First Drive Review: 2008 Saab Turbo X
Kiruna, Sweden — One hundred twelve mph is nothing to get overly excited about. That is, unless it's on a closed, tree-lined mountain road blanketed with snow and under the cover of darkness. This would likely be a short-lived experience for most mortals, but with Swedish rally star Per Eklund as the designated driver, the incredible potential of this limited-edition Saab Turbo X was revealed without consequence.
So how limited are we talking? Well, for 2008 a total of 600 Sport Sedan and SportCombi (wagon) vehicles will make it here to the U.S., all of them in metallic black paint as homage to the original Saab 99 and 900 Turbos, starting at $42,510 and $43,310, respectively.
Both Turbo X models feature an all-aluminum turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 pumping out a record (for Saab) 280 bhp at 5500 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque between 2150 and 4500 rpm that Saab claims will get you to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.7 seconds. There's a choice of a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission, both of which come coupled to the latest Haldex generation IV XWD system (all-wheel drive).
A combination of three units makes up Haldex's new compact system, including a limited-slip coupling that varies torque front to rear, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential varying rear-wheel torque left to right, and an ECU, which receives inputs from over 20 sensors and continually apportions torque based on perceived driving intent.
At cruising speeds, XWD reduces total torque sent to the rear to just 4 percent, maximizing efficiency, while in an extreme case where all but one wheel has lost grip, up to 85 percent of the available torque can be sent to a single rear wheel. In short, the system has the ability to reduce fuel consumption and an unfavorable understeer or oversteer condition working in conjunction with the electronic stability program (ESP).
Our proving ground for this new technology was a large, frozen lake 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle where we were given ample time to explore the Turbo X's breadth of capability with and without the aid of ESP. On non-studded winter tires, low-µ conditions made for early limits at relatively low speeds, but worked well for demonstration purposes. In response time, the center coupling has the ability to go to full lock in 80 milliseconds if need be, and unlock just as quickly if you were to, say, pull the e-brake with intent.
More impressively, the extensive collaboration between the ESP and XWD systems also showed true in this environment as it was difficult to discern at what point ESP would kick in, unless you were trying to mess up things completely or just turned it off.
Although the newer 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero models will have the option of XWD, the Turbo X receives an exclusive sport-tuned MacPherson-strut front and multilink rear suspension, lowering the chassis by 0.4 in., larger 13.6-in. front disc brakes with 11.5-in. rears and 18-in. alloy wheels, all of which increase the sporting prowess of this future collector item. Saab currently has no plans for continued production of the Turbo X after the 2008 shipments arrive at dealers this month. So if you haven't already reserved a seat, you may have to catch the next jet.