By on April 27, 2020

2005 Saab 9-2X in a Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWeird examples of badge engineering! Who doesn’t love them? Bad people, that’s who, and so I do my best to find such vehicles while I’m exploring car graveyards. The badge-engineering world includes Isuzus badged as Hondas, Hondas badged as Isuzus, Mitsubishis badged as Dodges, Dodges badged as Mitsubishis, Chevrolets badged as Saabs, and — of course — Subarus badged as Saabs. Here’s an example of the notorious Saabaru, found in the Subiest region of the United States: Denver, Colorado.

2005 Saab 9-2X in a Denver junkyard, rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Even though Coloradans love Saabs nearly as much as they love Subarus, the 9-2X has been tough for me to find in my local junkyards. Prior to today’s Junkyard Find, I’d documented just this lone silver 9-2X Linear, and that was two years ago. I’ve seen a few others, but they were WRX-based Aero models and had been stripped clean (presumably by Subaru fanatics) before I got there.

2005 Saab 9-2X in a Denver junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile the 9-2X Aero was a Saabized (Saabified? Saab-o-lated?) Subaru WRX, complete with wild turbocharged engine, the 9-2X Linear was just an ordinary Impreza hatchback with a somewhat nicer interior and a different grille. Still, this 2.5-liter boxer four made 165 horses, so these cars aren’t punitively slow.

2005 Saab 9-2X in a Denver junkyard, shifter - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou could get this car with a manual transmission, but… nope.

2005 Saab 9-2X in a Denver junkyard, rear seats - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Impreza got more vet’s-waiting-room-style interior materials, while the 9-2X had a more Swedish-influenced look inside.

2005 Saab 9-2X in a Denver junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhy did it end up here? Maybe a head gasket, maybe just lots of miles and low resale value for Saabs (and “Saabs”) these days.

ROAD-BLISTERING PERFORMANCE, Y’ALL!

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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2005 Saab 9-2X Linear...”


  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I declare this a politics-free thread.

    It looks like the only thing between the seats was a carton of smoked cigarettes and no ignition switch! Not a real Saab then! A friend of mine had a manual WRX wagon of this era and that thing was just a riot to drive.

    This car made a great Subaru – one that will be remembered – but a Saab buyer doesn’t want a Subaru, they want a Saab. They wanted the quirks, the experience of how different they were up to the mid-90s. Badge engineered Saabs = sacrilege!

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      By 2005 Saab was down to only 2 cars the 9-3 and 9-5, I guess they needed to sell something

      I always found it interesting that Saab being a Swedish car didn’t have an in-house AWD ( Cross-wheel drive) car until 2008. I guess Swedes don’t need no stinkin’ AWD to drive in snow ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        Yeah, this was knee deep in GM’s we gotta get something out of everything phase with all of their brands, only to have 2008 kill off a lot of the dead weight. When everything was badge engineered to within an inch of its life (Saturn Relay? Hummer H3? Saab 92 and 97?) and brand identity didn’t mean a thing.

        Too many brands, not enough good product, and spreading average to below average car lines among too many brands equaled disaster.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          @theflyersfan

          The Hummer H3 was a badge engineering job?

          WHAT?!?!?

          What other GM GMT345 platform SUV vehicle with those body panels were there?

          I’d love the education.

      • 0 avatar
        Gedrven

        I find it equally interesting that Volvo didn’t have any 4WD or AWD vehicles – excepting various military cars and their civilianized derivatives, such as the Sugga, C202/Laplander, and C303 – until well into the 90’s.

        Without getting into any politics, observe the following parallels between the USA, Scandinavia, and Russia:

        – All three have similar climates, at least as far as winter is concerned.
        – A US driving license, depending on the state, means between little and absolutely nothing regarding driving ability; my test in FL took 20 minutes and never left the parking lot. To earn a license, Scandinavians have to pay something around $3000 and go through several months of mandatory driving instruction, concluding with a driving test that, at least in some jurisdictions, includes spin recovery on a skidpad. Damn straight they know how to drive! I don’t know Russian requirements but I bet they’re somewhere in between.
        – AWD gradually became more popular in the US after WW2, coinciding with a mass lifestyle and mentality shift to sedate sedentary safe Suburbia. Scandinavia is as mentioned. Russia, despite a nonexistent civilian car culture until traces of it started to sprout up in the 50’s, developed 4WD passenger cars before anyone else did (GAZ 61).

        One interpretation: In the US, driving standards are incompetent and need all the technological help they can get. In Scandinavia, driving is at a high standard and doesn’t need the help. And in Russia, competence not enough.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          @Gedrven, being older I had extensive driver’s ed in high school which taught me the proper skills needed to drive a car properly. One of the dumbest budget cuts in today’s education is the elimination of driver’s ed programs. An aspect of education that you’ll use again and again and could actually save your life. So dumb

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @Lie2me, where I grew up we didn’t have any programs in our high schools. It was just culturally accepted (best way of putting it) that you should go to one of the certified driving schools and pay out of pocket for it. There was a sizable and worthwhile insurance discount for doing that.

            I’ve heard mixed things about high school driver’s ed programs. Sometimes they’re a collateral for the proverbial dumb phys ed teacher, make the kids watch a few gory videos and watch the clock, other times they’re really well done.

            No matter who was directly paying for it or who else was directly paying for it, the common idea between your experience and mine is whether society values driver’s ed.

            FWIW, my driving test was on public roads on an average day- I wouldn’t say it was difficult or high standards, but it also wasn’t this [email protected]#$% nonsense in the back parking lot of a DMV—don’t mow down any orange cones and make sure you come to a complete stop at the fake stop sign that has no actual traffic—congratulations, mouth breather, you pass. There are two of those roadside memorials within about a mile of mile house- both along different stretches of a very mild 45mph road that has excellent sight lines and very gradual bends. Imagine that.

          • 0 avatar
            Ol Shel

            My gym teacher would light up a cigar and open the newspaper for a nice read as we drove around the countryside for an hour. Every so often, he’d say ‘left’ or ‘right’. It was really low-stress.

            Luckily, both of my parents had modeled good driving for many years.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Mine did the crossword puzzle, but only when I drove, because by the time I took driver’s ed I pretty well knew my way around car. I still learned a bunch of stuff, he taught me how to properly parallel park

          • 0 avatar
            ClayT

            I’m sure it had as much to do with school districts not wanting to be responsible for educating kids about something with real consequences, as it did about cutting budget.

            I enjoyed our driver ed in school. I still remember having a spirited discussion with the instructor over the ‘official’ stuck throttle procedure.
            The book said shift into neutral.
            I said just turn off the key.
            After some debate, he agreed with my reasoning.

            The driving portion of class, we’d load four kids + the instructor into some Japanese Sh*tbox and go for a drive around town. I’d drive last and he’d talk to the other students about what they screwed up on while we drove back to the school.

            I got dinged ½ a point one time for the driving part. Turned the daanm key the wrong way when I shut it down back at school. Auto ignitions are supposed to be on the dash, not the steering column!

            The DMV test was fun. The family ’66 wagon had nasty power brakes. So sensitive, one could lock all four using only the little toe. Didn’t want to drive that.
            Dad had the head off our ’65 Mercedes (four on the tree!) so I couldn’t use that.
            Only choice left… I was forced to drive dad’s 1967 911S. Darn.

          • 0 avatar

            It was an opportunity for the local dealer to advertise, too. “this car provided by Friendly Local Car Store”. We got a 4 cyl stripper Ford Fairmont, and the Driver’s Ed allowed us all to get a license six months sooner…back when kids cared about such things….

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          I know nothing of Russian driver’s license requirements, but I’ve seen enough Russian driving videos to believe they’re strictly for identification purposes, and only incidentally related to driving ability.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      As a politics free thread around here, what is the over-under for how many comments it gets? I’m going to say 17…not counting this one

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “This car made a great Subaru – one that will be remembered – but a Saab buyer doesn’t want a Subaru, they want a Saab. They wanted the quirks, the experience of how different they were up to the mid-90s. Badge engineered Saabs = sacrilege!”

      unfortunately, when that was SAAB’s only customer, they were inevitably doomed. GM just kept them on life support for ~ 10 years.

      There was *no* path to SAAB’s survival.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right. People lambast GM for killing Saab. While I agree that they could have done a bit more, the brand was probably doomed. It was on life support when they bought it, and was in no worse condition when they sold it.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          People also love to point to the badge engineered NG900 as evidence of GM’s poor judgement, ignoring that the last car introduced before that was the badge engineered 9000.

      • 0 avatar

        Saab died in the prior stock market crash. When the banks stopped writing leases, a local dealer went under. The local paper quoted the sales manager after our dealer closed. He said they sold about 30 cars a month, and when the banks shut the tap, he couldn’t lease…and he said that 27 of those sales were leases.

        Since Saab and Volvo were the next lux almost but not quite Germans at the time, many buyers were close on the money, and would probably have done BMW or Benz, but they couldn’t go that far.

        IMO, Saab was more like buying a big VW. Same parts bin Bosch stuff, got cranky at 80k miles. I had two, the classic 900T, and the 9-3 1/2 GM.

        I wonder what they would have become, if not tossed into the GM Blender.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    if I remember correctly, the SAAB came with a longer warranty to entice buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      it was also CHEAPER than the Subaru

      GM had the “everyone is an employee” promo, making the better equipped Saabaru less expensive than the Subaru

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        It was cheaper, had a better warranty, had a modestly nicer interior, additional sound insulation, and was arguably better looking outside. I think the Aero (turbo) models are more grown-up looking than comparable WRX.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        In addition to the mentioned pricing and additional sound insulation, the 9-2x Aero had Saab standard free maintenance period, and extra equipment over the WRX namely HID headlights and the quicker STI steering rack. It was a great deal in it’s day.

      • 0 avatar
        saturnotaku

        During the first GM “Employee Discount for Everyone” in 2005, you could have bought the base 9-2X with manual transmission and no options for, no joke, $16k and change. I regret not snagging one back in the day as the nearest Saab dealer to where I was living had one such model in stock.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “so these cars aren’t punitively slow.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this was faster than a 2020 Impreza with the CVT.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I never knew they made a non WRX version of this.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    Damn these electronic odometers – I’m always interested in how far these cars have made it before meeting their maker. Murilee – Posting any other evidence such as maintenance stickers, etc.. would be appreciated. When you pull a motor now days how do you know how used it is?

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      pale

      Electric odometers. If the car was professionally serviced. Wouldn’t a Carfax state mileage?

    • 0 avatar
      Gedrven

      Wiring diagrams, an insulation stripper, and a jump box or ATV battery. Works for power seats, too.

      But a more valid assessment is a good look at the internals and fluids, and a compression check (also requiring 12V power, not so much diagrams).

  • avatar
    JimC2

    A Subaru-Saab with an automatic transmission. As the youth are wont to say these days, “I can’t even…”

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I always thought Subaru ie Fuji Heavy Industry should have bought the remains of Saab. They already did have plans for a Tribeca based 9-6X. A Boxer engined 9-3 with awd would have been swell.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So when I traveled cross country by car in June/July 2019 I saw one of these on the road in Tennessee during a detour to avoid a wreck on the interstate. It stood out because I knew roughly how rare they were.

    The kicker was I saw ZERO TourX (other than my own) during that same trip.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      In 2010, if I hadn’t found my Legacy GT wagon I was likely going to do a hard look for 9-2X Areos. It ticked all the right boxes from what I was looking for. They were thin on the ground then, but not impossible to find. They seem to have all but disappeared since then with the occasional non-Areo models popping up for sale.

      My wife and I were seriously looking at TourXes for a while which means I keep an eye out for them when I’m out and about. To date, I have seen 2 in the wild.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I love weird rebadges like this.

    The 9-2X came about because GM owned a stake in Fuji Heavy Industries (the owner of Subaru) at the time. The funny thing was that with GM’s heavy-handed incentives program, you could get the 9-2X *cheaper* than the WRX. And, as you point out, the 9-2X was nicer, too!

    This wasn’t the only Subaru that GM rebadged. They sold a Chevrolet Forester in India. They were also readying a 9-6X as a sister to the soon-to-be-released B9 Tribeca (which TTAC has some history with). The 9-6X had a slightly different body shell, mainly around the rear quarter-panel, and different fenders, with a more-conservative look. The 9-6X, and the other Saabarus, abruptly ended when GM sold its stake in Fuji Heavy Industries. Subaru itself used some of the 9-6X stampings when it toned down the B9 Tribeca to just become the Tribeca.

    Meanwhile, it took Saab another five years or so to put out a midsize crossover, the 9-4X, which was a close relative to the second-generation Cadillac SRX. By then, GM had sold Saab itself and was building cars under contract for Saab’s new owner. Fewer than 500 9-4X units rolled out of the factory before Saab defaulted on its agreements to GM, and that was that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I always liked the Saab 9-7X, even though it was clearly a Chevy/GM rebadge it was at least different enough to distinguish it from all the other Chevy/GMs

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        I kinda liked the 9-7x, especially the V-8. They definitely put more visual effort into the interior- managing to put the ignition in the center, and also carried over characteristic HVAC vent details, and the funky swiveling cupholder. The 9-2x interior was identical to the Impreza/WRX except for fabric color and door cards. The plastics were not great, and the single-din stereo + single-din bin compartment in the base versions looked especially cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      @ kyree

      GM had paid Fiat’s new CEO, one Marchionne, $2 billion in April 2005 to “not” have to buy the rest of Fiat. That saved Chrysler, but who knew then? So it was only six months later in October 2005 that GM sold off its 20% stake in Subaru for $714 million or half book value. Toyota took 8.7% total or 44% of the 20% at the time. GM must have known it was in deep do-do even then.

      Didn’t know Subaru used the 9-4X stampings to remove the Flying V grille on the B9, but it makes sense. They made and paid for them anyway, although it took till the 2007 model year to effect the change.

      Subaru couldn’t wait to get rid of GM. I know my Audi/Subaru dealer, situated right next door (!) to the barely operating Saab dealer were INCENSED by the cheapo 9-2 prices. And I bet they weren’t the only one. Anyone with a clue were aware the Saab dealer knew diddly squat about servicing Subarus (like Toyota with the FR-S) – my pal had a hard enough time keeping his 9-3 going under their tender mercies as it was. Always complaining. So when 2008 rolled around and beat GM’s big bowl of cherries into pie filling, the Subie dealer made sure to pad the service bills on these fake Saabs. No help on the gasket issues either, but plenty of free stuff for actual Subaru customers who’d been faithfully trotting to the dealer for service.

      I knew the chief mechanic at Subaru, he’d been the Audi chief mechanic when I owned them, and told me to stop buying crap and get something decent. Never had any trouble with my Subies, a welcome change. But I didn’t own the 2.5 NA EJ. My mechanic friend took me on a tour of all the dead engines lying at the back of the shop about 2004. That wasn’t the head gasket problems, that was cylinder scuffing which led to bad oil consumption. The mechanic’s opinion was that one needed to give the engine 30 seconds of warmup on cold winter days or you’d get the scuffing problem for sure if you just drove off. Who knows? Using the same block with the 2.5 as the 2.2 but with more than a quarter-inch greater bore, meant those die cast wobbly cylinders arising from the half-crankcase were getting too thin to be stable, and also causing the head gasket issue. His theory. The turbo verson had a stouter block with minor stays for the cylinders at the top, and never seemed to have any problems. Mine certainly didn’t.

      You have to wonder at GM. Why sell the fake Saab for LESS than the Impreza? A sure way to win friends and influence people. They must have been desperate.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I owned one of these and I momentarily thought this was *THE* actual one. Here’s why- The 9-2X did not come with roof rails (standard anyway, maybe it was an option). You could swap them from a WRX/Impreza though. I did that with a guy from a Subie forum- swapped the rails off his WRX to my 9-2x Linear, in his apartment complex parking lot. This made for more easy installation of the bike rack I had. Other changes I made to the car which could have marked it as formerly mine: 1) I swapped out a higher trim audio unit, but that’s gone here. 2) I’m pretty sure I swapped out the standard black gauge bezel with a faux-metallic ringed one. This has the standard black one.

    Otherwise, my car was as this one. Non-turbo trim (“Linear”), automatic, fabric seats in off-white and black. I can’t tell if this has a moonroof or not, mine did. I only kept it 8 months, traded for a 2006 Mazda3. Here’s why. The 4-speed auto was really bad, indecisive, shifted at the wrong times, didn’t shift when you wanted to. If I’d bought a 5-speed I’d probably have kept it longer. The car was rather cramped. The paint chipped really easily. The engine pinged and the Saab dealer never did anything to address it except blame it on gas. I tried every brand and grade of gas and it didn’t make a difference. The car got really crappy MPG for being so small. I recall low-20s most of the time, mid-20’s at best. If I’d known it would be that bad I’d just have sprung for the turbo. Not a terrible car, just not the car for me. It wasn’t that expensive- cheaper than a comparable Impreza. I bought it during the GM going-out-of-life sale.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The car got really crappy MPG for being so small…

      Exhibit A for why the current Impreza has a tiny displacement engine and CVT.

      During one of my teaching assignments a secretary had a Impreza RS coupe with manual trans. That (and the Impreza based Outback Sport) were two of the Subies that I have found attractive over the years.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This actually wasn’t a bad rebadge. What Subies of this period needed more than anything else was a bit of refinement, and they got a bit of refinement in the Saabification process.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I had no idea you could get a plain Jane Impreza as a 9-2 Linear.

    Learned something new today. That Fuji Heavy Industry center console hard plastic had no business in anything with a Saab badge.

  • avatar
    randyinrocklin

    I just spotted a blue second gen MR2 in the background there. Wonder what that one looked like.

  • avatar
    jonnyguitar

    I wanted one pretty bad but the writing was already on the wall for Saab. This car was actually what made it painfully obvious. I actually loved the concept of the car, but part of me was insulted in a way that auto manufacturers apparently think consumers don’t realize it’s actually a Subaru or whatever the badge job in other cases. Lusted after forester STI as well.
    Ended up with a legacy gt which was a great car in 2005. Would never consider one now. Or any other Subaru currently made.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    “Why did it end up here? Maybe a head gasket, maybe just lots of miles and low resale value for Saabs (and “Saabs”) these days.” Or maybe a lack of respect for “Saabs” with their ignition key in the steering column.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I’m seriously considering getting the WRX version of this as a winter beater. I have to research the reliability and maintenance cost though.

  • avatar

    The GM debacle resulted in the 9-2 Saabaru, which I recall a magazine mentioning the interior, and better sound proofing.

    There was the 9-7 Trollblazer, a GM truck confused by its’ identity.

    There was, last but not least, the most odd of the group, the 9-4, which was a Cadillac SUV. There are still a few out there, with a one year only turbo engine, and an irreplaceable windshield. I actually tripped over this when I saw a Cadillac with 2.8 turbo on the trunk lid, and found it was actually intended for “elsewhere”. I can’t imagine too many sold there OR here.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Cute little station wagon in apparently good shape, looks like maybe the last owner, a heavy & nasty smoker, didn’t watch the mileage and the drive belt snapped ? .

    I know little about Subies, my son loves them and made handy side monie$ by building good used engines out of grenaded junkyard ones that had snapped the cam belts around 80,000 miles .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    TurboSaabaru

    The Saabaru is a special breed amongst the Saab and Subaru communities. GM owned Saab outright and had a 20% stake in Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI/Subaru). GM and Saab decided that Saab needed a small AWD wagon but didn’t have the time to design a new one from scratch so GM told FHI that they were going to help build a Saab variant on the GG Impreza wagon platform. It had a production run of about a year and a half before GM crapped on the project. There were about 10,000 made in 2005 and 2006 with the majority in 2005. Currently we estimate that there are roughly 4,000 left as the two main reasons these are taken off the road is either accidents or rear strut tower rust.

    I currently own a 2005 Saab 9-2x Aero 5 speed in Brilliant Red. It was one of only 155 made in this configuration in ‘05. The Linear in this article was one of 207 made that year.

    This particular Saabaru was pretty nasty inside. I claimed as many exterior parts as I could so I would have spares for my Aero. The parts that are unique to these models are now made of unobtainium and are highly sought after amongst our community. I wish I had gotten to it sooner though.

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