Now this isn’t news with any sort of factual basis, this is just me digging through the archives and speculating.
All indications point to Saab unveiling a new 9-3 in June 2007 that will feature AWD capability, for some model variants at least. There’s been a lot of people wanting an AWD option for some time and it’s my recollection that claims were made about the inability of the Epsilon architecture to handle AWD.
A little digging indicates that this ain’t necessarily so.
The 9-3X has been developed from General Motors’ “Epsilon” mid-size vehicle architecture, and aspects of its design language, as well as a number of its technical features, are likely to be seen in forthcoming new Saab products.
The 9-3x was a concept car unveiled back in 2001. It was a ‘crossover coupe’ that would have set a great stage for the development of present Saab vehicles if Saab’s budget wasn’t reined in a few years ago. It’s been five years, but perhaps a few elements of the 9-3x might actually make it into the 9-3 range.
From the 9-3x specs:
Lightweight “Ecopower 2” 2.8-liter V6 turbo engine with 60-degree configuration, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, direct ignition and variable valve timing. Saab Trionic engine management. Front, transversely mounted
Maximum power is 280 bhp/206kW at 5,500 rpm.
Max torque is 400 Nm (available from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm).
Adaptive, five-speed. semi-automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted manual gear shifts.
ESP-controlled Haldex AWD system.
Doesn’t that sound like a great setup for a new 9-3 AWD Aero? Perhaps a few more ponies might be appropriate.
Some more detail on the driveline…..
‘Intelligent’ Four-Wheel Drive.
The integrated Saab system is ‘intelligent’, using inputs from the ESP and ABS wheel sensors as well as the electronic throttle control to distribute power in the most efficient way. The system is being developed to ensure predictable and consistent handling in all road conditions, in addition to maximizing off-road traction.
Drive is taken from the front transmission via a propshaft to an electronically controlled, hydraulically operated, multi-plate clutch, which is located immediately ahead of a differential housing and driveshafts within the rear suspension unit. Messages from the various sensors are constantly interpreted in order to distribute power most effectively. In this way, the front/rear torque split is infinitely variable.
Saab engineers are currently fine-tuning the system to establish a ‘baseline’ torque split and to ensure that the clutch mechanism executes power shifts between the axles smoothly and progressively, without any sudden surprises for the driver.
OK, perhaps I’m dreaming, but the 9-3x hit a high note on the bed-flute for many, myself included. It’s versatility, the promise of power and practicality – this combination had many people salivating.
AWD has its detractors. Some think it’s just fashion and others think it adds weight and actually reduces feedback and feel from the car.
I haven’t driven many AWD vehicles and I have to say the one I most recently drove, an Audi S4, did indeed lack some road feel, though I’m unsure if that was due to the AWD setup or the very luxurious interior of the car. There’s plenty of other AWD vehicles out there receiving plaudits however, more than enough to suggest that done correctly, AWD can provide a real benefit for roadholding and certain types of performance.
It’s certainly going to mean that Saab can take the restrictors off in the engine development process. I have a mate here in Hobart with a 9-5 Wagon that would be a sub-6-seconds car if he could only keep the power down. If that sort of thing is important to you, then an AWD 9-3 could be the answer you’re looking for.
As I said, none of this is news, it’s just me dreaming. But I can’t help thinking that a well designed, beautiful new AWD 9-3 is going to attract a heck of a lot of new interest from the competition.