2008 Saab Turbo X

Saab on Steroids

by Joe LaMuraglia

2008 Saab Turbo X

I was in Boston, MA as a guest of Saab recently to drive the production version of the 2008 Saab Turbo X. We covered the North American introduction earlier this year and having spent a brief time behind the wheel of a prototype (with a HOT Swedish engineer), I was looking forward to spending time with the final product.

2008 Saab Turbo X

The newest addition the the Saab 9-3 lineup, the 2008 Turbo X is a celebration of 30 years of turbo-charged Saabs and more specifically, a modern interpretation of the Saab “black turbos” of the past. With 280 HP, 295 lb-ft of torque, Saab’s innovative Cross-Wheel Drive (XWD), a lowered sport suspension, unique titanium-colored wheels, carbon-fiber interior treatment and a smaller, thickly padded steering wheel, the Turbo X takes a very competent 9-3 to the next level.
SAAB – They Have Great Seats Right?
When you think of Saab, you don’t necessarily think of high performance. Most wouldn’t think that a sexy Saab 9-3 could take on the boys from Bavaria when it comes to performance and up to this point, they couldn’t.

2008 Saab Turbo X

Saab’s Achilles heel was one of the things that made it unique in the first place; front-wheel drive. It is very difficult to make a high-performance FWD vehicle perform. Placing the engine and drive wheels up front increases passenger room and provides amazing traction in inclement weather but in the handling and control department it can’t compete with RWD or AWD.
Enter the Turbo X. The sport suspension, advanced all-wheel-drive system and the additional horsepower it allows, makes this Saab speak Swedish with a German accent.
The difference compared to the standard 9-3 is evident both on the road and the track. Where as the 9-3 Aero is sporty the Turbo X is downright aggressive. On the roads around Andover, MA the sport suspension was on the verge of harsh but no more so than say a BMW M3 or Mercedes C63 AMG.
That is heady company when it comes to comparisons and while the steroid Saab isn’t quite in the performance leagues of those beasts in a straight line, the Saab Turbo X’s turbo-charged 280 HP are nothing to sneeze at. I was able to hit illegal speeds quite quickly and was impressed at how the beefed up 9-3 handled lane changes and on-ramps with ease. Mated with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, the Turbo X turns up the excitement quotient.

Fast or Agile? What about Both?

2008 Saab Turbo X

Once we hit the track the real nature of this Swede came to the surface. We had no competitors on hand to verify it but the engineers swore that the Turbo X can out slalom some of the best from Germany. After a few laps in both the Sedan and SportCombi (wagon for those of you that don’t speak Saab) I had little reason to doubt them. The vehicle attacked the course with a throaty growl from its tailpipes and handled the twists, turns and panic braking without complaint. The superb handling is a result of the advanced XWD system balancing the torque not only between both the two axles but also between the rear wheels via the first application of an electronically controlled, rear limited-slip differential (eLSD) in the segment.

Is there such a thing as too stiff?

2008 Saab Turbo X

Some of the technology that makes the Turbo X so superb also limits its appeal. The suspension is clearly geared more for cornering than carpooling and many consumers will find it too harsh for daily use. For the 600 lucky souls that get their hands on this limited-edition vehicle, there will be no complaints. Like all sports car owners, they are willing to give up some comfort for performance.
Fortunately for everyone else, the XWD drive technology will be available in the 9-3 Sedan and Sport Combi later this year and the Turbo X’s project leader hinted that other features (sport steering wheel, carbon fiber trim, and suspension) may be options on more mundane 9-3’s in the future.
The 2008 Saab Turbo X sedan starts at $42,510 and the Turbo X Sport Combi starts at $43,310. They are on sale now and volume is limited to 600 vehicles in the U.S. so if you want what Saab calls a “future classic” you better hurry.

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