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Next Saab 9-3's tech revealed

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Next Saab 9-3's tech revealed

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Phoenix Architecture that will underpin the 93 is aptly named; indeed, it is so crucial to Saab’s recovery that the firm’s engineering guru, Kjell ac Bergström, has put his retirement on hold for two years to oversee the project into production.

Bergström, who has also worked at Volvo and Fiat-GM, rejoined General Motors-owned Saab in 2003.

He had already outlined his vision for how an independent version of the Swedish brand could work before it severed its ties with the American giant.

The Phoenix Architecture seems to fit in with Bergström’s plan, in which many future components — everything from base engines to door locks — will be bought ‘off the shelf’ from manufacturers who supply parts to other premium car makers.

This policy is a U-turn for Saab, which has often insisted on modifying even the smallest common part to reach its own specifications.

However, the flexible nature of the process means that engines can still be modified in house, and Saab will still be free to carry out its own crash safety tests and introduce its own styling and electronic architectures.

The set-up will also allow Saab to give the 93 complex suspension systems and four-wheel drive.

The essentials of the Phoenix Architecture

Front suspension

For the Phoenix architecture, Saab has a choice of existing suspension systems. It could use the standard-issue MacPherson strut fitted to base versions of the 9-5.

However, MacPherson struts have limitations. They allow more vibration and disturbances from the road through to the driver and are prone to allowing torque steer with powerful engines.

Their construction means that they are also more susceptible to distorting under hard cornering, which leads to much less precise steering response. Many within Saab are now arguing that the Phoenix platform should actually be fitted with the much more sophisticated HiPer Strut.

HiPer Strut

The name is derived from High Performance Strut. This front suspension set-up was designed by Saab engineers for General Motors’ Global Epsilon project.

According to the company, the advanced HiPer Strut offers driving benefits similar to those of a double wishbone layout. “The inclination, length and offset of the kingpin is reduced and the castor angle of the steering increased.

“The result: improved steering quality with a more ‘planted’ feel, as well as enhanced handling and braking characteristics.”

Rear Suspension

Base 9-5s use a four-link independent axle, designed by GM and also used on the Insignia. It’s regarded as a capable design, but Saab also has the option of the much more sophisticated linked H-arm set-up.

Linked H-Arm axle

The linked H-arm was also developed by Saab technicians and is available on both front-drive and all-wheel-drive cars. The company says because it has isolated subframe mountings (unlike the four-link axle), it gives even greater ride comfort, reduces vibration entering the cabin and improves roadholding.

All-wheel drive system

Saab’s XWD (Cross Wheel Drive) system is based around the familiar and quick-acting Haldex 4 clutch, which is mounted on the rear differential. Torque can be transferred front to rear depending on grip levels (using 20 sensors checking information 100 times a second).

The trick aspect is the limited-slip differential on the back axle. Dubbed the eLSD, it can distribute torque between the wheels, meaning the torque can be variably split between all four wheels, matching levels of available grip.

New engines for the 9-3

By assembling its own platform, Saab is free to buy in engines and transmissions from virtually any supplier. One Saab source told Autocar that using an existing GM platform (such as the Astra’s Delta underpinnings) meant that it would probably have to adopt matching GM engines and transmissions.

The new Phoenix Architecture might be built around the new BMW/Mini engines, but it’s likely that Saab will design its own DSG transmission because BMW uses conventional auto ’boxes.



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New Saab 9-3 to rival Audi A3

Monday, June 21, 2010

Saab will declare its independence as a carmaker with the launch of an all-new 9-3 in late 2012. Rebadged as the 93, the new model will also mark the reintroduction of a hatchback version reminiscent of the classic 900.

Saab is working on a new platform — known internally as the ‘Phoenix Architecture’ — that will underpin the next-generation 9-3 family as well as the eventual replacement for the latest 9-5, which has just been launched.

See Autocar's exclusive rendering of the new Saab 9-3 hatchback

It’s expected that the first car based on the Phoenix Architecture will be the new 93 saloon, which is currently pencilled in for a 2012 launch.

Getting this new car into the showrooms is a priority for a company that badly needs to boost its sales and dramatically increase its cashflow.

A cabriolet and a three-door hatchback will follow hard on the saloon’s heels. The drop-top and hatch are closely related, being nearly identical to each other up to the doors and frameless window arrangement.

The 93 Sport Wagon will be the final model in the range, sharing the majority of its construction with the saloon.

Although the 93 hatch will be bigger than the Audi A3, it is expected to be priced at a similar level, starting at around £18,000. The new model should be Saab’s most credible driver’s car since the 900 Aero was launched in 1985.

The styling of the 93 family will build on that of today’s 9-5, but the company designers are likely to make more use of an aerospace-influenced, barrel-sided look for the 93.

Inside, the wrap-around dashboard theme will stay, but the expanse of bare fascia seen in the new 9-5 is likely to be watered down to avoid overwhelming the driver.

Saab engineers have the option of fitting the 93 with the sophisticated HiPer strut front and linked H-arm rear suspension systems that are already used on some versions of the new 9-5. The company’s highly regarded four-wheel drive set-up is also on the menu.

There’s still some mystery as to the source of the 93’s engines, but it seems highly likely that they will come from outside the General Motors family.

Sources say Saab might already have signed a contract with BMW to supply BMW-derived diesel and petrol engines that are set to make their debut in the forthcoming Mini Countryman.

The company is keen on what it calls ‘right-sized’ engines, which it can modify using its extensive experience in turbocharging and engine management technology.

If true, the BMW deal could include the new 184bhp 1.6-litre, twin-scroll turbo Cooper S engine and the 112bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine used in the Countryman.

Indeed, a senior BMW source recently told Autocar that his company had “no problem” supplying engines to other car makers.

These engines are likely to be mated to the Countryman’s new six-speed manual gearbox, which has the ability to accommodate a four-wheel drive system. Saab, however, would retain its own Haldex-based XWD system no matter who supplies the engines.

Saab is also likely to offer a dual-clutch gearbox in the 93, given that it has already developed one for GM.

Ahead of these newly sourced engines, however, Saab is expected to launch a mildly refreshed version of the current 9-3 powered by a GM-sourced 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine.



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