9-7X Aero: The AWD, LS2 V8-Powered Saab You've Probably Never Heard Of
Recently, we took a look back at one of the more unusual vehicles ever to way a Saab badge: the Saab 9-2X, which wasn’t actually built by Saab but was a Subaru WRX wagon with restyled fascias and a slightly different interior. The 9-2X was a result of GM’s full stake ownership of Saab during the 2000s, as well as their 20-percent stake in Subaru.
But as unusual as it was, the 9-2X may not have been the weirdest Saab-badged performance vehicle of this era. That honor may go to a little known and very rare SUV called the Saab 9-7X Aero.
The 9-7X was built on General Motor’s GMT 360 SUV platform, which included the Chevy Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Oldsmobile Bravada, Buick Rainer and Isuzu Ascender—and starting for the 2005 model year, a Saab version as well.
More Than Typical Badge Engineering
While all of the vehicles were based on the same platform and same mechanicals, a few of the GMT 360 variants actually had rather distinct styling, going beyond the minor cosmetic changes you’d typically associate with badge-engineering. The 9-7X in particular had rather attractive styling, which made it about as “European” looking as an American-built and engineered SUV could be.
The 9-7X had standard all-wheel drive and was available with the same engines as the rest of the GMT 360s including the “Atlas” 4.2L inline six and the ubiquitous 5.3L gen III V8.
Upping the Ante
Things really got interesting in 2008 with the introduction of the 9-7X Aero, which was launched as an upmarket version of the Chevrolet Trailblazer SS. Like the Chevy it shared its underpinnings with, the 9-7X Aero was powered by a 6.0L LS2 V8 with 390hp and 395 lb-ft of torque.
With its AWD system putting the LS2 power down, the 9-7X Aero could do 0-60 in the mid five second range, putting it among the quickest Saab production vehicles ever built. Despite its V8 power, it's not shocking to learn that even before the high performance Aero model was introduced, the 9-7X was already struggling in the sales department. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a Swedish-badged, American-built SUV was going have hard time finding a market.
End of an Era
In 2009 a shifting auto market and an economic downturn led to GM scrapping the GMT 360 platform without a successor. The sell-off of the Saab brand one year later insured that the 9-7X and the 9-7X Aero in particular would go down the road to obscurity, with only about 500 examples sold over the two year run.
If you’ve ever wanted a fast and funky vehicle that would be unidentifiable by even the nerdiest car enthusiasts, the 9-7X Aero might just be it. It also might the most unusual vehicle ever to be powered by an LS engine from the factory. Now pardon us while we go dream about showing up to the track with a Saab 9-2X Aero race car being trailered by a 9-7x Aero tow rig.
Looking for more late 2000s car nostalgia? Check out these five picks from the class of 2009.