AWD 9-3 Speculations

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.


Related Articles:

Saab 9-3x – Part 1
Saab 9-3x – Part 2
Saab 9-3x – Part 3
Saab 9-3x – Part 4

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  1. “the 9-3x hit a high note on the bed-flute for many, myself included”

    Is that Aussie language? 🙂

    Oh well, if only the 9-4X was something like that..

  2. AWD is one of the biggest hoaxes ever…perped by autojournos and industry. Saab in snowy Sweden has been steadfast against this waste of space, weight, time…it doesnt help ya stop any faster from what is most likely a higher speed in poor conditions.
    But if it has to happen then the RDU/hybrid thing in the concept car should come to fruition.

  3. I would welcome AWD in a 9/3 and maybe buy one if the price were right. Around here (Utah, USA) I think the popularity of both SUVs and Subarus is due to them having 4wd or AWD. People here like 4wd or AWD vehicles because it makes life a lot easier in snowy conditions.

    My wife’s Jaguar X-type has AWD, and not only handles better than my 9/3, but is way better in slick conditions. AWD was a major selling point for her.

    I think that people that obsess about the limits of dry handling, road feel, or some such thing to diss AWD are missing the point. How often do most people operate their cars at the cornering limit?

    And as for SAAB being steadfastly against AWD in Sweden, maybe they need to listen to their customers in the USA and elsewhere that want AWD. Who knows, they might sell a few more cars.

  4. Anyone who thinks AWD is not important is unfortunately not looking at the bigger picture.
    If there is one thing that Auto magazines knock the Saab for, is lack of traction. AWD will certainly give that.
    When Saab bring AWD to market it is going to put Saab in direct competition with Audi, and not as most write BMW. Audi do not offer the quattro system across the board. AWD is an optiion and I see Saab doing the same. We the public not only want choice we expect it. Audi offer a 255hp 3.2i A4 in either FWD or AWD. Would it not be natural for Saab to offer the same?

    AWD for the 08MY 9-3 is all speculation right now and I can’t see anything being confirmed until about May 2007. As for Face-lift I think we need to look at the 9x styling not AeroX. The 9-3 will then fall in line with the current 9-5.

    Remember; the flagship vehicle always gets the new design cues first and as we all know that isn’t the 9-3.

  5. Isn’t strange that after the launch of the 9-3ss and all the reactions of GM to reduce costs, cancellation of all projects, Michale Mauer decided to leave the company when received the offer of Porsche……

    When the 9x and 9-3x where launched, Mauer said, that both concepts have about 80% of parts ready for production and those models would be in the Saab portofolio sooner or later.

    The 9-3x it would be an innovative and very good premier and gived to Saab the leadership in the segment of Compact/Coupe SUV/Crossovers.

    At the end of 2003, it appeared two pics of two variants of the 9-3ss, thos pics it seems were made in the Saab design Center in Pixbo. One was the 9-3ss convertible, and the other was the 9-3 Sporthatch(was delayed 2 years) but in a crossover version.

  6. All Im saying is when AWD finally is offered that it be the RDU. The mechanical systems are a??? way to go. The NVH etc.
    Ive lived in “snow” country, Ive talked with Aspen PD who used to have 95s with some hefty snow tires…they said, I say that it was/is a very rare occasion for a stuck Saab.

  7. Gunnar,

    You old musical showboat, you.

    That “Ol Man [Spenchian], he must know som’thin, but don’t say no’thin”

    I’ll do what I can to make sure the musical quotes “just keep rolling along”.

  8. ctm, As the bed-flute is in the trouser department a high note indicates a very high level of excitement.

    On the relative merits of AWD, I have an AWD as a daily driver (Saabs are for weekends!) and find the system superior on wet, iced or gravel surfaces. No doubt FWD beats RWD in these circumstances, but is not equal to AWD. Times have moved on and so must our favourite car maker. As for road feel I don’t know as I have not driven identical cars at the limit with/without AWD.

    An obvious drawback with with high output Saabs is getting the torque onto the tarmac.

    Bring on an AWD V6 HO turbo 9-3 in my view, taking it to the competition.

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