Feeling the Torque, Loving the Turbo. Driving the Saab Turbo X

By Mike Mello

05.23.2008

How much fun can you have in second gear? You can have plenty – when there’s 280 hp and 295 ft.-lb at the ready while trying your best line through the cones. In this special edition, all-wheel-drive Saab that’s only available in black, good times and a memorable driving experience is easy to find.

The 2008 Saab Turbo X is a rocket. It’s the kind of car that you’ll want to keep driving – on vacation, commuting, running around town, or just for the sake of driving – the Turbo X has that kind of allure. The moment you leave the driver’s seat, you’re thinking of the last shift you completed, while at the same time, anticipating the next launch.

During a recent media event where drivers got the chance to get aggressive with the Turbo X SportSedan and SportCombi wagon, I got a taste of what Saab’s XWD system (pronounced: cross-wheel-drive) is capable of delivering. The Turbo Xs on hand were fitted with either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions which were ready to deliver the 295 ft-lbs of torque on this dry, sunny day. The course, set up in a large parking lot with a sandy corner at one end offered ample room to get to know the Turbo X, in addition to driving the surrounding back-roads and highways.

Admittedly, I’m no seasoned pro when it comes to pushing the limits of the Turbo X in the slalom, but I know traction when I feel it – and traction combined with turbo power had me feeling in control, which lead to more driving joy. The seats felt comfortably firm with the right amount of plush bolstering and the gearshift knob was a favorite touch of mine. Finished in a rounded triangle form – which fit my fingers well during rearward throws and let my palm grip firmly in forward throws – I looked forward to shifting. I’m naturally drawn to standard-shift cars, but it deserves mentioning that the automatic featured up and down shifting capability both on the console and through steering wheel-mounted tabs.

In the quick passes around the parking lot track, the Haldex Gen 4 XWD system really showed its poise though an S-curve that greeted the driver with a large patch of loose, dry sand. After picking up some tips from Saab Turbo X Engineering Project Manager, Tommy Sundin, I chose my line, aimed the car into the turn then hit the gas. Grip is a beautiful thing! The Turbo X went where I directed it and had power to spare coming out of the turn. There are other cars with all wheel drive systems, but I can only speak to how properly engineered this drivetrain felt as I’ve not had the chance to drive other the other brands on a course such as this.


Looking at a cutaway display unit of the Turbo X’s Rear Drive Module, Sundin explained that the electronically controlled limited slip differential (eLSD) controls the torque being applied to the right and left rear wheels. Up to 40 percent of the available torque can be applied to whichever wheel has the most traction. Also housed in the Rear Drive Module is the Torque Transfer Device (TTD) which controls the amount of torque distributed to the front and rear differentials. As expected, the Turbo X’s anti-lock braking and Electronic Stability Program (ESP) communicate with the XWD system to yield optimum handling and braking, but the driver retains the option of switching off the ESP. If the system detects and emergency situation, the ESP will reactivate itself automatically. A unique Turbo X specification is that the suspension has been lowered 10 mm. The 18″ alloy wheels are unmistakably inspired by those found on the much-loved 900 Turbo, looking strong and stable with a wide, triple-spoke design.
Driving the Turbo X on the interstate let me know that with a turbo, you always feel like there’s more power available. I’ve never owned a turbo car, but the power reserve just didn’t seem to have an end when cruising at 65+ mph, negotiating your average interstate traffic. Top speed on the Turbo X is unrestricted and the brakes measure 13.6″/345 mm at the front and 11.5″/292 mm at the rear. Don’t loan this car out to your kids – ever. It’s unrelentingly quick, absolutely comfortable, and stops under control, but cannot be trusted to an unseasoned driver.

In the cockpit, you notice another nod to the cult-car that is the 900 Turbo – the return of the analog turbo gauge with the white, orange and red graduations. Near the OnStar and stereo interface, one cup holder pops out at the touch of a button and unfolds with a jack-knife kind of motion. Classic Saab A/C and heating vents let you direct the airflow by rotating the joystick-like knob on each vent and a subtle, brushed silver-colored molding encompasses the main controls on the dash. The “black panel” button is, of course, there when you need it, and the ignition is on the console, between the bucket seats. Depending on how you grip the emergency brake lever, your knuckle may contact the carbon fiber trim when releasing the e-brake. A nice touch is the cruise control stalk which is operated by easily rotating a rounded, rubber selector wheel.

Production of the Turbo X will be limited to 2000 units worldwide. Within these 2000 cars, 600 will be available in the U.S., consisting of 475 SportSedans and 125 SportCombis. Pricing starts at $42,510 and $43,310, respectively. Obviously, a car produced in such limited quantities should be considered by anyone who’s loved a Saab, but should also be considered by those beginning their shopping for an all-wheel-drive, fun-to-drive sport sedan or wagon. Saab has been producing high-torque, turbo-equipped engines for many years and the Turbo X is looking to convert you into a turbo-believer.

Image gallery: For more images of the 2008 Saab Turbo X, go here.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m jealous! I’ve been waiting for this car for a long time. It’s the first AWD car that Saab will have and they came out with a bang, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to see the 9-4, the new 9-5, the 9-1, etc. Saab is coming back!

  2. The torque steer has got be less with AWD which is long overdue in the Saab line.

  3. Yeah, Saab was late to the game with the AWD but they do seem to have it right with this car.

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