Saab Turbo X Introduced in Boston
By Mike Mello
New England is a part of the world where you’re likely to see a fair amount of Saabs. I park near a red, late model 9-3 every day at work, my girlfriend drives a 95 900 SE, and I walked by an exceptionally clean-looking 900 for sale in a Boston neighborhood the other day.
The 2008 Saab Turbo X, which debuted for the press at the New England International Auto Show in Boston, Tuesday, is a cunning, stealthy, turbocharged example of what to expect from Saab in the coming years. However, not only does this exclusive version of the 9-3 luxury sedan show off brand-anchoring design cues, it celebrates Saab’s 30 years of turbocharging, the first system appearing in the 1978 99 Turbo.
Saab lovers heading to the show will be delighted, if not totally stopped in their tracks at the sight of a perfectly refreshed 1985 900 Turbo parked near the new Turbo X at the Saab display area. For 2008, only 600 Turbo X models will be produced, with the Turbo X goods being split between either 9-3 four-door Sport Sedans or hatchback-equipped SportCombi models.
Guiding the return to true Saabness is the Aero X concept, which debuted in Geneva, 2006, and is also on display at the Boston show. The Turbo X makes smart use of some of the design cues from the Aero X in subtle ways. I think Saab followers and new luxury car shoppers alike will find the forward shape of the hood quite attractive, as it presents an extended, horizontal arc that conveys a sense of momentum above the engine bay, providing a sweeping transitional plane that meets the upper edge of the front quarter panels in clean-cut fashion. Gone is the rub strip of past sedans, leaving, again, clean door faces and smooth bumpers that won’t trap wax after years polishing. A pair of sophisticated headlamp assemblies thrust forward the 3-port grille, which, as GM Vice President of North American Design, Bryan Nesbitt remarked, truly serves as the face by which people identify the brand.
Most noteable about the Turbo X is the XWD all-wheel-drive system, which not only decides how much power to send to the front or rear wheels, but also regulates power between the two rear wheels. Up to 40 percent of the torque delivered to the rear wheels is handled by an electronically controlled limited slip differential, sending power to the wheel with the most grip.
Speaking of grip, I was fortunate enough to speak with Saab 9-3/9-5 product manager John Libbos about the Saab Aero Academy; a two-day performance driving program offered to new Saab owners at Road Atlanta in Georgia. While asking Libbos about Saab’s challenge of retaining loyal owners as well as attracting new ones, I remarked that the Aero Academy sounded attractive, and that perhaps it should be developed more in Saab advertising. To me, it’s not just performance-oriented drivers who might enjoy this kind of program with their new Saabs. How many people out there know of the Aero Academy program? Other manufacturers have similar driving schools up and running and I feel that Saab should spread the word about the Aero Academy. Communities of like-minded people are sharing ideas all over the Internet today, and perhaps new Saab owners who meet at the Aero program would share their experiences with other potential Saab shoppers.
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