New front and rear bumpers feature a dark grey, grained finish that is also applied to the side sills and the edges of the wheel arches as a protective covering when the terrain becomes loose or muddy. This treatment is complemented by skid panels with a matt aluminum finish, curving up towards the door opening at the rear and adopting a wing form in the lip of the lower front bumper. These are matched by matt, aluminium-coloured lower door strips and roof rails with the same finish. Visible, twin round exhaust tailpipes are standard for both engine options. Front fog lights ringed with a chrome finish add yet another rugged accent.
Inside, the 9-3X interior features a unique trim, adding a dark metallic finish to the door trims, glove box and gearbox surround. The unique sports seating features grey fabric inserts in the black leather upholstery.
At the heart of the 9-3X is Saab's XWD technology. It is an active system that continuously distributes engine drive torque between the front and rear axles as required for optimum stability and traction in all conditions. To optimise traction the Saab XWD incorporates an innovative, pre-emptive engagement of the rear wheels. Unlike conventional all-wheel drive systems, this eliminates the need to detect front wheel slip before rear drive is activated.
The hardware includes an electronically-controlled Torque Transfer Device (TTD), which varies power delivery between the axles. A valve increases or reduces hydraulic pressure on wet clutch plates inside the TTD to progressively engage or disengage the rear axle. The degree of 'slip' dictates how much drive is transmitted to the rear wheels. The standard fit rear limited slip differential (eLSD) operates on the same principle, splitting drive across the axle to whichever wheel has more traction.
The 2.0 Turbo petrol engine delivers 210 hp and thus conforms to Saab's right-sizing principal by producing the power of a larger engine but with the fuel economy and lower emission benefits of a smaller 2.0 litre capacity thanks to a turbo charger. This all-alloy engine also produces 221 lb ft of torque (300 Nm) between 2,500-4,000 rpm and can accelerate the 9-3X from 0–60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Both a six speed manual and automatic transmission are available.
The diesel variant, a 1.9 TTiD twin turbo engine produces 180 hp and 295 lb ft (400Nm) of torque through the front wheels, but still keeps emissions to 144 g/km. This engine, too, will be available with manual and automatic transmission.
The 9-3X is designed to make loading sports and leisure equipment easy: the rear cargo area with a low floor is spacious and the compact design of the rear suspension allows a deep box-like space, free from intrusions, offering a useful rear seat up/down volume of 419/1287 litres (VDA).
The 60/40 split seat-back incorporates a ski-hatch and folds down without any need to move the fixed seat cushion. The fully carpeted rear load space is illuminated by two interior lights mounted on the inside of the D-pillars. It is accessed by a lightly-weighted tailgate that opens down to bumper level, its damper rods completely hidden in the roof to allow a clear, uncluttered opening. The flush-fitted, black moulded floor plate helps to protect against marks or scratches on the bumper during heavy use.
The 9-3X's TwinFloor stowage facility also helps keep luggage and equipment safe and tidy. The middle section of the floor hinges upwards transversely when the handle is pulled so that the front edge fits into two retaining slots.