Saab Turbo X – my thoughts

Saab Turbo XWell, you’ve finally seen all the pics. You’ve read the releases and you’ve commented, debated, opined, argued and even illustrated what you think of the Turbo X. I’ve been so busy formatting images and editing that I haven’t really had a chance to comment much myself, so here goes.

I’ve never met an unhappy Viggen owner. And I get the feeling that I’m never going to meet an unhappy Turbo X owner, either. It’s quite possible that this car could become known as the best Saab ever built. That’s always going to be a subjective assessment, but it’s a genuine chance.

Quick list: things I love about this car

The look
The technology
The wheels!
The trim
The qwan

The look

I love the Turbo X’s aggressive stance. It’s not overt, but it’s definitely purposeful. From all accounts the signature Jet Black metallic color is awesome in person. From what I’ve heard, I don’t think any of the photos that are out there are doing the car justice.

The redesigned 9-3 itself, and Snow Silver in particular, both look way better in person than what they do in photos. I’ve said it myself and I’ve heard it consistently from people who get to see the car for the first time. It’s going to be the same with the Turbo X. You like the photos now? Wait to you actually get to see one in person.

The technology

I love the fact that is one quite advanced Saab.

Saab Turbo XThe full XWD system in this car is pretty revolutionary. I’ve been watching the conversations evolve in comments on some other automotive sites. You get people who haven’t bothered reading up on the system saying “haven’t Audi had this for years already?” and yeah, they’ve had AWD, but not a system like this. I just have to shake my head and say “if you only knew”.

When you’re looking at stuff on the web or just reading about it, it’s pretty easy to regard eLSD as just a funny four-letter-word. It’s easy to look at 280 and read it as number that’s not 300. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and I have a feeling that anyone who gets a chance to drive or own this car is going to be blown away.

As someone who’s pondered tuning their car and looked at all the options and the costs associated with doing so (not to mention the hassle of aftermarket parts not quite working as they should sometimes) I’ll take a factory-sorted upgrade any day of the week. And this is no kids stuff upgrade here.

Apart from XWD, there’s the engine tune, the chassis tune and the brakes. “Power is nothing without control” and this goes as much for the XWD as it does for the chassis and those bigarse stoppers. Let me tell you from personal experience, there’s nothing quite like braking in a 1985 Saab 900 to make you appreciate the brakes of a Viggen.

The Wheels

Saab Turbo XThe wheels? Hasn’t there been some conjecture about those! I think they are absolutely magnificent. There’s a number of wheels that look good on the 9-3 but these are special. The finish on them works with the other accents on the car and I just love the spoke pattern.

I guess the wheels are like other parts of this car; they’re a throwback of sorts to Saab’s past – in this case a split three spoke – but they’re updated and interpreted in a modern way. This car takes a lot of cues from the past, but make no mistake, this is a thoroughly modern Saab, one that’s about setting benchmarks, not reliving the past.

Many have commented on the turbo badge on the back, how it’s got a capital ‘T’ instead of a small ‘t’ like the 900. This is a reinterpretation for a modern age Saab. The font is similar but different and personally, I think slapping an old turbo badge on it without that would have looked silly.

The trim

As a carbon-fibre clad Viggen owner I’m very pleased with the carbon fibre accents inside. Anyone who thinks it’s just a trim kit on this car and therefore dismisses it does so to their own disadvantage. In line with what I said about tuning the car earlier, it’s a lot easier and provides for a better result to get a factory fitted kit. And it does make a difference to the ownership experience.

The black on black combination combined with the greyed metallic accents works perfectly IMHO. The nostalgic details are well integrated and the whole thing…

Of course, I’m still not a fan of the GM generic radio that we’ll likely get here in Oz, for example, but on the whole, there’s more than enough car here for me to not care.

The qwan

The Black Turbo is going to sell very quickly and it’s going to be one that second-hand enthusiasts will keep a very keen eye on. The entry into XWD is a landmark for Saab and this car is definitely going to be regarded highly in accord with that.

I never thought I’d get a chance to own a Viggen, but I was fortunate enough to get one a couple of years ago. Similarly, with limited numbers and high cost here in Australia, I don’t think I’m much chance to get my hands on one of these Turbo X’s until well into the future. But you never know. The second hand market does funny things.

For those of you fortunate enough to consider one of these new, you have my envy.

The final word

I think it’s going to be very interesting to see this car get tested next year. I think the only way that the word is going to get out about how good this drivetrain is, is for it to be driven by those with the space to give it a considered opinion. Until then, it’s quite possibly going to appear to many, who don’t do their research and rely on the quick writeups of unfocused websites, as body kit only proposition.

If Saab could have done one thing better in terms of producing and marketing this car, I think it’s the output. Make no mistake, this will be one fantastic and very rewarding car to drive. But purely from a marketing perspective, I think it would have been advantageous to crank this sucker up to or over 300hp. They’re going to ask a premium for this vehicle and for that reason alone – marketing it as a truly cutting edge vehicle – I think it really would have benefitted from that one extra edge over the rest of the Saab range.

But I’m not going to let that dampen my enthusiasm for this car. I think it’s a fitting commemoration of Saab’s 30 years of turbocharging and a more than adequate highlight model for the introduction of XWD.

Saab Turbo X

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  1. Swade,

    Agree on all counts. The only contentious issue is 280 vs 300hp. At this point you’re right that it would be more for marketing than for anything else. Regardless of whether it looks underdone on paper the proof is in the pudding. As frustrating as it is that in “only” has 280, it would be more frustrating I think for the majority of future buyers that they could only get 280 because they weren’t one of the 2000 that ordered a Turbo X sight unseen and undriven. The FWD Aeros are already suffering at the hands of testers who have also driven the XWD. I imagine that blowing everybody away with limited edition 300hp cars would result in all run of the mill Aero XWDs being seen as substandard.

    And any car maker knows that you don’t lay all your cards on the table up-front. I expect we will see some more ballsy future editions based on the success of the Turbo X.

  2. Been digesting all this in the background, and thought about time I put some of my thoughts down about this new high end Saab – the Turbo X.

    I do like the front, looks pretty sweet. But as a package does the whole car look different enough from the standard model? Compare when the C900 Aero came out with the awesome whale tail and aero kit etc. etc… looked aggressive and different enough from stock 900 t the time to be a special car! In fact it still looks very special! This Turbo X doesn’t look aggresive enough for me. Plus it should be over 300hp as has been discussed many times here.

    This may create a bit of conjuncture, but to me a high end car should be a two door coupe (espeically if they are trying to create a link back to the C900 and particuarly the C900 Aero of the 80s – I don’t want a Saab that is a 4 door saloon! Yuck!

    Also… bring back the freakin hatch! No more boots please. I like my hatches… to me that is Saab practicailty at its finest. Imagine if this Turbo X was a hatch with a tasteful rear spoiler and as a two door coupe! drool!

    Not a fan of the rims sorry. As others have said, maybe the redesgined Incas in 19″ would be sweet. Or a similar design to a super aero/aero rim? Dunno…

    Would I buy this car? I don’t think so as it to me it just isnt different enough.

    just my thoughts

  3. I’ve always struggled in finding enough reasons and the will to replace my current 9-3 02 Coupe manual Aero with another Saab. I resisted (and still are) all along on the basis that something much better had to come along that will take over key aspects like performance & handling, the looks and the shear presence of my Aero. The Turbo X is by far the worthy replacement I’ve been waiting for, no doubt in my mind at all. Now I need to find a plan to do it but that’s life. The car “as is” is simply brilliant.

  4. Looks like a beautiful car and as much as I would like to say I absolutely love it, I have to say: When I look at my Viggen, i see a Saab. Not so much anymore. It’s little things that do it for me, like the old door handles that are gone, they don’t have different side skirts from the regular 9-3 (like the viggen did), and…like they kept on the 9-5…why aren’t all the controls in the middle? There’ s small details like that, that are just part of a Saab, and most people find them annoying, but not true Saabers (these are just a couple of examples) Well, this is a nice car, but in order to differentiate it from the rest, as being a “high-performance” model, I think it requires a bit more…quirky Saab things…bring bag the freakin hatch! Offer it in 2-door! This car looks like an acura TL! I wanna be able to say: This is a Saab. And not just by looking at the grill!

  5. From the perspective of one idiot who has never owned a Saab (but has been a closet Saab fan for the past 30+ years), I can truly say that the 2008 9-3 is the first Saab that I have *seriously* considered buying for my next new car purchase — and the Turbo X with XWD just makes it that much more compelling. The SportCombi format brings back the legendary Saab practicality (even more so than a simple hatchback, in my opinion). And I, for one, love the wheels as well. This car is going to be a spot-on win for Saab!

  6. Well there you go, we are even attracting new buyers now. At least Scott accepts gracefully his situation. All I can say is it’s better to see the light and stop being an idiot than ignoring Saab forever. I am sure you won’t be disappointed at all !!!

  7. I´m with Drew here. If it would be the best Saab ever, it should be way ahead of it´s competitors. Like, for example 900 was during the launch of – turbo – apc – 16v turbo etc. It should really be something that others were to follow.

    But no doubt, Turbo X is truly a great Saab.

  8. It’s almost 15 years since the design of the MG900/OG9-3 was decided. And still, when I see them – and especially the 9-3 like the one Swade has – I think that they look really good and fresh. I don’t think I would feel the same about NG9-3 in 2015. It’s a good car, I like it now, but I just don’t think it will hold the a special place in Saab history years from now.

  9. Ok… One thing about the hatchback. Yes, I LOVE Hatches, and both of my cars are hatchbacks. don’t even get me started, but ITS NOT GONNA HAPPEN!!! ( i dont think) That’s why saab came out with the sport combi version. And I doubt they would make a sedan, wagon, vert, AND hatch version. Yes, in my world, watch would replace sedan and or wagon, but not in the mind of new potential Saabers. Sedan is a must for them…

    As for the 2-door yes it should happen.

  10. Stunning. But why oh why do people keep saying “bring back the hatch”? The 9-3 SS has pretty much saved Saab over the past 5 years. As good as 9-5 still is, dealers dont sell any. We have survived on one products with 3 variants for 3 years. People will not buy a premium car at a premium price if its a hatch. I love the C900 and old 9-3 is a great workhorse. But hatches in this sector do not sell. As for a 2 door coupe, Audi A5 style, which the new A4 is a 4 door version of, then without doubt it would be great addition. But lets keep on the right track and get our prioities right. New 9-5 and 9-4x and continue to grow and make money. Then spoil us with a halo sports car. Again Turbo X will go down as one of the truly great Saab’s in time.

  11. I almost bought a Saab Aero 9-3 last year but held off due to the FWD, so now w/XWD coming and specifically this TurboX, I have two questions:

    1 – Will it be available through European Delivery?
    2 – How much (US dollars)?

  12. This may well be the best Saab ever, but it won’t wear that title very long. The next 9-5 should take the title away in 2009 (if done properly).

  13. Strange, all in the eye of the beholder – just I don’t care for these Turbo-X rims, I also have never liked Alfa’s wheels – all variations of a dutbin lid with holes punched around the outside edge 😉

    I think the new incas in metallic grey would have been sweeter and truer to heritage?

    Also need moire beef around the flanks and tail spoiler.

  14. @Jeff…
    Grille, Bumpers, and, in some cases, wheels…

    A lot of the 9-3s had lower body trim which matched body color, which made a huge difference too.

    As for the new Turbo-X… I like it. My 9000 Aero’s 225 HP never draws too much respect, until someone is sitting in the car during a WOT third gear overtaking maneuver.

    It’s too bad that a lot of people comparison shop #’s and not driving experiences.

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