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2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X - First Drive

Saab 9-3 Turbo X The Latest Fast Saab

Tim McKinney
Nov 1, 2008

The Turbo X is Trollhattan's latest limited-production 9-3 hot-rod. It has a turbocharged, 280hp, 2.8-liter V6 delivering 295 lb-ft of torque between 2150 and 4500 rpm, and it brings Haldex's latest and greatest fourth-generation all-wheel-drive system to the 9-3 range.

The Turbo X benefits from exclusive (and tasteful) titanium-colored trim, especially since the exterior color is Metallic Jet Black. There are no other choices. The fascia's extended lip spoiler and integrated air intake, along with the diffuser-like rear insert, are also Turbo X exclusive, although I find the rhomboid exhaust tips a bit much.

Inside, extra bolstering in the already excellent seats provide more holding power and carbon-fiber trim continues the sporting tone. The iconic retro boost gauge is straight from the 900 Turbo while the thick steering wheel makes a great connection to the 235/45-18 P Zeros wrapped around Turbo X-specific 7.5x18 alloys, big enough to swallow 13.6-inch front brake rotors.

The real news, of course, is the Saab XWD active all-wheel-drive system. Torque is split front to rear with a seven-plate wet clutch and the Turbo X is the first in its segment to incorporate an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD)-a second clutch in the Haldex unit that splits torque between the rear axles. Using data from 20 ABS and ESP sensors (individual wheel speed, throttle position, yaw, etc.), it adds up to an integrated system unlike any before it, one that can use judicious applications of torque to correct, say, a bit of understeer before the computer intervenes with brake application or throttle cut-off; XWD will make heroes of the most ham-fisted.

Epcp_0810_03_z+2008_saab_9 3_turbo_x+front_passenger_view Photo 4/5   |   2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X - First Drive

Note that I said "active" system. Start from rest and the computer preempts torque shift to the rear for a better launch, no wheelspin necessary to engage the system. It's a more pleasurable way to integrate the safety benefits of electronic stability controls into the sporting driving experience. And it works well, without the sudden "hand-of-God" approach of earlier systems from a number of manufacturers, revealing no bad habits. The six-speed manual's 0-to-60 mph time is 5.4 seconds, the six-speed auto is about a second slower.

The suspension seems to remain unflustered by certain road imperfections, despite riding quite low (self-leveling dampers are fitted at the rear). Latest in a long line of innovative and iconic cars dating from the 1978 Turbo, only 600 of the 2,000 Turbo Xs planned for production will make it to the States. Black is back.

2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X

Transverse front engine, all-wheel drive

2.8-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged and intercooled

Six-speed manual; optional six-speed automatic

McPherson strut front, four-link self-leveling rear with Re-Axs rear steering, antiroll bars

Epcp_0810_01_z+2008_saab_9 3_turbo_x+front_headlight_view Photo 5/5   |   2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X - First Drive

Power-vacuum ventilated steel rotors13.6 (f), 11.5 (r)

Length/Width/Height (in.):182.5/69.0/56.4Wheelbase: 105.3 in.Curb Weight: N/A

Peak Power: 280 hp @ 5500 rpmPeak Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 2150 rpm0-60 mph: 5.4 sec.

What we like:
Electronics keep getting smarter

What we don't:
Only 600 bound for the U.S.

Price Tag

Sport Sedan:$42,510


By Tim McKinney
7 Articles



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