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First look Saab 9-3X all-wheel drive

The new 9-3X all-wheel drive wagon follows the proven path pioneered by the Subaru Outback and joins a legion of new Euro softer-roaders battling in the recreational lifestyle market.

The jacked up, chunky Swede debuts at next month's Geneva Motor Show and could hit local Saab showrooms next year.

For the downtrodden Saab brand locally, GM Premium brands director, Parveen Batish, says the 9-3X is not too little too late.

"I don't think so, I think the brand is moving forward and we've been talking about other cars and they will come," he says.

"Things have been tough but we can see some light.

"The cues we've seen from some of the concept cars are a real eye-opening in terms of where the brand is going."

Last year Saab sold just 1158 vehicles locally, mostly 9-3s.

The 9-3X and its bigger, still secret 9-4X off-roader, could be a sales savior.

Batish says the 9-3X does not go into production until towards the end of the year "so that gives us plenty of time to investigate where it would fit and how it would fit".

"Regardless of the brand, we've got to make sure it's the right thing for Australia," he says.

In Europe the 9-3X will be available with both front and all-wheel drive.

GM Premium Brands will investigate both options, Batish says.

"But being a small market we can't take everything," he says.

Using the 9-3 SportCombi as its base, the 9-3X gets a 35mm higher ground clearance and Saab's cross-wheel drive (XWD) system, as well as some stirdy plastic trim.

For the first time, Saab's E85-capable BioPower engine technology is mated to its XWD system.

In Europe buyers will have a choice of the 155kW/300Nm 2.0-litre BioPower four-cylinder as well as petrol 2.0-litre four cylinder.

The 2.0-litre petrol turbo has a similar output to the BioPower unit.

A front-wheel drive 132kW/400Nm 1.9-litre TTiD two-stage turbo diesel will also be available.

There is little difference between the all-wheel drive and front drive.

The front drive gets the same styling but its suspension is only raised by an extra 20mm.

Visually the soft-road wagon uses a proven formula of grey plastic body trim, wheel arches and sill panels and beefier bumpers.

This treatment is complemented by matt aluminium skid panels.

Black roof rails are standard, along with multi-spoke 17-inch alloys and dual exhausts.

The XWD system is an active, intelligent system that continuously distributes engine drive torque between the front and rear axles.

The hardware includes an electronically-controlled torque transfer system that varies power delivery between the axles.