the background.

  6. It has something, it does show the era in which this slightly weird cooperation was founded. Yes, it made me grin. Having diven several Tribecas in the States, they weren’t half bad either (be it rather heavy on ye olde jungle juice). Wether it would have been a hit, I cannot say, but it made me grin. Cheers for sharing this one, Steven!

  7. What about the nice looking 9-3 SC concept behind the 9-6, wouldn’t that be a good story to tell? What happened back then, how much of that car became reality when it finally arrived? What stuff does “she” still hide?
    That car still fits the streets as a modern looking car!

    1. TTAero,
      the 9-3SC concept was the prelude to the 2008 facelift. I said it then, and I repeat it now.
      The grill, the eybrows, the clean sides, the three part lower grill.

      1. Sorry RedJ but the 9-3SC was shown at the 2003 Frankfurt IAA. It had an all female design team too. Many dealers were asked if they could keep just one piece of the car for the production model, what would it be? I said “The rear lights.” It’s a shame SAAB didn’t/couldn’t explore the touch sensitive HVAC (although it wasn’t actually functioning in this concept either. I know that because I sat in it at the show). The production version was supposed to follow in 2004 but a few financial problems at GM delayed the car until 2005.

  8. I’m a Saab nut since the two-stroke era, and this, even if the interior is or isn’t finished, doesn’t look like a Saab. If people want cars like that, they can go buy them from those that manufacture them, Subaru et al. As with the 9-7, they are in IMHO, and I really don’t want to hurt the feelings of the owners of that car, plain ugly and not “Saabish”. No way. On the other hand, the 9-4x, as for example Ryan Delucchi says, is very much a Saab, and very appealing. I’m happy that Saab has that one in their product portfolio now, together with other great products. That said, it is interesting to read and see these photos from the Saab Museum; thanks.

  9. This is not a true Saab!! And absolutely not a swedish car and design!

  10. Eh, not a bad looking car… I agree there are definitely specific elements unchanged from the Tribeca, which is a pretty ugly car. You can kind of tell what was done to ‘Saab it up’… It’s definitely an improvement over the Tribeca though.

    The 9-2X grew on me, but maybe it has something to do with being the underdog and playing on my sympathies. Overall though I agree that Saab should stay away from re-badged cars from other brands. If I wanted a Tribeca or a WRX, I’d go to Subaru. It doesn’t make sense beyond trying to inexpensively widen their fleet–which is what they seemed to have been doing… But still.

  11. Considering this would have been a precursor to the new 9-4x and that it would have been a much earlier entrant into the CUV category, I wish this would have hit the US market.  Of course, pricing is essential.  The 9-2x was priced as an expensive WRX.  It would have helped the last few years to have this category represented and I really think it would have sold well in the states.  Although not totally Saab at heart, I believe it would have sold.  And as Swade used to point out in his old position….. Saab needs more buns in more seats.

  12. Put it back in hiding please. It’s just an unsightly reminder of GM’s mishandling of Saab. How much money was charged against Saab for developing this and the never-to-be 9-5 whose platform carries the beautiful Alpha Romeo 159? Any Caddy BLS’s in hiding?

  13. Great to see these concepts out of hiding!   Personally, I’m not a fan of this 9-6, but it does tell a story and therefore is a worthy addition to the museum.

    Steven, a regular feature covering little known concepts would be a great, fascinating addition to the site, any chance of it in the future?


  15. They should sell this instead of the original Tribeca, which looks like shit if you ask me…

  16. Funnily enough I was followed up the M1 by a B9 Tribeca for many miles today and was thinking about the 9-6.  When you fix the ugly Subaru nose it was a good looking car, but no idea what it was like to drive or to live with.  Hopefully better than other Subarus…!

  17. Ok now, the stillborn Saabaru has the heated windshield wipers and my 2011 9-3 doesn’t?

    1. Most likely because it basically *is* the Subaru Tribeca.  As with the 9-2x/Impreza, the changes were minimal, but perceived to be enough.

  18. I would like the old distinctive line in the back to come again- loved that old design.  I have a 9.5 and love it- hope to get another in about 3 years.

  19. I really love this post, it’s really fun finally seeing photos of this 🙂 I’d love to see more museum specials. Maybe something more photos/information on the : Saab 98, Saab 99 Wagon, and probably many other infamous prototypes and test veichles ?