Saab Turbo X debuts in North America

The Saab Turbo X recently made it’s US debut at the New Englad Auto Show in Boston.

John delRosario was there for Trollhattan Saab and I’d like to thank him for providing such a great recap of the event, along with some magnificent photos.

Click on any of his great images to enlarge them – and check out the full gallery here.

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Saab Turbo XOn Tuesday November 27th Steve Shannon unveiled what SAAB hopes will remind current and past SAAB owners what it meant to own one of those “Black turbos” that used to be as prevalent as the 3 series, at least in this region of the country.

Flanked by the AeroX and the newly restored 1985 SPG, and with the help of past president Bob Sinclair, Steve and Bob revealed to the attending media the Black Turbo X. Now I must say that I have liked the pictures that I have seen of this car so far, but it’s a whole other story seeing it in person.

The aggressiveness of the front end of this new car will strike fear into the hapless drivers oblivious enough not to see this car coming. And it seems that this car may be able to carry on the tradition of the Black turbo, especially when this car walks away from traffic on the roadway with little fuss. Victims who are old enough may even flash back to the day when black and grey SPG’s with very few identifying markings blew by them like stealth fighters. It appears that stealth may be a little less than the earlier cars, but people will be able to at least identify what just spanked them.

Saab Turbo X

I must say that I am really taken by this new car and I like it. I would love to be able to sign on the dotted line today and get my order in, but alas it won’t be in the cards because the 9-5 SportCombi I picked up last fall has a few years to stay in my inventory. I will keep my eye out in a few years for a couple years used and loved Turbo X Combi in black of course.

Saab Turbo XAfter the introduction we were able to get all the pictures we liked as well as get a first hand feel of the car. I love the old school boost gauge (best tweak to the 9-3 interior yet) and the subtle carbon fiber trim accents inside.

For those of you with a keen eye you may have noticed that the car has center caps covering the lug nuts on the driver’s side, but not on the passenger side. A few of us were speculating if SAAB was trying to decide on which looked better. I actually liked the exposed lug nuts look, however this isn’t going to show up in production. Some where along the way as the car was being transported one of the covers was lost. So in a bit of last minute ingenuity someone decided to put the griffin logos in the wheels and popped a set of black lug nut covers on and presto ready for her debut.

Saab Turbo X

I was also given the chance to briefly speak with a few people within SAAB about the new Turbo X. First I spoke with John Libbos, he is SAAB’s product manager here in the US. I wanted to get a little clarification on the new Haldex gen 4 awd system that will be from here on out referred to as cross wheel drive (XWD) For the 2008 season the Turbo X will be carrying the XWD banner, and that flag also carries eLSD as well. Once the 2009 model year rolls around XWD will become standard on all Aero models and will be an option for the 2.0T cars as well. The eLSD will be available only as an option on the Aero and not available on the 2.0T.

Saab Turbo XThis tied into my question of how much would be lost by a customer who opted out of getting the eLSD and just getting XWD. John explained that with the electronically controlled drive system power could be moved to where it’s needed in 80 milliseconds. So even without the eLSD the car is going to use its pre-emptive traction control to try and put power to where it can grip. So even if a rear wheel is spinning with an open diff the car will try transferring power to the front to get grip. If it can’t get traction only then will ESP intervene by dragging a brake and chopping power if required.

The XWD system drives around like a regular fwd car, with about 90% going to the front wheels while in cruising mode. Step on the gas however and in that 80 milliseconds over 90% of that power can be transferred to the rear wheels, with an eLSD a 40/60 split can be attained in the rear as well. All I know is that this car could be a lot of fun on a very snowy day here in New England.

Next I was given a chance to speak with Yanlin Sun, Marketing manager for the SAAB 9-3. I spoke to Yanlin briefly about where SAAB’s marketing campaign was going now that they are using a new ad agency. She said that the Born From Jets campaign was going to continue being used, however its going to act as more of an umbrella campaign.

Born From Jets

We have already seen the first part with BFJ and touching on the heritage of SAAB with the link to aviation. Hopefully they will also touch on previous models as well to try and touch the heart of the original SAAB owner. Next will be a more performance oriented advertising tying in with the availability of the Turbo X. Finally we will start to see advertising that will also use the safety card in its advertising. Since SAAB’s are one of the safest cars on the road they are actually going to start appealing to customers who shop with that as a primary consideration when purchasing a new car.

Yanlin also explained how they are getting into more advertising on the web. She explained that the typical SAAB customer does a lot of shopping and comparing online. So along those lines look for SAAB to continually upgrade the web presence. Especially watch the Turbo X macro site because Yanlin said that it would be updated three different times over the next few months.

Saab Turbo XFinally I was given the chance to speak with Steve Shannon about where SAAB was going over the next few years. He broke it down into three points that they are concentrating on now.

1st) The new 9-5, we have been waiting some time now and the end is insight, however we do still have another couple of years before this car hits the ground. Steve said that they are trying to push the 9-5 a little bit more up market so that it isn’t so competitive with the 9-3. Hopefully the push up market doesn’t push the price tag north of $50,000 because it’s getting hard to swallow a SAAB that is that pricey.

2nd) The new SAAB cross over that will be built on a unibody not a chassis on frame like a traditional truck or the 9-7X. Steve says that they will still be able to get the towing capabilities but with a more comfortable chassis. I asked whether SAAB was going with a 3 row 7 passenger vehicle or not. He said that they want to concentrate n getting a proper vehicle built and he believes the way to do that is with a 2 row 5 passenger vehicle like most of the smaller SUV’s on the road.

3rd) Trying to get SAAB back into “entry level” vehicles for new customers. He mentioned some of the competition and stressed that when SAAB builds their smaller car it will still be considered a nicely optioned car. Steve said that they didn’t want to build a cheap car by stripping it down to nothing.

Also Steve talked about keeping the option packages simpler. The ability to have a few packages available for customers would take the guesswork out of choosing a vehicle or looking for the items they want. Limiting the models available keeps people from having to settle for a partial package of what they wanted.

Overall the launch of the Turbo X was an incredible event, and even though I didn’t get the chance to drive it I still want one. I appreciate the time that I was given by Steve, John, and Yanlin and I would like to thank SAAB, GM, and Jan-Willem Vester for the invitation to attend the event.

Saab Turbo X

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12 Comments

  1. Is it just me, or do you just want a TurboX the more you see it and read about it.
    I don’t think there is a question that the Viggen has finally been replaced. It took some time, but it looks like the wait was worth it.
    Now all I need is the cash. Even if I had millions, the TurboX would be top on my list (close second is the C30 T5. A Volvo hatchback Yikes!) 🙂

  2. dan – Of course the Turbo-X doesn’t replace the Viggen, they got rid of the feature where the car changes lanes for you. :p

  3. “Hopefully the push up market doesn’t push the price tag north of $50,000 because it’s getting hard to swallow a SAAB that is that pricey.”

    Is that a fact or is that the author’s opinion? I don’t see any particular reason that Saab could not pull off an MSRP of $50k on the right car.

  4. John, I’m wondering if you could give a better description of the Turbo X black paint. It’s been described as different than the current black options, but the pictures just don’t tell me enough..

  5. denvernewbie,

    I was at the show Wednesday night and it appears the Turbo X is the same straight black (non-metallic) available on the rest of the 9-3 line. The car looks very sharp.

  6. John/Swade,

    Thanks for the post. I was under the impression XWD was going to be available in the US as an option on the Aero come March/April. Is the Turbo X the only car with XWD for the ’08 model year?

  7. James – in the eyes of a completely objective consumer, Saabs and, say, BMWs cost about the same, and are both performance oriented, but BMW interiors are much more plush, and they still win the HP contest, though if said objective consumer is also an intelligent consumer, this wouldn’t matter. Point is, Saab won’t be able to push a 50k car until their cars are actually worth 50k to your average car buyer. Saab doesn’t have the “right car” yet, but they’re getting there.

  8. You would-be darth-vaders!
    Get rid of that ridicule grin when trying to pass by the other road-users.

    If Darth Vader is the driver of the Turbo-X,which star-wars character fits the lemon-yellow saab 9-3 (II) cabrio ?

    Find out for yourself the right character, before your pub-mates do get a laugh about your colour of your saab …

    http://www.matthewbarr.co.uk/personality/index.htm

  9. rpg: the Turbo-X is the debut of the XWD system and will come with the eLSD included. Shortly thereafter (I don’t think we’ve heard definitively when yet) the 9-3 Aero will be available with XWD and eLSD will be an option on top of that. If you purchase an ’08 9-3 Aero, you can get one now w/o XWD but it’ll “only” have 255 bhp. After the Turbo-X debuts you will be able to purchase the 9-3 Aero with XWD (with or without eLSD) and the power jumps up to 280 bhp (same as in the Turbo-X).

    There’s been no word yet as far as I know when the Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio system will be available as an option. I’d be curious as to how much better this system sounds than the “stock” system in the 9-3. A friend and fellow Saab owner installs high-end home theater systems for a living and said, “no highs, no lows, must be Bose…”. I asked him if this meant that Bose is no good, and he said it’s not necessarily so, but just because something has the Bose name on it doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to be good.

    Re: black paint… I saw an expensive Mercedes parked up at my son’s school (I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the model, but it’s the smaller sporty one, I think a two-seater. SL something I think) with a beautiful shade of black. It was a black with a silver tint to it. The silver only showed when the sun hit the gloss. It was the same color as those polished hematite rocks you can buy at museum gift shops.

  10. James: Steve talked about how they are planning on moving the 9-5 upmarket to seperate the 9-3 and 9-5 more. I would only assume that they are moving in that price direction. Especially when you are talking about mid to high 30’s on a current 9-5. I saw my first 50 plus SAAB at SCD and it was an
    AERO Convertible, ouch…

    denvernewbie: The paint is actually a metalic with some flake in it. From a distance it looks just black, but inside up close you can see the metal flake and it almost shifts t a purple. At least under the lighting inside the convention center.

    rpg: John said that the eLSD system will only be available in the Turbo X for 08. XWD will become available sometime this year, however come late summer early fall when the 09’s arrive than eLSD will become available in the other models.

  11. So I guess Turbo Black is a color that only really works in the metal and not in photos…damn, why the hell didn’t I go to this stupid show, it’s like 7 hours away!?

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