Over at Saab Central, I posted an entry in response to some questions about the Turbo-X. In that entry I mentioned the fact that it will be a car with an output of 280hp, which was still news to some over there and drew the following reaction:
And it successfully makes saab look pathetic in relation to the competition, at least as far as hard numbers are concerned.
The IS350, G37, and BMW 335i all make over 300 horsepower, and they are merely regular-edition volume production models. Meanwhile saab’s hyped “turbo X” model with a boy-racer name and a flashy bodykit only makes 280 horsepower. There’s something really wrong with that picture, and it makes saab look like a pathetic also-ran trying to play with the big boys.
There’s more, but I think you get the picture….
As has been discussed here since the 280hp revelation, the output of the car isn’t the primary factor that Saab will be selling it on. Power is nothing without control, and the bigger-than-currently-realised feature of the Turbo-X will be the full-complement XWD system with the optional eLSD included.
It’s this full XWD system that will give the Turbo-X such outstanding handling as proven in their own testing. I’ll be working on some video on that tonight to bring that point into focus just a little more.
And being Saab nuts, we should also know that power alone doesn’t make for an exhilarating drive and the anticipated 400+Nm of torque should make life fun for Turbo-X owners.
But despite all this, there’s little question now that Saab may well regret not adding those 20 extra horses just to quiet the hordes that are ravaging Saab in various forums for not having that magic “3” at the front.
This engine is well and truly capable of 300hp and I’m sure that Hirsch will prove this in short order. So why not set the mark on that right from the get-go?
Perhaps there’s a few possible answers to this question. I’m only theorising here and please feel free to add your own in comments.
1) Don’t get too far ahead of the 9-5.
The Turbo-X will be, in effect, Saab’s flagship vehicle when it’s released. The most output and the best equipped in terms of performance and safety. It’ll also look the best out of any current Saab.
So how far, exactly, should they let it get ahead of the 9-5? And what pressure will it put on the new 9-5 if the Turbo-X is released as a 320+hp beast?
2) Allow room for the aftermarket
I’m sure this would actually be of little consequence, but Saab does have a contract with Hirsch as an official tuner of the vehicles. If they are going to provide a tune for the Turbo-X and keep it under Saab’s warranty then there needs to be some upward potential untapped. A thought, but a minor one, I’m sure.
3) Highlight the XWD system performance
What better way is there to highlight the benefits of the XWD system than to take a car with lower power output and push it through a handling course quicker and safer than cars with much higher performance specs.
Remember, this is the launch vehicle for the XWD system, worldwide. Initially, eyes will be on the standard items like HP etc, but Saab will be banking on the motoring press picking up on the superb handling and the car winning them over from that standpoint.
4) Protect the XWD system
Remember, this is the launch vehicle for the XWD system, worldwide. I’m sure they’ve tested this system to the point of exhaustion, but nothing tests a vehicle like putting in the hands of thousands of motorists, all of whom drive under different conditions.
The last thing Saab or GM need is a new XWD system being disproven due to needlessly overpowering it.
When I drove the XWD-equipped Sportcombi back in June, I had the product manager for the 9-3 in the car with me. He mentioned that this car was something they debated within Saab. One of the primary questions was “can we do this car and do it safely?” The video is here is you want to see more of what he had to say.
Safety is a primary concern at Saab and always should be. Perhaps they came to a decision that 280hp was the safe mass-market limitation for this car?
With all that being said, however, the Turbo-X is going to be Saab’s halo vehicle for some time and right now there’s enough mud being thrown just in forums etc that some of it’s going to stick.
Whether this will be repeated in the motoring press will be an interesting thing to watch. Saab did a very smart thing in giving the press a chance to drive cars with XWD fitted at the 9-3 launch back in June. This means the press have got a taste of what’s to come and shouldn’t give the same kneejerk reaction as what many enthusiasts have.
But you can’t help but think that engineering another 20hp into this car would have satisfied 95% of the enthusiasts and would make it much easier to focus purely on the outstanding handling and safety characteristics of this car.
I can fully understand the reactions like the one noted above as I had the same reaction initially as well. But when I reflected on everything I saw and drove at the launch, and took into account the opinions of people I’ve heard from who’ve seen the car – well – I’m still very excited about the Turbo-X and confident that it’s going to set quite a standard.