Various bits of info have come to hand in the last few weeks and I think it’s time to sort out what the Black Turbo IS and then deal with the various comments and speculation in the Black Turbo News post from last night.
So – what it is.
It appears that the Turbo X will be the launchpad vehicle for the new XWD system. It will feature the eLSD as standard (this is a big thing) and the 2.8l V6 tuned to 280hp. My mail is that it will also have 19″ wheels and various body and interior trim changes and it’ll be limited to 2,000 units that’ll most likely sell out very quickly.
As covered at the 2008 Saab 9-3 launch, this XWD system is brand new and gives the car brilliant handling characteristics. Saab’s own testing, and I assume it was conducted in conjunction with Haldex (but that’s my assumption) showed that through a standard slalom handling test the car was quicker and more stable through the course than a bunch of performance cars, including a Porsche.
Now, to the various bits of misinformation out there…..
The Black Turbo News posting from last night drew a lot of comments and there’s little doubt that most people were disappointed at the news that this car is going to be held at 280hp. Furthermore, there seems to be more disappointment that this car doesn’t appear to be the Saab supercar that many were hoping for.
And further to that, there’s some words starting to fly around that I invented the now-apparently-mythical Black Turbo here on Trollhattan Saab.
So let’s all take a collective breath and deal with this.
1) THE ORIGIN OF “BLACK TURBO”
The name and potential spec of the Black Turbo project was first mentioned on a Swedish Saab forum. The guy who first posted this also posted some info about the 2008 Saab 9-3, all of which turned out to be correct. The only thing that was posted by him that turned out to be incorrect was the claim of it having more than 280hp.
2) THE TRUTH OF THE BLACK TURBO
That was the first reference to the name “Black Turbo”. Given that this person obviously had some inside contact and had referred to it by name that way, I also referred to it that way. Subsequent communications that I had with other people with inside knowledge, limited as it was, also referred to it that way.
At the Saab Festival dinner on Saturday the 9th of June I had a brief chat with Jan-Ake Jonsson and I jokingly asked if there was any significance in him being picked up from his hotel in a black Saab 9-3 (i.e. a black turbo). I asked if there was anything he could tell me about a “black turbo” and he laughed the laugh of a man knowing that he was being plied for information he was never going to give. At the end of our chat, which took in discussion of all the previous cars he’d owned, he laughed again as he told me “no more questions about Black Turbo, ok?”
Then there’s the chat I had with the Saab inside person when I asked about the software governing this car. I’m pretty sure I’m right in recalling that we both referred to this as “Black Turbo”.
So the Black Turbo didn’t start here at Trollhattan Saab. I picked it up and ran with it. Sure. but it didn’t start here.
3) WHERE IT WENT ‘WRONG’
The ‘wrong’ part of this is in reference to the fact that the Turbo X will only have 280hp rather than the rumoured 300+.
Well, there’s the initial Black Turbo posting on the Swedish forum that was mentioned above. There were plenty of other discussions around the traps of such a power boost as well. Then there was that chat I had with a Saab insider during my time in Sweden about the ECU software. All of these seemed to build upon the belief that there was going to be a 300-plus offering in the making.
When the press got their look at the XWD SportCombi starting on June 11, it was mentioned that the XWD version of the car would be a step above the standard 2WD Aero and tuned to 280hp. Given that there was never, in any of the talk about Black Turbo, an inference that it was going to be the standard for the initial release it was pretty fair to continue believing that the Aero XWD would have 280hp and the limited edition Black Turbo would have more.
There was nothing to suggest otherwise.
In fact, Saab’s own releases on the 2008 state that the 280hp engine is exclusive to the Aero version of the car:
Saab XWD, an active all;-wheel-drive system, is available on Aero variants, together with an uprated 280 hp/ 206 kW 2.8V6 turbo engine. It offers enhanced driver involvement and control in all road conditions. The Haldex multi-plate clutch unit infinitely varies engine torque between the front and rear axles, and an optional rear limited-slip differential can transfer torque between the rear drive shafts.
And there’s also this…..
All-aluminum 2.8-liter turbo engine. The first six cylinder unit to be purpose-built for Saab’s turbocharged application. Offering 280 hp (206 kW) or 255 hp (188 kW), it combines multi-cylinder refinement with outstanding turbo performance. Single, twin-scroll turbocharger fed by both cylinder banks. Exclusive to top-of-the-range Aero variants.
From that, both I and the mainstream motoring press assumed that the XWD system would be available on the Aero model first, with it tuned to 280hp, and that XWD would trickle down to other variants within the 9-3 range in due course.
The release doesn’t mention a special version with 19″ wheels, or upgraded trim, or a limited production run. It just mentions a 280hp Aero version with XWD.
Is this not therefore grounds to believe that the Black Turbo would still be something more?
Some commenters were having a rant at Saab for promising one thing and disappointing them. Read this and read it well: Saab never promised or even acknowledged officially that a project with an internal name of Black Turbo ever existed.
It may have been referred to on the quiet by a number of people, but Saab themselves, as a company, never promised you anything.
The Black Turbo was discovered and written about by a number of well-meaning people who, as it turns out, have overstepped in terms of what this car might deliver. One of them happens to be me.
If having 280hp in the launch vehicle is something you feel you must shake your fist at, then shake it at me.
Whether Saab should be building a 300hp-plus variant of this car is perhaps a subject for another post.
What’s emerged in the last few weeks is that whilst the Black Turbo, or the Turbo-X as it will be known, will be the noted launchpad for Saab’s XWD system. It will be a limited edition of 2,000 vehicles. As mentioned before it will be kitted out specially but still held to the same 280hp as the Aero mentioned in Saab’s own press material.
It appears that the initial talk of a 300hp-plus version, in the absence of anything to the contrary and in the presence of plenty of supporting discussion, grew to the point where neither I, nor you, didn’t see the fact that it may not have been what it seemed.
For my part in that, I apologise. I hope the basic review above of the climate surrounding the Black Turbo will give you an accurate assessment of how things went down.
I’ll try and refrain from too much speculation here, but let me just say that those having huge rants on the 280hp maximum on this car might be going a little overboard.
It looks like the Turbo-X will be kitted out with killer limited edition looks and equipment, and it will feature the full Haldex system including the electronic limited slip diff. This will be an option on the standard XWD car when it becomes available.
So what we’ll be getting, whilst being 20hp shy of what people wanted (me included) for the purposes of making “that statement”, will still be one brilliant vehicle.
I can live with that.