In the last 24 hours or so we’ve had the news on the Black Turbo, and then the back story on the Black Turbo. In comments to those pieces many people have passed their opinions on the news. Some are welcoming the car regardless and others think it’s a backward step, almost treacherous.
I guess it’s time I passed my opinion as well.
There’s two genuine thought paths here and though people have been debating them with some vigour in comments, I think they’re both quite valid and needn’t be thought of as mutually exclusive. So I’ll try and deal with those, as they’re pretty much a spot-on representation of my thoughts about this car.
And with all that in mind – be nice to each other, OK?
Thought 1 – This car’s going to be an asskicker.
Those of you who are calling Saab out on the lack of a ‘3’ in front of the horsepower number for this car ought to keep in mind that horsepower ain’t the issue here. The issue is the debut of a new XWD system. Saab may be coming to this party later than some others, but they’re making one heck of an entrance.
The XWD system on this new car is brand new and it is quite revolutionary. To concentrate on an output figure so much is really selling this system short. I’d invite you to watch this video once again if you need a reminder of the capability this new car will have in terms of handling. For those that can’t be bothered with the terrible sound quality (I really need to try these again now that I’m back home), the XWD system gives the car incredible stability on all surfaces.
The ability to shift the torque around from front to back and side to side (in the back) in concert with all the predictive technology propelled this car through some handling tests quicker that a bunch of competitors cars. And just to test it to the limits, they also threw it through their test course quicker – and with greater control – that a Porsche 911 turbo.
It may only be 280hp, but the “only” in that phrase covers up a multitude of benefits that are being overlooked by many people.
And I, for one, won’t be accused of writing the aesthetic appeal of this car off, either. How many people go and spend a bunch of money on wheels and skirts and stuff to make their car look like the model above it? You might say it’s superficial, but I’m glad my Viggen looks the way it does.
The best way to get a performance version of a car is to get it that way from the factory. If you’ve got some good contacts at the SDCC (hello Tim!) then maybe you’ll get away with going the long way round. But I’ll take a factory package AND an enhanced package over the standard issue any day of the week. It’s just my thing and I’ve always been that way.
In addition to the looks, don’t forget that this car is apparently going to get the full XWD package as standard. The big ticket item there is the eLSD, which will be an option on the XWD Aero later on (read more here). Without the eLSD, you still get the front/rear split. The eLSD is the magic unit that splits torque in the rear wheels from side to side. The icing on the cake, as Saab puts it. Only the Turbo-X is going to have this as standard, hence the limited nature of the release.
Thought 2 – They could have done more.
As mentioned, I really do think this car’s going to be brilliant and I’m content now with the idea of putting the numbers to one side and checking out the Turbo-X for what it is.
But I can certainly empathise with those who believe that Saab could have done more.
The big knock on front wheel drive is that it’s hard to get heaps of power going through the front wheels when those wheels are also responsible for steering and the majority of braking. The introduction of XWD is supposed to provide a solution to that issue. I’m not the only one who thought that Saab would benefit from a true halo car that’s capable of something in the order of 300plus.
ctm’s argued pretty well that horsepower has never been a priority for Saab. And I agree. When they developed turbocharging technology, the emphasis was more on safety in overtaking and the achievement of 6-cylinder power from a four cylinder engine. The fun factor was a natural by-product. These are the company’s roots and they DO carry through to today. I remember my own test drive of the XWD SportCombi – I was in the car with the product manager for the new 9-3 and he specifically said that they thought long and hard about whether developing this car with 280hp was a responsible move.
But still, one can’t help but think that with an XWD system so good, Saab could have pushed the envelope a little more. Not for the regular Saabnuts, who know and love the adequate torque provided by a good turbocharged four. But as a conquest vehicle, as an attention getter.
I couldn’t give a rodent’s derrière about your average Bimmer-hoon, but for the genuine considerate purchaser who wants something to appreciate – Saab had a great chance to provide a big hook here and I think that perhaps they’ve missed it a little.
This is probably a point that’s more suited to the US market. It seems to me that shoppers there will form a lasting initial impression quite quickly. The market moves rapidly and people will sum up a situation as they see it with similar alacrity. Let the ‘M’ guy have his Bimmer. I really couldn’t care. But the one who’s looking for something genuinely different to appreciate…..well, perhaps Saab will have to try a little harder in their advertising to get him in the door.
In conclusion, the Turbo-X is defnitely going to be something to look out for. The base numbers that we’re all used to looking at in road tests aren’t going to tell the whole story on this car and I think anyone who concentrates on that alone will be doing themselves and the car a disservice.
The tuners will find a way to reach their horsey goals, and hopefully in a safe manner (haven’t I gone all conservative now with the Viggen out of commission???).
This really is going to be a great car. If you want to write it off, then go ahead. There will only be 2,000 of them and they’re all going to sell quite rapidly regardless of what you think or what I write here.
Would I like to have seen more? My honest answer is a resounding “yes”. But I’m not going to let that tarnish or govern my thoughts about what will be a great release for Saab in the new year.