The 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X Test Drive in Boston

Posted on 03. Jun, 2008 by in 2000-2009

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Photo Credit: Saab History

On Tuesday, May 20th, 2008, Saab History attended an event hosted by Saab Automobile USA to test drive the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X Test Drive Event in Boston, Massachusetts. This event was the sequel to the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X North American Debut that took place last November in Boston, so my anticipation and expectations were flying high.

The Saab 9-3 Turbo-X is Saab Automobile’s halo vehicle for their new Cross-Wheel Drive (XWD) system and their highest performing vehicle to date which comes in any color you want as long as it is jet black. This color reference dates back to SAAB’s first production vehicle at the time, the SAAB 92 which came in watermelon green due to a military surplus of that color, of course both colors connects to their aircraft roots, hence the modern reference “in any color you want as long as it is…”

I arrived at Saab History’s site sponsor
building_300.jpg, Herb Chambers Saab of Boston right on Commonwealth avenue, where I noticed a fleet of 11 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X’s, 6 SportCombi’s and 5 Sport Sedans all lining the parking lot. As I continued towards the main entrance of the dealership for the breakfast, I began meeting other individuals from the media, some of them were familiar faces and some unfamiliar faces that I had the pleasure to meet for the first time. As I made my way inside, I also met with Steve Shannon, Jan-Willem Vester, Joanne Krell and Roger McCormack, Saab Automobile USA’s President, Communications team and Marketing Director, respectively.

Shortly after our informal meet & greet in the main showroom of Herb Chambers Saab, the entire media of about 25+/- sat down to a presentation by Saab USA beginning with a brief introduction of their history in the New England region starting in Boston. Following this historical overview, we were then educated on the details on Saab’s cross-wheel drive system, followed by a “rules of the road” safety overview before we all hopped into the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X’s awaiting us in the parking lot of the dealership.

driving.jpgAs we “depaarted” from Boston heading North to the test facility, I got my first opportunity to test drive the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X SportCombi at speed on I-495 in real life driving conditions. I must admit that the first thing I noticed was not just the performance, but stronger and more stable suspension system over some of stretches of taxachusetts highway that were, ironically, in dire need of repair.

Arriving at the test facility in North Andover, Massachusetts, the media were escorted to have a “light” lunch under a tent alongside the MBTA’s commuter rail track. During this lunch, there was an informative session by Saab Automobile Sweden’s project leader, Tommy Sundin who explained the ins and outs of Cross-Wheel Drive for us. I was happy that he offered to take questions following his presentation, unfortunately, many of us could only hear every other word due to infrequent disruptions from the commuter train adjacent to the facility.

The first phase of our experience at this closed course complete with cones, was a parade ride around the slalom, straight aways, curves and sand filled stretches in order to orient ourselves before we put the Turbo-X through its paces.

end.jpgFinally, I had the chance to sit behind the wheel of a Saab 9-3 Turbo-X SportCombi with a 6-speed manual transmission. As the instructor signalled, I was off and making the rounds with high intensity like a storm chaser, hitting all of the corners with accuracy and confidence as though the stronger suspension communicated confidence to the driver through the steering wheel directly. There were 2-3 iterations of this course that I did before I offered up the ride to other media, so that I could reflect, and take notes of my experience.

On Performance:

My first impressions consisted of key Saab values, performance as well as unparalleled handling. The speed of the Turbo-X was quite impressive, and with a balanced suspension system that provides no over nor understeer, it seemed like Saab finally got it right with the Turbo-X. I should indicate however, I would have been more impressed with the Turbo-X had it been a 4-cylinder instead of a V6, especially with Saab ironically focusing on “right sizing” their engines for higher output in a smaller physical size. Furthermore, with super performance and handling complete with a cross-wheel drive system, there also comes the approximately 15 miles per gallon and a CO2 output that is seriously concerning in today’s era of energy and environmental crisis.

On Safety:

The course driven, was a perfectly dry asphalt parking lot with some semi-sandy surfaces on a sunny afternoon in late may, not exactly the height of snow season in New England right? While I certainly got my adrenaline pumped with the performance and handling, I was extremely disappointed that I could not experience cross-wheel drive on an icy & snow filled unplowed road during a windy evening on a secondary road in rural New England. This is also my second experience test driving cross-wheel drive, where I test drove a prototype from Sweden back in August of 2007 back in Washington, D.C.

Having two opportunities to experience cross-wheel drive now under my belt, I understand the technology in “theory”, but I have have not had any real conditions where I could put that theory to real life “application”. I have recently e-mailed the idea to Saab Automobile USA so that I could experience an XWD equipped Saab 9-3 SportCombi with a 2.0T engine sometime this coming winter season in New England for an all-out real life test drive experience in the most “appropriate” inclimate conditions. I am hopeful that they too will see the real value in a real life test drive, in fact they are the ones that created these for customers years ago anyways.

turbox_end.jpgThe Conclusion:

The halo vehicle for XWD, the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X, undoubtedly embodies “performance” and “safety” for this 30th anniversary of bringing turbocharging to the masses from Saab Automobile ever since the Saab 99. As I have indicated, the performance as driven, is super, and exceeded my expectations since the debut last fall. In terms of safety, with regards to cross-wheel drive, I am missing the critical element of a right real-life testing environment to communicate such an experience. Once I can produce a real review specifically devoted to the technology, in inclimate weather in winter, not dry asphalt in the spring, we will see some tangible findings on cross-wheel drive. The Turbo-X needs to be test driven in the “Turbo-X Zone” as Saab-Salomon refers to it.

A thank you to Saab Automobile USA, Bader TV as well as site sponsor Herb Chambers Saab of Boston, for making the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X Test drive possible.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Saab History » Saab History Enjoys A “State Of Independence” - June 7, 2008

    […] In February of 2007, I was first invited by Saab Automobile USA as a member of the media to attend the 60th Anniversary event in San Diego, California. Since that time, I now participated in the Saab 9-3 Drive Event in Washington, D.C., the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X North American Launch at the Boston Auto Show, the Saab 9-4x BioPower Concept North American Debut in Detroit, Michigan, the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Reflective in NYC and now, the most recently, the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X test drive back in Boston, Massachusetts. I think it’s important that I cover these activities as a Saab owner and a passionate enthusiast, so that we can see what Saab Automobile are doing these days. It is my intention to maintain this independence so that I continue my ability to write from an objective perspective. […]

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