Japanese Engineering, Swedish Face: A Look Back at the “Saabaru” 9-2X
Saab is a brand with a very interesting history. It began as an independent Swedish automaker known for its quirky machines, but by the time the 2000s rolled around Saab had become a subsidiary of General Motors, and this partnership resulted in some rather unusual badge-engineered vehicles—including one which wasn’t even a GM-built vehicle but a re-branded and re-styled Subaru WRX imported from Japan.
It Started With GM
At the turn of the millennium Saab became a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors after GM had previously owned 50-percent of the company. At the time, GM also owned a 20-percent stake in Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru. The result of this relationship was a strange Japanese-built, Swedish-branded sport compact car that was the result of American product planning.
Officially dubbed the Saab 9-2X, the car that was launched for the ‘05 model year would soon become known as the “Saabaru." It was built in Japan and used the platform and powertrains of the Subaru Impreza wagon but with restyled front and rear fascias to keep the Saab family resemblance going.
For 2005, the 9-2X was offered with two different engines: a naturally aspirated 2.5L flat four and a 227hp 2.0L turbocharged flat four identical to the one found in the WRX. You could get it with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual, and being built by Subaru, AWD of course came standard.
For 2006, the high performance 9-2X Aero model moved from a turbocharged 2.0L to a torquier 2.5L turbo motor, just as its cousin the WRX did. With the larger motor also came a small horsepower bump to 230.
Mostly Similar, With a Few Differences
While most of the differences between the WRX and the 9-2X Aero were cosmetic, there were some other minor differences, including a retuned suspension and the faster steering rack from the WRX STI. The 9-2X also featured additional sound deadening in an attempt to give the car a more “upmarket” feel.
The 9-2X Reaches Its End
A little over 10,000 9-2Xs were sold in the U.S. for ‘05 and ‘06 combined, but in late 2005 GM sold its stake in Fuji Heavy Industries to Toyota. That meant the end of the partnership and the end of the 9-2X after just two model years.
So while the funky 9-2X may never become a highly sought after collector car darling, it’s already established itself as one of the more interesting footnotes in modern automotive history.
The car also happens to have all the aftermarket potential of the WRX with the added benefit of being able to confuse people at both Euro meets and Subaru gatherings, and you’ve got to like that idea.
Stay tuned, because next time we’ll be back to look at another unusual Saab product from this period of history—one that has a big fat American V8 under the hood.
Interested in other Subaru joint ventures? Check out out Scion FR-S, Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ buyer's guide.