There’s little doubt that when Saab plan for developments for new vehicles that they have the US market squarely in their sights. There’s two big markets for Saab vehicles (as with almost any manufacturer) – the US and Europe – and whilst the TTiD is at this point a Euro-special, the US is likely to be the big market for XWD.
From the purist’s point of view, the key for Saab is to do this without diluting the Saab brand ethos, which is what I think they’ve managed to do here. Remember, the end-game isn’t to please the powers that be in the motoring press, it’s to increase sales and strengthen the brand and do it whilst retaining the Saab philosophy for vehicle development. Character is the key.
If you go back to the video where I drive the XWD car, you’ll hear the product development manager for the new 9-3 mention that they worried that a 280hp 9-3 might be irresponsible. Well, it’s the proactive XWD system that allows for the responsible performance that Saab have always promoted. Interest engaged and philosophy fulfilled.
I don’t think they’ve driven it yet, but US behemoth motoring publication Car and Driver seem quite interested in testing out the new system. Given how uninterested they’ve been in Saab in recent times as they lay their offerings at the feet of BMW, this is at least a good starting point.
However, even more interesting are the system’s standard launch setting (which sends torque to the rear during takeoff), and its available electronic rear diff, which can vary torque transfer between the rear wheels.
As such, the Aero XWD not only could spell the end of Saab’s characteristic torque steer, but with tailored rear-wheel torque delivery, this most powerful Saab car to date could end up being the best handling, as well…..
…..it looks to become the most appealing 9-3 yet—one that, if executed well, could be quite popular at Car and Driver where a good many Saab fans fill the ranks. Whether it can rise to the level of refinement and performance of the Audi A4 3.2 Quattro or BMW 328xi remains to be seen. We’ll let you know as soon as we find out ourselves.
They also lament the fact that it’ll be available only on the highest spec Aero model rather than through the entire range, a complaint I’ve heard from a few places.
If I may offer a thought on that:
It’s a brand new system and a world premiere of that system. A phased in introduction is therefore pretty smart as any issues (if any) can therefore be minimised.
Saab Sweden have told me quite explicitly that they will look to bring the XWD system to other model variants later on, but I’d expect that they’ll be doing a lot of evaluation going forward on the XWD systems that are sold in the high-spec model before letting it loose on everyone.