Saab Unleashes 21st Century Black Turbo

Djup Strupe comes through again….

Almost everything you wanted to know about the Black Turbo – Saab’s new Turbo X.

First thing to point out – wheels are 18″ standard in all markets with a 19″ option that’s not available in North America (as opposed to 19″ standard as was previously thought).

Second thing to point out, it appears from the tech specs that it will be available with an automatic gearbox, contrary to what I was led to believe earlier. Good news!

The pics are here: Saab Turbo X.


• Performance car to celebrate 30th Anniversary of Saab turbocharging
• Launch of Saab XWD, innovative all-wheel-drive system
• Unique design evokes look for classic black Saab 900 Turbo
• Sport-tuned chassis: suspension, brakes, wheels
• 400 Nm / 280 hp (206 kW), 2.8 V6 Turbo: 0-100 kph in 5.7 seconds

Saab celebrates three decades of leadership in turbocharging at this year’s Frankfurt International Motor Show by launching the Saab Turbo X, a driver-focused performance car that sets new standards for the brand. This black limited edition model takes Saab ‘back to the future’ by evoking the iconic appeal of its first black 900 Turbo and introducing innovative Saab XWD technology.

It is unveiled today (11 Sept), exactly 30 years after Saab surprised the automotive world at Frankfurt when it revealed its first turbocharged model. That set a trend other manufacturers were to follow. Now Saab unleashes turbo power for the first time through Saab XWD, a cutting edge all-wheel-drive system that sets performance standards competitors will also seek to emulate.

With 400 Nm of torque from its 280 hp/ 206 kW 2.8V6 turbo engine, the Turbo X is the ultimate performance expression of the new Saab 9-3 range. Saab XWD features active management that not only splits torque delivery between both axles, but also between the rear wheels. This responsive system delivers a level of driver involvement and dynamic chassis control never seen before from Saab.

In addition to tuning of the suspension and its electronic chassis, throttle and powertrain settings, the Turbo X features distinctive styling additions that enhance aerodynamic performance.

Available in Sport Sedan or SportCombi bodystyles, the Saab Turbo X limited edition showcases the launch of Saab XWD. The order book is now open and the first customer deliveries are expected during the second quarter of next year. Each example can carry a personalized message in the main instrument display.

Driver in Focus with Saab XWD

• Intelligent Saab XWD for superb handling and roadholding
• Rear eLSD gives torque transfer up to 40% between wheels
• 2.8 V6 Turbo with twin-scroll turbocharger, variable valve timing
• Sports tuned chassis optimizes all-wheel-drive benefits

The Saab Turbo X adds a new dimension in chassis control to Saab’s unrivalled experience in turbocharging. It is the result of a development program that leverages the full potential of Saab’s innovative XWD system, with the car’s sports tuned suspension, brakes and electronic control systems all aligned to meet a single need: driving satisfaction.

Saab XWD is an active all-wheel-drive system designed to optimize vehicle handling and stability. Its sophisticated electronic control allows fine balancing of drive torque, not only between the two axles but also between the rear wheels. In effect, this stretches the performance envelope of the chassis, for example, raising the threshold at which ESP throttle and braking interventions are triggered.
The result is closer driver involvement through ‘positive force’ chassis control.

The driving benefits of the XWD system are best appreciated out on the open road. Data from the ABS/ESP sensors – measuring wheel speed, yaw rate and steering angle – is utilized by the Saab XWD control module. Rear drive is instantly applied to balance oversteer and understeer characteristics, improving stability and roadholding.

Driver control is taken a step further on the Turbo X by the eLSD, the first application of an electronically-controlled, rear limited slip differential in this segment of the market. It uses inputs from the rear wheel speed sensors and can transfer up to 40% of torque between the drive shafts, to whichever wheel has more grip. When cornering hard, this yaw damping effect helps the rear of the car more closely follow the direction of the front wheels.

To exploit the full benefits of Saab XWD, the chassis of the Turbo X has been lowered by 10 mm and the springs and dampers stiffened to minimize body movement. To maintain a constant ride height irrespective of load, self-leveling dampers are fitted at the rear.

Stopping power is also increased with larger brake discs fitted: internally ventilated (345 mm diameter x 30 mm) at the front and externally ventilated (292 mm diameter x 20 mm) at the rear. Standard 235/45 R-18 tires ensure excellent mechanical grip for the 18-inch alloy wheels.

The powerhouse at the heart of the Turbo X is a 24-valve, 2.8-liter V6 turbo engine generating 400 Nm of torque between 2,150 and 4,500 rpm and maximum power of 280 hp (206 kW) at 5,500 rpm. The advanced specification includes a lightweight, all-aluminum construction with a 60-degree angle between the cylinder banks for perfect balance, variable inlet valve timing and twin-scroll
turbocharging. It is offered with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

This responsive, high torque powerplant is the perfect partner for Saab XWD. Together, they give the Saab Turbo X sporty, all-wheel-drive performance and handling characteristics that will appeal to all enthusiastic drivers who seek a rewarding experience behind the wheel.

Saab Black Turbo Reborn

• Distinctive Jet Black color in homage to first Saab 900 Turbo
• Functional sports bodystyling raises aerodynamic efficiency
• ‘Turbo heritage’ boost gauge and personalized driver display

The Saab Turbo X visually communicates its focus on driving performance by extending the bold, progressive design themes of the new 9-3 range. Offered only in metallic jet black, with the front grille and all exterior detailing accented in a matte grey titanium-like finish, it represents a contemporary expression of its illustrious black 900 Turbo forebear.

Distinctive styling additions are designed to improve aerodynamic efficiency, as well as emphasize the Turbo X’s performance focus. At the front, a deeper lip spoiler and integrated air intake contribute to reduced drag while also increasing air flow to the engine and intercooler.

At the rear, the re-profiled bumper and insert panel lowers the point of air flow separation, further reducing drag and assisting high speed stability. The Sport Sedan features a rear spoiler that extends the line of the trunk deck, reducing high speed lift forces at the rear axle. The standard SportCombi already has a similar spoiler that extends the rear roof line.

The Turbo X is further distinguished by unique, 18-inch alloy wheels (19-inch available as an option outside US/Canada markets) with a grey titanium-like finish that evokes the look of Saab’s classic three-spoke design. Twin, rhomboid-shaped tailpipes complete the exterior additions.

Inside, the ‘black turbo’ theme is continued throughout the cabin. The sports seating, with additional bolstering, is upholstered entirely in black leather. The sporty ambience is further emphasized by a carbon-fiber finish to the main fascia, door inserts, glove box and gear shift console which is unique to the Turbo X.

The driver benefits from improved ‘feel’ through the addition of a thick-rimmed, soft grip leather steering wheel. Seating comfort can be taken a step further with an optional premium, natural leather interior, which includes perforated bolsters for the front seat squabs and backs.

In recognition of Saab’s turbo heritage, the Turbo X boost gauge is a replica of the original 900 Turbo display. Owners will also enjoy a personalized greeting when they get behind the wheel and switch on the ignition. A unique ‘Ready For Take-off’ message (‘All Systems Go’ in US/Canada) flashes in the main instrument display. The owner’s name, with the edition number of the car, can also be programmed for display by the supplying dealer.

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  1. Wow, now the car is a BOMB! I really like this personalisation idea. Also the Carbon interior. I am really looking forward to see this car.
    The SAAB guys did a wonderful job on this one!

  2. By the way:

    about the new exhaust.

    does anybody know, who has seen the car already, if the new exhaust has a different or improved sound?

  3. So the functional differences between the Turbo-X and the Aero XWD are lower springs and bigger brakes. Sure, there’s the personalized message in the SID (can this be changed if you sell the car?), the black accents, and the fact you have to have it in black only.

    Very boy racer. Fitting, since the name sounds like something from a Speed Racer cartoon. I’m extremely underwhelmed.

    SAAB seems to consistently fail in evoking features of beloved SAABs in their new ones. First there was the clamshell-look hood and now the “Turbo” badging (which as others have pointed out wasn’t even done right) and the spoiler (don’t they know the 900 spoiler was completely different than every boy racer car on the road?). At least the old-style turbo gauge is nice (though it doesn’t fit the style of the rest of the gauges. Pandering?).

    I don’t know how much of a price premium this car will be over the Aero XWD, but it couldn’t be too much for me to shell out good money for it. As someone told me recently “to each his own”…

  4. Grip, I think you’re too stuck in the past. Saab cannot and should not replicate a 900 Turbo – a car that is legendary, but that was made ine the ’80s. I don’t think anyone at Saab promised us a complete redo of the classic Black Turbos.

    Saab needs to focus on staying competitive in a market place furiously challenged by the German and Japanese automakers. Brands like Inifitini are miles ahead of Saab in terms of interior refinement – something Saabs were acclaimed for when I was a kid. Others, like BMW, are getting their feet wet in turbocharging, and they’ve got the money to spend on R&D.

    So bottom line is: Saab needs to start pleasing the general audience, not a bunch of middle-aged old-school fans who lament the ’80s. In all honesty I would never have bought a Saab f it weren’t for the 9-3 SportSedan styling – but once I got behind the wheel of a Saab I became an instant convert. This is what Saab needs – more converts, younger people who like something different, and who would stay loyal to the brand in their most affluent years. Audi’s got this formula worked out perfectly: they offer a vehicle in every segment of the market, yet no 25 year old driving an RS4 would ever bash the 55 year old CFO driving the A8.

    Black Turbo is a step in the right direction, which will hopefully be followed by many other gorgeous vehicles. It’s not the ’80s anymore, so please: no useless comparisons.

  5. One comment: Beautiful work overall, I love it.

    One question: Does the rear diffuser perform a real function, e.g., does it reduce drag by giving underbody air an easier exit?

    One complaint: A steering wheel should be offered at least as an option that doesn’t have those obnoxious lumps. I love my 04 wheel because it doesn’t have them.

  6. Kroum, who said SAAB should replicate the 900 Turbo? SAAB’s own press release is comparing the Turbo-X to the 900. I’m pointing out that the “turbo” badging and turbo gauge style and clamshell-look hood were meant to evoke memories of the SAABs of yesteryear. Same with the spoiler. I’m referring to these lines from the PR:

    • Distinctive Jet Black color in homage to first Saab 900 Turbo

    • Unique design evokes look for classic black Saab 900 Turbo

    The Turbo X is further distinguished by unique, 18-inch alloy wheels (19-inch available as an option outside US/Canada markets) with a grey titanium-like finish that evokes the look of Saab’s classic three-spoke design.

    In recognition of Saab’s turbo heritage, the Turbo X boost gauge is a replica of the original 900 Turbo display.

    This black limited edition model takes Saab ‘back to the future’ by evoking the iconic appeal of its first black 900 Turbo

    Offered only in metallic jet black, with the front grille and all exterior detailing accented in a matte grey titanium-like finish, it represents a contemporary expression of its illustrious black 900 Turbo forebear. (sorry, but even the classic 900 Turbo was available in colors other than black and featured NO dark gray titanium-like finish that I know of)

    Why do you guys eat this PR stuff up without questioning anything? It reminds me of when they were trying to pass-off the very un-SAAB-like Aero-X look as being featured on the new 9³. To this date I still see no resemblance. The Aero-X is a pretty cool looking car. Is it SAABy? I’m still not convinced that it is. “Born from Jets” is only a couple of years old and I’m already sick of it.

    What about this car is different than anything you’d find on a BMW? You’d have to nitpick to find anything. SAAB has lost its way. In an attempt to gain mainstream acceptability (and sales) they’ve sold-out everything that was unique to SAAB, while trying to get the rank-and-file traditional SAAB lovers on-board with shallow mentions of design cues culled from SAAB tradition. If the comments I overheard at the S.O.C. from SAABophiles are any indication SAAB is failing miserably in keeping the loyal SAABers buying SAABs. How many of you are SERIOUSLY planning to buy a Turbo-X? I’m not asking how many would want one, but how many people are considering buying one?

    Why did so many love the 900 Turbo? Because it was everything the Turbo-X is not.

  7. Grip, you need to chill out a little, man… Saab was very successful with the 900, however, it failed miserably at turning it into a long-term sustainable success story. All that happened after the hayday of Saab is well-known to us. Unfortunately, Saab is in the business of making cars that sell and appear to a mass audience – if it is to survive, that is. Therefore it needs to appeal to a wider audience – apparently, “keeping Saab-lovers on board” is not doing the trick, financially. Otherwise Saab would not be losing GM hundreds of millions of dollars each year – I mean, come on, you all talk of how GM-ified Saabs have become, but do any of you seriosuly see any major automaker out there that would let Saab be itself and lose a couple fo hundred mil each year? Didn’t think so.

    Please all keep in mind: the Saab automobiles were originally created to keep SAAB (as in the fighter-jet manufacturer) profitable! It’s a business, not a nostalgia marathon. Make money or join the Rovers and Oldsmobiles of yesteryear.

    Oh, and to clarify: I am very serious about getting a Turbo X, and have already talked to my dealer about it. If the price is reasonable and the delivery date is not August next year I am very likely to end up with one of the 2K cars. Just so you know – yes, I am the target market Saab is after with this car… And no, I don’t want a car from the ’80s.

  8. Well, it looks like as usual my opinion is out of the mainstream. I’ll try not to express it if I can tell in the future that people won’t agree with it. I don’t want to rock the boat.

  9. Gripen – I’m with you man! I may not share your “deep” feelings, but I understand your points.

    Maybe Saab just tried to do something nice for their 30th anniversary. Nothing too over the top that would require a lot of modifications at the plant, but some nice touches to add a little extra to the launch of their XWD. It’s all about PR, my man…

    Having said that, I wouldn’t buy it – I think it’s a bit underwhelming as well, but many will be willing to pay more to have something a little different.

    I can appreciate your statement about Saab needing to compete, and this car doesn’t do that. Not to sound like a broken record, but they could have “tuned” it just a little more – to the beat of 300, perhaps.

    That would turn the “average” joe’s head a bit more.

  10. Folks,

    So, we want to be technically and historically accurate here, okay, so here it goes…

    Let’s all do the math here. 2007-1977 is how many years? 30 Right, hence the 30th Anniversary of Turbocharging as part of the PR message on the press release for the Turbo-X?

    The Saab 900 was not around 30 years ago(ie. 1977) in a production capacity and was not the first Saab with a Turbo.

    The Saab 99 was around in 1977 and that’s when it made the first debut of the Turbo.

    It does not make any sense relating this Turbo-X to a 900, when it was in actuality, the 99 that made its first appearance in 1977, both 30 years ago while having the first offering of the Turbo, hence the relation to this car would make make sense in “30 Years of Turbocharging” sake.

    Furthermore, the wheels on those press photos should be the newly redone INCAS as depicted on the original 99 Turbo presented at the Frankfurt Motorshow in 1977, not what we currently see, it’s irrelevant and moreover, if you have newly revised INCAS, use them and use them with this model at Frankfurt since it’s all about making relationships to the first showing in 1977 with the “99”, not the 900.

    Here is a photo of the 2008 wheel option for the “NEW” Incas

    Here is also the photo of the First Saab 99 Turbo presented at Frankfurt in 1977.

    In wrapping up, let’s all keep in mind the following.

    1977 marks the “30th” Anniversary

    The Saab “99” was the vehicle that was FIRST introduced with the Turbocharger

    Finally, in all actuality, this is the real photo that should be included as the historical “Black Turbo” reference, not that late 1980’s 900 model we’ve seen.

    Hopefully this clears things up for accuracy sake.

  11. Good points, joemama (that just seems so wrong to say!). If indeed it’s as you say, just a nice special edition to commemorate 30-years of turbocharging on the cheap and a way for people to buy something a little different than that’s okay. If it’s meant to be the pinnacle of what SAAB has to offer I feel it falls a bit short and gets away from what SAAB has come to stand for.

  12. Great car, but I’m partly with Gripen. I think the PR guys are trying a bit too hard. The gauge I get, the wheels I almost get but when was a black turbo the icon of the 80’s or even the 70’s. The 99T was available in a few colours and the first 900 Aero was white.

  13. SG: now THAT (the link to the 99 Turbo pic you supplied) is a SAAB! Nobody would mistake that car for anything else. Talk about iconic. I wonder if we’ll look back on the Turbo-X with the same reverence in 30 years?

  14. Okay, back to this car…

    What about this? “…the chassis of the Turbo X has been lowered by 10 mm and the springs and dampers stiffened to minimize body movement. To maintain a constant ride height irrespective of load, self-leveling dampers are fitted at the rear.”

    Swade, are these features exclusive to the Turbo X, or will future ‘regular’ XWD models have this, or is it specific to those models with the eLSD feature?

    Also, what are “squabs”, as related to the front seating?


  15. J: regarding the hatchback, I think a great number of SAAB lovers would welcome a return, but the car market as a whole shuns hatchbacks, especially in the price range SAAB caters to.

    I asked Jan-Willem Vester, of SAAB USA Communications, if he has any idea of why Americans as a whole reject the idea of a hatchback, as rumored. He agrees with me that the hatchback just “makes sense” from a utility point of view and pointed-out that in Europe hatchbacks and wagons are favored (as Swade discovered during his trip to Sweden), but in the U.S. they’re looked-upon as being not quite “premium”. Premium cars have always been sedans and it’s hard to get that view out of peoples’ eyes.

    If you can’t beat them join them, I guess. 🙁

  16. Hey all,

    Black is cool.

    The new XWD is cool.

    The new front end is cool.

    The new rear end is cool.

    The new wheels are cool.

    The interior is cool.

    The boosted small block V6 is cool

    What’s the problem?

    I’m a modern Saaber, I have not driven a 99 nor a 900 of any vintage. I have 2 Saabs in the driveway. I bought my Sportcombi last year and it was the mostest for the money and is extremely space efficient, practical and a great driver and a thoroughly modern execution in the Saab tradition. It has it’s shortcomings but I believe that the 2008 9-3 addresses most that I’d care to mention. Likewise the 9-3 XWD that reviewers have driven seems to quash most of the arguments any anti-Saab reviewers tend to fall back on.

    Any arguments about the relative merits of this colour or that wheel choice or whether Turbo X should be capitalised will pale in the face of how fast they move these 2000 units.

  17. 1985 Gripen. DONT STOP complaining just cuz everyone else doesn’t see it your way… rock the boat…

    but lets see some constructive criticism… what could saab have done better, realistically?

  18. So, what could have been done better (my 2 c):

    Rear end design: taillights (all models), rear diffusor and exhausts. The rear should have been made to look low and wide instead of the current ‘SUV stance’.

    Wheels: more open, ‘deep’ and less complex design, 35 profile (instead of 40) tyres with 19” wheels.

    Overall: don’t try to recycle 80’s turbo details. Try something new instead.

    Engine: The torque is great, but it should have nominally slightly more hp to differ it from base xwd Aero and , in particular, Vectra OPC, which has been on the market for a while.

    This isn’t to say that there’s nothing good in the Aero-X, but anyways…

  19. It is a great car and a great 9-3 but is it a great Saab? Again I don’t fully agree with Gripen but these things should be debated.
    To be honest the spec of the car is very close to what is offered on the MSport BM. Is that a good thing? At the same time too much heritage will kill you – just ask Jaguar.

    I like the Black Turbo and the key thing for me is the chassis. At the end of the day it is not “the ultimate Saab” but a well specced 9-3 .

  20. 1985 Gripen,

    I don’t quite agree with you, but you should continue to voice your opinions. I think SAABers appreciate diversity of opinion as much as we like diversity in our cars. Otherwise, we would be driven one of the German Clone Cars (MB, BMW, Audi).

    My local dealer opens at 10:00 AM. So, I’ll be on the phone to get info on how to order a new Turbo X in about an hour — with any luck.

  21. I agree a lot with 1985 Gripen.

    The reason they are not talking about the original 99 Turbo is maybe because it was white…? “Heritage” is a nice word for the PR-people, if nothing else…

  22. Gripen,

    I may be wrong, but my understanding from what I’ve read is that Saab doesn’t insinuate the Turbo X is supposed to be the pinnacle of what they offer.

    They did state, however, that it is designed to be the very best they will put out in terms of a sporty, driver-focused car. That’s what the point of this car is as I understand it, and I respect that. Well, that and they’re celebrating the anniversary of Saab’s turbocharging history- hence the tweaks that are throwbacks to the days of yore…not to say it’s really supposed to literally be the next 900 Turbo or anything. And that’s a separate thing on its own…

    Now, I agree with others in that there are a few things I personally would change (ideally speaking) to make this project even better:

    1. Add other colors besides black (perhaps too costly since it’s a limited offering?)
    2. Hit that magical 300hp benchmark- it may not make a huge difference in real-life but at least a symbolic feeling nonetheless. It’d be good to have.
    3. I’d probably tweak that rear diffuser somehow, but I can also live with it.

    Let’s put it this way and come from this angle: the updated 9-3 has been described as “the car the 9-3 should have been from the start.” So take that, including the improved overall design and the needed noise reduction package. Now add the coming XWD. And improve the interior quality to look more- well, just better. And more comfy/bolstering seats. How are any of those things bad??

    And lastly make the improvments to the boost and turbo config, and upgrade the suspension and brakes. Not perfect, but more performance and road-holding from a Saab is always welcome in my book!

    And that’s what we have. I’d have to respectfully disagree in opinion- I’m not “underwhelmed” with those changes. Besides, it sounds like a good throwback to decent milestones of the past, and a smaller attempt to do the Viggen-style product niche right (as the press apparently slammed it when it came out; “t-steer” term comes to mind). And so my conclusion has to be at least respect. Even though I’d like to change it up a bit, I still think they did it right. Now personally, subjectively speaking, If I had the money, would I myself buy a Turbo X? Yes, in a heartbeat. I could understand why some would not, however. I really think it comes down to the demographic and the bottom line for why that demographic is purchasing the car.

    One side note to all- it’s easy to voice our opinions but Saab has to appeal primarily to those with the dough to buy the new cars. And I must admit I’m not one of them, FWIW. I will seriously consider a used Turbo X if one crosses my path in the future, however.

    I must mention and agree with Swade’s prediction some time ago- this is going to sell very quickly. In fact, I really would like to see a couple years’ worth of production like the Viggen was, as I’d have a better shot of getting a hand on one later down the pike. 🙂 Make that my fourth desired change, I guess.

  23. @RJ

    x2 on the demographic. How is Saab supposed to make changes for someone that isn’t really a potential customer. I hate to say it :(, but if a non-saab loyalist has more money to spend, then I’m sure they’d rather have it appeal to them?

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