Here’s What BAIC are Doing With The Old Saab 9-3 SS

Recent imagery from the Ghangzhou Motor Show reveals the latest effort from Beijing Automotive, a sporty version of their Senova D60 sedan, which is a car based on the Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan technology they bought from Saab Automobile back when GM was still in charge.

This is the regular Senova D60, which has been on the Chinese market for just a few months:

The car shown at Ghangzhou is the sportier version with a tricked up body kit and some more interior accenting.

The standard D60 is only available with a 1.8 turbocharged petrol with 177hp and 240nm in the standard car. The 2.0 turbo delivers 204hp and 270nm. The fact that the engine now appears in this CC concept likely means that it will soon become available in the D60 range.

And here’s a sight to warm the heart of an old Saab fan. Somewhere in China is a factory cranking out DI cassettes even as we speak 🙂

beijing-auto-senova-cc-2a-660x299

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What do you think?

Here’s an even bigger question – given the car’s heritage and inoffensive styling, would you buy one if it was available in your neck of the woods?

I, for one, don’t find this car exciting, but I definitely think it’s interesting. All credit to BAIC for taking the bones of the 9-3 and putting a remarkably different body on it. You wouldn’t know it’s a 9-3 unless someone like CarNewsChina told you.

Good luck to ’em. I hope they sell a shed load of them.

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30 Comments

  1. Is that based on ‘the current’ 9-3? Or the older generation hatchback one? I knew they had sold the original 9-5 tooling, I didn’t realize it was the 9-3 as well.

    I just read that BAIC plans to make 300 000 of those senova D60s.

    Which begs the question: why didn’t they just produce and call it a Saab? If they were going to sell those kind of numbers, then arguably, that could have saved the brand.

    1. It’s the ‘current’ 9-3, although if I’m recalling the deal correctly, BAIC’s purchase got them only as far as 2007 technology. Changes were made in the update for 2008 that weren’t included.

      1. “Current”, but if the photos are right, with the older engine: 9-3ss does not have a DIC.

        I really don’t care for the styling (lots of “borrowing” from Audi, Merc, etc without the same sense of taste), but my opinion does not matter because I am not a Chinese consumer. Would I buy one? Well even if they were available here, no. Given the reliability of Chinese made DICs, I can not trust that they have not made other components (safety included) substandard… eg cheaper grades of steel, plastic, wiring, etc… There is a lot of *engineering* that goes into a car that the general public can not see or understand, and it is very easy to cut corners in manufacturing and not meet design specs. Those specs are very very important! A very small oversight can seem to work most of the time, but then fail spectacularly when you need it most.

        Back to the DIC: the thought of a factory in China cranking out more of those crap DICs to undercut and compete with the genuine article which actually *works* does nothing to warm my heart at all! BAIC is part of the mess that was made of SAAB. The first step in the company being “parted out”, and it looks like the rest of the rusty carcass is about to be sent to the crusher. Sad.

        1. If you have the proper design requirements and help from Saab there is nothing to prevent BAIC from designing and manufacturing a proper DIC. The copies we seen from china so far were not designed with access to the engineering knowledge from Saab, so this ought to be a different thing, as BAIC certainly don’t want a close to 100% return rate… Now, separating BAIC approved DICs from the bad DICs for our Saabs coming out of china will probably be a challenge.

          1. Counterfeits mixed in the authentic supply stream is a significant problem in China (in general for electronics components – not just DICs or even just car parts). Now that much of the supply chain for electronics is based in China, the counterfeits are mixed in our supply in North America also. I hope that the OEM manufacturer (SEM?) will still have enough business to keep producing the good DICs that we can trust.

  2. I’d buy one, sure. I’d want to insert an aftermarket grille, but it’s better than many on the market here. Bland sameness sells, apparently.

  3. I would buy it for sure, and I don’t mind the styling at all. Mercedes styling mixed with Kia kind of. Anyway, I’m already picturing an Abbott Racing intake pipe on that engine 🙂

  4. When you consider the JC 9.3 replacement and the fussiness that, that appeared to have, are we looking at much different here.

    The grill is a bit OTT and a few to many creases, but otherwise, it does look modern….

    It would be interesting for someone from the west to test drive the D60 & compare driveability with the last 9.3.
    This might well be the only choice if we want to buy a new Saabish car, although I wonder if it would pass the new EU tests that the last 9.3 failed to meet…..

    1. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t. The safety requirements would be a hurdle they wouldn’t have in China (assuming that BAIC haven’t altered the platform to the extent that it might pass EuroNCAP). And I’m pretty sure the old H-engine would struggle in terms of refinement and fuel economy to be competitive in Europe.

      1. I agree.

        The H engine is pretty smooth in the 234 derivative, sometimes my 9k (234) feels smoother than my 9.5 estate (235).
        Fuel economy was never it’s best point in town, but once ploughing along a Motorway it returns are good for such a heavy car.
        But my today’s standards it’s overall figures are not great….

      2. I’m always surprised by how smooth the H engine is, pulling cleanly from just off idle to the red line without vibration. It’s smoother than most competitive fours and a lot of sixes. Toyota’s V6, for instance, sounds like it’s being tortured at higher RPMs. The worse V6 I’ve ever driven was the Cadillac engine that was to be offered on the base 9-4x (I experienced it in a CTS): that thing had absolutely nothing to give at the low end, and it sounded like it was broken at the high end, where there was also very little power to be found.

        There are two problems with the H engine. First, it is heavy, being made out of cast iron. Second, development stopped around 2005, so it never benefited from variable valve timing, direct injection and other mod cons like integrated cooled exhaust manifolds.
        Ironically, if it had been developed further, it would have been too powerful for a C-segment car like the 9-3. Saab would have needed a 1.3-to-1.6 engine for its mainstream cars.

  5. According to Bloomberg, they hired Ferrari designer Leonardo Fioravanti and that’s likely why the styling isn’t too bad. Like eggs, however, the grill would have to go. I’ve been wishing for more colorful interiors like Saabs of the past (Viggen), but that red is a little too much.

    I would buy it just to look at the engine and maybe see if I could replace the DIC and top with Saab-labeled parts.

  6. No, I would not buy one of these, nor would I automatically buy a car with a “SAAB” badge on it either, if it were to miraculously be made available in the future.

    A nearby professional sports team secretly left the area some years ago, in the dark of night and all of the fans were without their beloved sports franchise. The team went far across the country. All of the players, team management and coaches, along with the franchise’s; trade name, colors, history and awards — all remained together. There were some upset diehard fans. However, some remained fans of their team, after they moved far away — yet most did not.

    The area went without a team for 12 long years, until a similar occurrence brought another professional franchise from a different city to take the place of the one they lost. Interestingly, most of the old fan base embraced the transplanted franchise.

    During this SAAB saga, I have often thought about and compared the numerous repercussions and fallout that resulted from the team moving away. Unfortunately, SAAB is now just a mere shell of the SAAB I fell in love with and the company is almost completely splintered. BAIC has apparently been successful with some transplanted SAAB tech, however, it falls short for me.

    1. Let’s not forget that GM themselves have been successful with transplanted Saab tech. As was mentioned last week, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover are also starting to use transplanted Saab tech.

      It’s really cool that Chinese customers get to experience part of the Saab legacy, but this car is no more a 9-3 replacement than the Cadillac XTS is a 9-5 replacement.

  7. Given the heritage, I would love to have a look and test drive it. Buy it is a different story, I’m not sure I like the interior, and it probably won’t be offered here anytime soon anyway. The pictures says very little about quality.

      1. I love that photo at the top of the story. Kenneth (on the left) – that’s exactly how I remember him. Laughing. What a life!

  8. I’d buy it over a Honda, which I’ll never buy. Maybe you should talk about what GM has done with it’s Saab IP which it would not let go or be used by others.

    Just a thought.

  9. Interesting to see that engine in the 9-3SS bay. Let’s hope the head / valve cover has been torqued correctly! Things like that really let Saab down.

    This deal never felt quite right. A company in China was building ‘Saabs’ while Saab itself was not allowed to build ‘GM-based Saabs’. Given how few NG 9-5s were sold, could the original 9-5 have soldiered on for another few years under VM while a new partner was sought for another 9-4X? Or was the whole VM deal only allowed to go through on the understanding that the NG 9-5 was to be built? Strange, I know 2 people who would buy a brand new Dame Edna 9-5 if they were on sale today…

    1. I’m not so keen on the Dame Edna (I prefer the 2004/05 model years of the 9-5), but I’d buy a brand new c900 if it were available today!

      I bet they’d have to sell a c900 (built the same way and the same standard as in 1992) for $80k to break even today. Maybe I wouldn’t pay that much for one ;-).

  10. Can somebody enlighten me? At their Webpage, there is a model A520T/523T. Based on 9-5. Even though their website repeats something about a 2.8 litre engine, it is not in the specification. Then, there is an A315T which apparently looks like the above car, with a 1.5 litre engine. The mark Senova is nowhere to be seen. And the website is ridiculous. The “Network” link leads to an 404 error.

  11. Not sure I like the styling but it’s not totally bad. But then I’ve always found the 9-3SS a bit of a yawn. It is interesting to see a 9-3SS derivative with an OG9-3 engine.

    1. I once heard from very initiated people, the B2x5 engines is “almost” be bolt on in a 9-3SS – but you won’t be able to close the bonnet… I assume that the bonnet is a fair bit higher on the D60 as a fix.

  12. Makes U wonder what sum of money NEVS came up with when buying Saab. It couldnt have been a big load as they couldnt continue for long. And why did they get the possibillity to buy when there had to be other buyers with a lot of more money in their pockets?

    BAIC have been developing this d60 over a longer period of time than NEVS have tried to make something out of Saab.