Over 25 years after unveiling the first four-seater convertible to the world, Saab's design classic takes on a new form in the shape of the 9-X Air concept car.

Set to be revealed at the Paris Motorshow on the 2nd October 2008, the 9-X Air concept provides a tantalising glimpse of what a future convertible from Saab could look like.

Featuring a unique Canopy Top, the 9-X Air breaks the mould of conventional convertibles by incorporating prominent rear pillars which curve upwards to mount the flat folding roof.   With the top down motorists can enjoy open-top motoring free from buffeting, and with the top up the 9-X Air assumes the appearance of a true coupe.

The 9-X Air's raked rear pillars support the Canopy Top – itself a development of the Targa roof principle – with a separate rear screen located between them. Instead of having a manually detachable roof section, the Saab Canopy top is fully powered in operation and folds away in the storage trunk.  Saab has already filed a patent for this radical design of convertible roof.

The clean, sculpted body contours of the 9-X Air give fresh expression to Saab's Scandinavian-inspired design ethos and its aircraft heritage. The purposeful stance, with minimal overhangs front and rear, is complemented by a single, wraparound window graphic, smooth uncluttered body surfaces and ‘ice block' lighting themes.

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Anthony Lo, Director of Advanced Design at General Motors Europe said of the car: "Like her sister the 9-X BioHybrid, this car is all about efficiency in design and performance.  It offers important benefits in weight-saving and packaging as well as giving us the freedom to take convertible design forward."

The 9-X Air and its hatchback sibling also showcase seamless, wireless connectivity (Bluetooth) with one or multiple nomadic devices (mobile phones, PDAs etc).

Efficiency in Design and Performance The 9-X Air has been created by a team under Anthony Lo, Director of Advanced Design at General Motors Europe, working in co-operation with the Saab Brand Center in Sweden.

Designed in parallel with the Saab 9-X BioHybrid con

cept, the 9-X Air shares its distinctive frontal styling, together with its highly efficient powertrain. The small, 1.4-litre Saab BioPower engine combines a series of measures for more responsible performance: engine rightsizing, turbocharging, the use of biofuels and hybrid technology.

Running on E85 fuel (85% bioethanol/15% petrol), the engine delivers a sporty 200 hp (147 kW), giving zero to 62 mph acceleration in 8.1 seconds and projected CO2 tailpipe emissions of just 107 g/km over the combined cycle. Compared to normal petrol, the overall environmental impact on a source-to-wheel basis of using E85 is even more beneficial.

Progressive Design The exterior look of the 9-X Air is defined by the prominent C-pillars, or buttresses, that provide the rear mounting for the unique Canopy Top - a powered, flat-folding roof developed from a Targa top principle. This innovation in convertible design, which distinguishes between a folding roof and a complete folding soft-top or hood assembly, is subject to a Saab patent application.

The Canopy Top is in fabric, rather than metal, to save weight and provide more efficient packaging. It is fully automatic in operation and folds neatly in three small sections under a rear tonneau cover in the trunk deck. The rear screen between the buttresses retracts automatically into the underside of the raised tonneau cover to allow stowage of the Canopy Top. The screen then moves back into position to provide a complete glass surround for the cabin in open-top mode.

This ‘surround glass' feature, together with an active wind deflector on top of the windshield header rail, provides enhanced occupant comfort. It minimises buffeting, reduces back drafts and eliminates the need for a wind deflector net. Separating the rear screen from the folding top also enables a larger glass area than is feasible with a soft top and integral screen.

In a further break with design convention, the 9-X Air dispenses with a boot lid. Instead, a large storage compartment, big enough to accommodate two golf bags, slides out from underneath the rear light bar. To save weight, it is spring-loaded, without any power assistance, and slides effortlessly on rollers. Revealed underneath the sliding drawer is a separate compartment for stowing smaller items.

Driver Focus Inside, the 9-X Air features innovative developments in its driver-focused cockpit design and the provision of seamless connectivity for personal nomadic devices, both first seen in the 9-X BioHybrid.

The driver information zone encompasses the top of the door moulding as well as the traditional dashboard. It is a fresh execution of Saab's traditional, driver-focused cockpit layout and dispenses with a central, floor-mounted console. The zone is a flat, arc-shaped surface, within which a row of five display screens is embedded and illuminated in green 3-D graphics, including an ‘infotainment' screen and control panel in the driver's door.

In co-operation with Sony Ericsson, the 9-X Air and its hatchback sibling also showcase the potential for seamless, wireless connectivity (Bluetooth) with one or multiple nomadic devices (mobile phones, PDAs etc). The in-car interface enables streaming of data, entertainment and satellite navigation functions, which are transferred automatically to the car while the device remains in the user's pocket.

The smarter the device, the more functions in the car. The same unit could also be programmed to remotely lock /unlock the car, raise or lower the Canopy Top, and even remotely change in-car pre-sets.