Carrying over the uncluttered Scandinavian design themes from the exterior, the Sport-Hatch replaces the 9-3's interior trim with a smoke-tinted, transparent material. This composite, currently being developed and tested, smoothly covers the center stack. Four large buttons, along with two smaller fan buttons, are all that's necessary to control separate passenger and driver climate controls and the various infotainment functions hidden behind the clear zone. The top of the center stack uses touch-screen control for audio, navigation and other functions. Said Lars Falk, head of interior design, "In overall design terms, the central translucent 'clear zone' brings a part of the exterior inside the car and unites the front and rear areas. It also allows us to provide information in an attractive way without lots of visible buttons and fixed cut-outs for screens." Of course, the powerful 9-3 fiber-optic electronic platform also supports front and rear TV and DVD screens and Bluetooth connectivity with e-mail, Internet and WAP access.

Comfortably settled in a leather-trimmed Recaro seat, the driver faces three deeply set circular portholes in the "clear zone" surface. A variety of information, in addition to traditional gauge functions, can be called up. For example, the speedometer is replaced with the view from the rear-facing camera when the driver shifts to reverse. The wheel has buttons for manual shifts as well as audio and phone controls. A "mini-mouse" on top of the shift lever can also control the center stack main display and all its assorted functions.

With sales of the new 9-3 sedan up more than double over a year ago, the team at Pixbo knew better than to mess with the successful ReAxs chassis design, though front and rear tracks have been widened 56- and 60mm, respectively. But more power is always welcome, and the all-aluminum 2.0-liter engine now puts out 250 bhp thanks to direct injection, Continuously Variable Cam Phasers and a new twin-scroll turbocharger that more effectively harnesses exhaust pulse energy. The twin-cam runs 1.2 bar of boost and is coupled to a "smart" Sentronic +2 five-speed automatic. The driver can shift manually from either the steering wheel buttons or the shift lever or choose a full, adaptive automatic mode. Two intermediate gears-2.5 and 3.5-are automatically engaged on kick-down.

The glass roof itself "...is something that is feasible, it could come," said Mauer. Like the 20-in. wheels wrapped with 245/40VR20 Michelin Pilot Sports, at best expect the roof to be an available option. The delicate, body-colored door handles and multi-layered headlight interior (though not the overall shape) will probably change, and the power hatch probably won't see production at all. Four-wheel drive remains a down-the-road possibility.

Expect most of the differences between the Sport-Hatch concept and the production version to be in the interior. There is discussion about the two separate rear seats as opposed to a more traditional three-person rear seat, and it is unlikely the rear cargo area's glass bottom will make it to production. The space underneath, however, seems like a great place to store wet or dirty gear; let's hope that stays. It also remains to be seen if the "clear zone" material and hidden-display technology can pass developmental and fiscal muster. All in all, Mauer asserts the concept car is about 80% production ready.

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