XWD in action – from the inside

During our test-drive of the MY08 Saab 9-3 today, we were given the opportunity to take the new XWD models out for a spin. This was a huge privelege and even moreso when they gave me the OK to install my camera mount into the car.

I did two laps of the specially designed curcuit, which included gravel, tarmac and wet sections. The first one was used to get accustomed to the car (first time driving a LHD manual) as well as the track and the second lap was a bit more adventurous.

I wish I had the expertise to tell you that I could feel the power distribution shifting through the vibrations or something, but I can’t. All I can tell you is that this was one very surefooted ride. I never felt anything but confident plying it through the lane changes and twisties they set up for us.

Jan-Ake mentioned a test they did in his presentation speech for the XWD system. Saab did a simple slalom exercise, where the cars would have to hit the start at 40km/h and slalom through three poles with the foot flat to the floor. Least lateral G’s and time as well as highest top speed wins.

The competitors were 3 in number and IIRC were one Japanese model, one BMW and just for fun – a Porsche (no, I don’t remember the model at this late hour, but it was a big’un). And the Saab cooked them all with the quickest time and a course curve quite similar to that of the Porsche, indicating a smooth line of control through the slalom.

This is one exciting development. Saab are the first company in the world, nay the universe, to use this new Haldex system and the expertise they have shown with it has seen Saab rewarded with the responsibility for XWD development for all of GM’s brands in the future (as well as BioPower and turbocharging…..)


This is a real treat. I filmed myself driving the course in the XWD 9-3, but thought that if I’m going to load one video tonight, It should be this one.

You’ll understand why quite quickly…..

Youtube may still be processing it. If it doesn’t come up, please try again shortly. UPDATE – Damn Youtube! It’s been 6 hours and they still haven’t processed it – it’s 3 minutes in total!!??

Thanks for your patience, hopefully it’ll come up soon. I’m off to the airport.

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  1. Now…when you say it “cooked” a Porsche…you can’t be serious. You can’t. That doesn’t make sense. That goes against the laws of physics. My head is seriously hurting.

    I’m going to sell my body to science so I can buy one of these things in a few months. That just sold it for me. In my eyes, anything that can best a Porsche in almost any area deserves a second, third, and fourth look. Not that any Saab needs more than one look to make me want it.

    I wonder if I can shoehorn the entire XWD system in my NG900 :p

  2. Swade, how did the car compare to the BMW 335 you drove last month?

    Have you noticed handling improvements in the front wheel drive models as well? πŸ™‚

    The XWD system sounds awesome!! I can’t wait to get my hands on one πŸ™‚ Providing that the team here who manage the scheme I’m on actually make it available on the list πŸ™‚

    And we still have the Black Turbo to come πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  3. This is what Swedish Auto Motor & Sport writes after their test. “Saab is the first brand to use this technology. The Saabpeople are quite cocky and told that they had compared against some German and Japanse cars and in a slalom course. With the Haldex system the Saab got a quicker time than a 911 Turbo 4wd. (but the 911 had a higher endspeed)”

  4. Jeff, all car manufacturers set up comparison tests at a launch that they are sure to win, its how they suck journalists into giving good reviews – see Top Gear this month where journalists proudly talk about how they gave crap Ferraris good reviews.

    That said 4wd does make that big a difference. Depending on the circut and driver an XWD will destrory a RWD/FWD anything. I really never believed they would fit it but it is brillaint that they have.


  5. Well, let’s assume those comparos are semi-accurate and the XWD 9-3 is at least comparable to the Porsche. Even if the 4WD 911 Turbo is actually a considerable distance ahead of the XWD 9-3 Aero, consider that you could buy four of those Saabs (and a Hyundai Accent) for the price of that one Porsche. That’s pretty kickass to someone like me who will never ever be able to afford a new 4WD 911 Turbo (or even a used one).

  6. Jeff I think you are reading my comments as knocking the SAAB. Beating the Porsche is great and shows how good the car is. The tests are not faked in any way they just use cars that they know they can beat and frankly they would be foolish not to!

    I was more commenting on how journalists will give a car a bad review because they want to and how they will give good reviews to “popular” cars like Audi or because the launch was a big free junket to the South of France. It stinks but what can you do. Except post positive reviews here.

  7. Is youtube delaying all of Swade’s video by days now?? I think I’m going to have to clean my shorts if I don’t get to see this video next time I get online!

  8. Thew XWD system excites me too, but color me a skeptic when it comes to beating a BMW (325xi is my guess) and pretty much any Porsche.

    My humble eyes will beleive it when my humble eyes see it. :p

  9. Is this a typo error?
    “Least lateral G’s and time as well as highest top speed wins”
    Wouldn’t that be “Most lateral G’s and least time”? Or could this be trying to determine which vehicle takes the smoothest line with, therefore, lower G forces?

    Also, does the XWD engine remain transversely mounted?

  10. 1. xwd can be a difficult wait. (recently, a subie challenged my saab on 180-degree bend to get on the interstate. i was following the subie. i had extreme tire spin and almost rolled. the subie was glued to the road, it seemed, and got away, easily, without any teetering; as the circulation returned to my hands. lesson learned.);

    2. i’m convinced xwd will bring much-needed cachet to saab. authentic design is a key component for saab, but performance is the other main part. if the power can’t stay on the ground, performance is moot. saab needs to be a 300-ish bhp player if it wants to be taken seriously. xwd is a nice way to get there; and

    3. fwd was fun “in the day” and can still work as the solution for the “baby on board” crowd, in dry climes. otherwise, xwd is really what’s needed until the next-gen saabs get here, …and from then on, as well.

  11. Does anybody have an idea when I can order a 2008 9-3 through the European Delivery program? The local dealership hasn’t been very helpful at all.

  12. The Euro delivery will be at least 3-4 months after the initial introduction. You would be looking at easily calendar year 2008.

  13. Probably nobody relly knows dates for euro delivery of MY08s. When I asked in ANA dealership in trollhattan about my08 cabrios the answer was that the production starts mid-July with additional 2-3 weeks to get it to sweden (from austria) with additional lead time depending on engine and list of selected options.
    I’d say they will wait with this program until the rush settles a little and they could predict the dates for pickup more precisely. The other option being that they start sooner but will give later dates and have some reserve for production.

    Even with local delivery they could not promise that if ordered now it will be ready for some of this years summer days.

  14. I am also dying to get the I tube clip working to look at this piece of driving. One fact remains that without being able to offer the XWD options Saab would continue to slip in to the endless wilderness regardless of how good their products are. The world press would ensure that the brand would be hammered to the ground and undersold as in the last 7 years or so. By bringing an AWD lineup at last Saab will not only be taken as a serious option to Audi, Volvo, Subaru etc etc but they are likely to take off some market share from these competitors. This in itself is of major significance to their longevity as Saab will regain some major lost ground in the public eye. All they need to ensure is to get good press out of the new line up and whatever else can be stated about the new generation 9-5, the 9-1 etc etc. Saab has to work with the press in a manner like Audi has done in the past 7 years or so as they’ve had some good vehicles to offer but not all of them are as good as the press makes it up. Common Saab reclaim the market you lost to Audi in particular and rub it off their noses, we’ll be all behind you !!!!

  15. Regarding videos and the suckyness of youtube.

    Swade, I have plenty of space and bandwidth available on my website. I would gladly host your videos.

    Drop me a line (you do have my email after all) if you are interested and I will get you uploading info and so forth.

  16. That Video tells alot about the XWD. Minimal tire squealing, sharp emergency manauvering, and some crazy drifting angles and speed in the wet zone area. It would have been insane if there was another camera filming from outside the course! I do not know if I can wait for the XWD, I want my First Saab Now!

    I have become an avid reader and a growing enthusiast. Thanks Swade!

  17. That alone was worth the trip.
    I bet when i see you next Steve,that you will still be wearing that smile.
    Love ya work.
    Call ya in a week when you’ve had some time to re-coup.

  18. That was some awesome driving. If the XWD is as good as initial reports (+ the video) suggest, Saab has found itΒ΄s gold nugget. IΒ΄m extremely happy for Saab.

  19. wow, that was great! looks like the performance team gets to really shake things down. it’s hard to describe the comfort i get by seeing that.

    the xwd system was getting quite a workout; it seemed more noticeable in the “drink”; although, the dry pavement was not to be taken for granted, either. certainly.

    fantastic footage!


  20. I wish there was a reverse camera so we could have seen all the cones you knocked over πŸ™‚ And you missed the bird at the beginning!

    Nice work buddy!

  21. That was a really REALLY nice video. Cant wait for that thing to hit the streets.
    Truly grateful for the time and effort you put down on running this site Swade!

    jeff k: i dont think he turned on the wipers himself. If you look closely there are water sprinklers on the course and my guess is that the automatic rain sensors got activated. πŸ™‚

  22. Swade, Catch up on your sleep to stay healthy for us. You’ve sure got some stuff for the makings of some sweet dreams!

  23. H-o-l-y cr@p. He was flying around that course so damned fast I nearly got car sick watching the video! All that laughing only emphasizes that this car is a blast to drive!


    zippy πŸ™‚

  24. Looks like now is the time for SAAB to start getting back into motorsport.

    I’m proud of you, Swade. You actually had it going sideways and didn’t lock-up the brakes like I probably would have (panic)! πŸ™‚

    Everyone’s excited about the XWD Aero model and the upcoming Viggen (or “Black Turbo”), but I’ve heard NO MENTION about how much these models will sell for. They’re going to have to be a heck of a premium over the other models. I’m guessing they’re going to be up in the USD$45 to $50K range. That might price them out of the market. Many people would buy an M3 before a SAAB for that kind of money.

    I wonder how long we’re going to have to wait before seeing a magazine run a “shootout” between the M3 and Viggen (or “Black Turbo”).

  25. I wish it were me, Gripen, but it’s Kenneth Backlund from the Saab performance Team at the wheel on this one. My video’s somewhere in the archives and is noticably slower πŸ˜‰

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