Saab 9-3 Turbo X
Unwrapping the Swede present Saab built for its own celebration
IF YOU’RE GOING to build your own birthday present, it might as well be a good one. And while Saab was busy celebrating 30 Years of Swede turbocharging with the 2008 9-3 Turbo X, it also went and added all-wheel drive for the first time. To say the party got a little out of hand is an understatement.
Saab never really did things by halves. The updated second gen 9-3 was touted as having 2000 new parts – just for a mid-cycle refresh. Then there’s the fact that the Swedish gurus at Trollhättan, under GM rule at the time, had already completely overhauled the Vauxhall Vectra platform (Holden to us) to create an ostensibly new car. GM went berserk when it saw the bill.
That philosophy translated into the Turbo X and the company’s first all-wheel drive system. Branded CrossWheel Drive (XWD) and based off the fourth generation Haldex system, the Swedes engineered an active limited-slip rear differential. XWD used speed sensors which were able to electronically apportion up to 85 per cent of drive torque to the rear axle and then the eLSD then directed torque to the rear wheel with the most grip which, coming from a company with such a long front-drive tradition, made the Turbo X special and ground breaking. As MOTOR stated in 2008, “according to Saab, this is eLSD’s first road-going application”.
Despite using a GM-sourced 2.8-litre turbo V6, what the Turbo X really needed was more than 206kW and 400Nm. Having to lug 1741kg hampered the straight-line acceleration figures despite the XWD system offering playful, rear-biased dynamics. With the recalcitrant six-speed torque-converter auto, it’s utterly crippled. Three pedals and self-shifting has you at 100km/h in a respectable 6.2 seconds, however, the auto slushbox is a yawning 1.1sec slower to triple figures.
Only 30 of the 2000 units produced globally made it Down Under. Of those, 25 were sedans and five were the SportCombi. They were priced eye-wateringly high. Try $91,300 for the auto sedan ($88,800 manual) and $92,800 for the automatic SportCombi ($91,300 manual). The cheat is to find a 9-3 Aero XWD, which featured the mechanicals of the special edition.
While it didn’t match the significance of the 99 Turbo, the first mainstream application of turbocharging, it still showcased the extreme lengths the Swedes were willing to go to for true innovation. All of which makes it all the more sad that this bold marque no longer exists.