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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Saab Turbo X - The good guy wears black

You know I love architecture and interior design. Almost as much as I like those, I like cars. For as much as I write about green design, I love driving fast. I'm nothing if not complicated.

Today, instead of sitting behind a desk, I was given the chance to sit behind the wheel of the fastest, most powerful Saab ever: the Saab Turbo X.

Why is it called the Saab Turbo X? Well, Saab starts with the 9-3 and puts in a turbocharged 2.8 V6 that produces 280 hp and and 295 lb-ft of torque. Then they add a unique Cross Wheel Drive system. Cross, because torque can be transferred between the rear wheels - something that doesn't happen in other AWD systems and helps the car keep control through all types of driving situations. All that power is delivered to the pavement through 18" wheels wrapped in high performance tires.

Yeah, yeah. Car talk. Blah. Blah. BLAH. I know, this is a DESIGN blog. What about the car's design?

Visually, the car is stunning. The new for 2008 9-3 is sharper than ever, with it's wrap-around headlamps and integrated center grill. The Turbo X steps it up with a deeper front lip spoiler with an integrated air intake to reduce drag (make the car more aerodynamic - forms follows function, right?). In the back, the rear fascia is lowered and wrap around rhomboid-shaped exhaust pipes. Overall, a subtle hint of I'll-kick-your-butt-ness.

Inside, the Turbo X is all business: well appointed, but not flashy. Sport seats; carbon fiber on the glove box, shifter console and door trim; a fat leather steering wheel; and a retro turbo-boost gauge all give the feel of a purpose-built machine.

Color. What colors can you can get? You won't have a hard time choosing which color to get, because all 600 Turbo X's that are coming to the US are jet black. Get it? Saab - "born from jets", jet black Turbo X. Actually, it's deeper than that. Saab and turbocharging are as old as I am - the first Saab 99 Turbo was introduced in 1977. Throughout the 30+ year history of turbo Saabs, the jet black turbo has become a sort of cult car - the one to have. The Turbo X is a nod to the enthusiast.

OK, it's got a fast engine, good grip, looks good, has a well appointed interior, and is black. What does it drive like?

On the roads and highways from Herb Chambers Saab in Allston to the test track in North Andover, it was powerful yet comfortable. The sport suspension and big wheels gave no hint of a jarring right like other performance setups can. Those leather seats are sooo comfortable, you feel like you could ride in that seat for hours without getting that we've-been-driving-for-hours-and-my-butt-is-sore feeling.

What's it like on the track?


Actually, my post on Twitter after I drove it for the first time was "That. Was. Fun".

I took four or five turns of about three laps each. It wasn't an actual racetrack, but a large parking lot set up with an autocross course. The course had a variety of turns, one of which was covered in sand. Try as hard as all of the journalists did, we could not get this car to spin. Lots of screaming tires, the occasional downed cone (none by me!), but no backwards cars. A group of auto journalists unable to get a car to spin is probably the single greatest compliment to the Turbo X's stability.

Overall, a great day (did I mention the weather? OMG!) to spend in a great new car. About half of the 600 Turbo X's coming to the US have already been spoken for, so if you want one, you'd better act quick!

Want to see more photos? Check out my photos on Flickr!


Jim Spencer said...

You mentioned the Saab 99 Turbo. I learned to drive on that car. It was dark green. Hadn't thought about that in a while. ;)

Question, is the ignition key still in between the seats on the floor?

Adam Denison said...


The ignition key is still between the seats.


Great post and great pics. It was a pleasure having you on the drive.

Tim (@Twalk) Walker said...

"Why is it called the Saab Turbo X?"

Because "X" is code for "Bad-Ass," THAT'S why. ; )

You know where you need to take this thing for a spin, right? Here.