All-new in 2005, the Saab 9-7X SUV undergoes several changes for 2006. Its 5.3-litre V8 receives Displacement on Demand; electric stability control becomes standard equipment; the 4.2-litre six-cylinder engine gains an additional 15 horsepower; a DVD-based navigation system is available; a moonroof and DVD combination can now be ordered; and there are three new exterior colours, Lingonberry Red Metallic, Winter White, and Graphite Grey Metallic. Prices are unchanged from 2005.

The V8’s new Displacement on Demand provides fuel economy gains of up to five per cent, by deactivating half the cylinders when full power is not needed, such as during highway cruising. The transition is seamless and automatic. The 4.2-litre grows to 290 hp from 275 hp in 2005.

While it features Saab’s Swedish-inspired styling cues, the 9-7X is the same vehicle as the Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy and Buick Rainier. The suspension has been tuned to Saab’s specifications, including a lower ride height, stiffer mounts and an 18.5:1 steering gear ratio that’s quicker than its GM siblings. The 9-7X comes only in the platform’s regular-wheelbase configuration; an extended-wheelbase version is not available. Construction is body-on-frame.

The Linear and Arc model designations of 2005 have been dropped. The 4.2-litre is now simply a base model, while the 5.3-litre is the 9-7X V8. Both use a four-speed transmission and GM’s automatic all-wheel-drive with active control, along with an electronically-controlled rear air suspension.

Despite the vehicle’s weight, the six-cylinder moves it along well, with smooth acceleration and enough power to pass. The V8 is preferable if you’re planning on carrying a full load of passengers and cargo on a regular basis, or if you’ll be doing any heavier-duty towing. Both models come with a trailer hitch, but the V8 version can tow a maximum of 2,948 kg, or 6,500 lbs.

Both lines include heated mirrors, roof rack side rails, 18-inch aluminum wheels, electronic dual-zone climate control with rear controls, cargo cover, cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, adjustable pedals, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, electric windows, variable intermittent wipers, rear washer/wiper, leather heated seats with eight-way power driver’s adjustment and position memory, 65/35 folding rear seat, CD/MP3 player with six speakers, fog lights and power locks with keyless entry.

Rear-seat passengers enjoy spacious legroom and headroom, and an optional DVD entertainment system can be added to keep them occupied.

The idea of a Saab truck raised eyebrows when it was introduced, but the vehicle has been well-received. It’s the most expensive of the four SUVs, but it also offers the highest level of sophistication, and the closest to a sporty handling experience that you’re going to get in a tall, heavy vehicle. And because it conforms to its brand’s across-the-board warranty, coverage on the 9-7X is one year and/or 20,000 km longer than on the Chevrolet, Buick or GMC versions.

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