The first all-paw performance car will be on the road in Australia by June and the 9-3 Turbo X will be followed by a full family of all-wheel-drive turbos. The upgrade to what Saab calls “cross-wheel-drive” promises an end to steering tug and torque steer, a negative for Saab since the 1970s, as well as opening a Subaru-style opportunity to re-position the brand as a performance and safety leader.
The Turbo X is fitted with a 206kW turbocharged V6 performance engine, as well as a predictable range of body and cabin upgrades, and will be priced somewhere beyond $75,000. Only 30 cars will come to Australia, from a worldwide production run of 2000, with 25 sedans and five SportCombi wagons for local deliveries.
The XWD system will be a key to Saab's future model development, once the outdated 9-3 and 9-5 are renewed and the all-new 9-1 compact and 9-4 crossover wagon join the line-up.
“It's about performance. Bringing the Turbo X to life is about capturing the true spirit of Saab, which has a proud history of innovation and performance,” says Saab's spokeswoman in Australia, Emily Perry. “The original Saab turbo was the 99, which was first shown at the Frankfurt motor show in 1977. We want to get that spirit back into the brand.
“Cross-wheel drive takes it to the next level. All-wheel-drive is used by different manufacturers for different reasons and for us it's all about performance.”
The 9-3 Turbo X with XWD has just been previewed in Europe and Saab's rally drivers gave a wicked insight into its ability during an Australian passenger program beyond the Arctic Circle in the far north of Sweden. The Turbo X was impressive and even ordinary drivers coped handily with a first exposure to ice driving — with the help of studded tyres — during a variety of driving tests in a regular XWD Aero turbo wagon.
The biggest difference between the Turbo X and the regular XWD cars is the high-tech E-differential in the back of the limited-edition car, although this is likely to be optional in Australia once the X cars are all sold.
It gives the Turbo X a sportier balance and more driver feedback. Saab Australia is already planning for the arrival of the Turbo X — which will only be available with black bodywork — as part of the strategy for GM Premium Brands which includes Hummer and the introduction of Cadillac later this year.
“We want to rejuvenate the Aero name, which happens when cross-wheel-drive is available
on the top-line Aero models. By the end of the year it will be available on the Aero, because
we are expecting the Turbo X to sell-out pretty quickly,” Perry says.
“So we will have the front-drive Aero with 188kW, or the cross-wheel-drive car at 206kW.”
And Saab is thinking further down the track.
“It will be available in the 9-4X, absolutely, and it has application for other new models as they come to life. But we cannot confirm any details around the new 9-5 or the 9-1X yet,” Perry says.
“It is truly about the next generation of Saab. It's the first step. It's what you can't see that is driving the change within Saab.”