General Motors-owned Saab has released initial details of its first sport utility vehicle and first United States-built model, the 2005 9-7X.

To be built at GM's Moraine Assembly plant in Ohio, beginning in the first quarter of 2005, the 9-7X will have standard all-wheel-drive and a choice of two engines.

Just-auto understands that the new SUV is effectively a restyled and rebadged GM SUV, already available in the US as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy. GM also builds a 'badge-engineered' (lightly restyled) version for its affiliate Isuzu to sell in North America as the Ascender.

These SUVs are offered with the choice of 4.2-litre 'straight six' or 5.3-litre V8 petrol-fuelled engines and two- or four-wheel drive while some versions offer the choice of five (two-row) or seven (three-row) seats. GMC's Envoy XUV derivative has a sliding rear roof section, folding 'mid-gate' with power glass and a drop-down or swing tailgate, which convert the load area from a closed SUV luggage compartment to an open pick-up load tray.

Saab has recently begun to 'badge-engineer' other makers' products to quickly (and cheaply) develop new models - it will launch a lightly restyled 9-2X nameplate version of Subaru's Impreza in summer 2004.

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The 9-7X, meanwhile, will make its world debut at the 2004 New York Auto Show next April and will go on sale about a year later. Initially, the 9-7X will be sold only in the US and Canada.

"The 9-7X is the perfect addition to our model mix," said Saab president and CEO Peter Augustsson. "It allows us to join the growing North American mid-luxury SUV market, one of the fastest growing segments, with a dynamic, premium vehicle."

"With the 9-X and 9-3X concept vehicles, followed by the award-winning 9-3 sport saloon and convertible, 9-3 sport-hatch concept and the dynamic new 9-2X, we are exceeding our commitment to introduce one new vehicle or concept each year for five years."