Finally Official: 2010 Saab 9-3X
By Kevin Miller
Rumored for months to be in the pipeline, Saab today issued a press release confirming the existence of the 9-3X. The release indicated the vehicle will premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in March, with its US debut at the New York Auto Show in April. The 9-3X is a new addition to the 9-3 range, and will be available this autumn in North America as a 2010 model year vehicle.
The 9-3X is essentially an all-wheel drive 9-3 SportCombi which has been raised 1.4 inches to handle more-rugged off-road driving conditions. New front and rear bumpers feature dark gray cladding, that is also present on the side sills and the edges of the wheel arches. The cladding is complemented by matte aluminum lower-door décor strips and skid panels. Roof rails, chrome-ringed front fog lamps, and visible, twin round exhaust tailpipes are standard. Newly designed, multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels are intended to communicate the 9-3X’s ability to handle varied road conditions. Inside, the 9-3X builds from the standard 9-3 motif, employing a dark metallic finish to the door trims, glove box and gearshift surround.
Much like other automakers’ raised-suspension AWD wagons, The 9-3X is designed to give the additional clearance needed for driving on unpaved roads, without compromising the driving experience on paved surfaces. Saab describes the 9-3X as being for people with active lifestyles who don’t want a large crossover or SUV, and as a rugged all-round car designed to take active individualists to the start of their adventure. Realistically, they’re likely hoping it will appeal to people who are shopping for a Volvo XC70 or Subaru Outback.
The 9-3X features Saab’s Cross Wheel Drive (XWD) system which was introduced in last year’s limited edition Turbo X, combined with the automaker’s fuel-efficient 210 HP, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine. The AWD hardware includes an electronically-controlled Torque Transfer Device (TTD), which varies power delivery between the axles. A valve increases or reduces hydraulic pressure on wet clutch plates inside the TTD to progressively engage or disengage the rear axle. The degree of ‘slip’ dictates how much drive is transmitted to the rear wheels. A standard rear limited slip differential (eLSD) operates on the same principle, splitting drive across the axle to whichever wheel has more grip. This will be the first application of the eLSD on four-cylinder, XWD-equipped Saabs in the US.
Having driven Saab’s Turbo X SportCombi several miles on a gravel Forest Service road in Oregon last summer, I can see where it makes sense to give the vehicle a more compliant raised suspension- the 9-3X has the potential to be a useful wagon. As a 2010 model year vehicle, the 9-3X is expected to arrive in Saab showrooms across the United States this fall. Pricing will be announced at the start of the model year, though a starting price around $33-35k is what you are likely to find when the tall wagon goes on sale at Saab’s remaining US dealers.
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