My first visit to a top international motor show was Paris 2006, which will be remembered as the debut venue of the Audi R8 and concepts like the VW Iroc, which has morphed into today’s Scirocco. All very nice, but there was one display at the Paris Expo that stopped this writer in his tracks, and it wasn’t even a world debut!

That car was the Saab Aero-X concept, a super sleek coupe with a jet style cockpit canopy that lifts upwards. It was a cool nod to Saab’s aviation roots, and guess what, they have repeated the same trick for Geneva 2011 in spectacular fashion. The automotive world would be much less interesting if not for individual brands like Saab – thank god they were saved from death at the last hour.

This PhoeniX concept showcases design features and technologies that will appear in the next generation of Saabs. Based on a new architecture which will underpin the next Saab 9-3, the PhoeniX introduces ‘aeromotional’ design, which Saab describes as “a visual evocation of the aerodynamic design principles and passion for innovation that inspired the creators of Saab’s first car, the iconic Ursaab.”

The slippery PhoeniX has a low drag Cd of just 0.25 and explores the potential for airflow management through the use of distinctive, side-mounted ‘winglets’. Butterfly opening doors give easy access to a low slung 2+2 cabin

The front look sports a stretched interpretation of Saab’s signature three-port grille. A body-colored central wing is now dominant and, in keeping with the car’s minimalist design, LED headlamps are almost invisibly located at its tips. The new grille and hood forms are among the styling themes likely to be seen in future Saab production cars.

At the rear, the tapering form hints at the teardrop rear styling of Ursaab, while the sawn off, kamm tail references Saab’s first coupe, the Sonett.

Under the hood is a 1.6-litre turbo engine with innovative, electric RWD technology. The BMW sourced unit packs 200 hp/250 Nm and includes start/stop functionality, minimal parasitic losses and a fuel cut-off function, which are Efficient Dynamics features. A stainless steel tank, which is lighter and less expensive than a conventional plastic design, is used.

The rear drive 34 hp electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that’s replenished by regenerative braking. It’s part of Saab’s eXWD system and torque vectoring is available. Now under development for next gen Saabs, this propulsion system enables the benefits of AWD while also reducing fuel consumption. With a six-speed manual, projected combined cycle fuel economy is just 5.0 L/100 km. 0-100 km/h is done in 5.9 seconds.

More pics after the jump.

[zenphotopress number=999 album=2020]