Driving the Saab Turbo-X
UPDATE 22-may-2008: Hey I broke 1000 miles – so here’s an update.
Last summer I started looking for a new car to replace my 2003 VW GTI VR6. Some of you might have read my “Two Germans and a Swede” post that talked about my decision. I placed my order for the Turbo-X on the first day possible and since then it has been many months of waiting. Yesterday I headed over to Saab of Hunterdon, picked up the car and brought it home to Tarn Aeluin.
The look of the car is slick and dark. The paint is exceptional and highly polished. Combined with the wheels and the titanium trim, the car really does look like a “Sith roadster”. A turn of the key adds to this with the deep rumble of the exhaust. There are a number of nice exterior details that really set the car off. The rear lip spoiler that looks in pictures like a “glue on”, really looks pretty nice in person. The front lower air intake and the rear end’s exhaust layout make the car really standout. It is a very aggressive look.
Inside the car we’ve all seen pictures of the carbon-trim, the all-black interior, the classic turbo gauge. I’m very impressed with the look and quality of the interior and the comfort of the seats. I also really like the thick steering wheel and the large control stalks. The layout of the dash gives you great visibility of the controls and to the nav/audio system. I’ll have to spend some time figuring out the climate control system and the navigation as they are fairly sophisticated.
As with the exterior of the car, the interior looks much better in person than in any of the pictures on the internet. I always thought the carbon-fiber pieces looked greenish in most pics, but in person they are a very dark black. The plastics are solid and firm, not cheesy. The entire interior is well constructed, sleek, and laid out nicely.
I included a shot with the Nav system. The navigation and audio system is pretty nice. The touch screen interface works quite well and the sound is excellent. With the windows closed the car is very quiet so you can really enjoy the stereo – but you can still hear the exhaust notes and the engine.
There are some strange things however with this car. For example most cars will auto-lock when you go over 7 mph; the cup holders offer an interesting size challenge; and for those of you with small kids the rear windows go all the way down (a plus in my book!). There’s also no interior gas tank lid release. I guess this is because the tank lid is an old-style one that opens from the outside. I’ll have to get a cap with a lock I guess. Another thing about the gas tank – after a fill up it takes about 10 minutes for the needle to get up to the top of the dial.
I did notice one interesting “quirk” with the interior, the driver side running board is labeled with “Turbo-X” and the passenger side (on the right) is labeled with “Vector”. Check it out:
I put about 100 miles on the car yesterday. I got the manual transmission. It is going to take me a while to get used to it. My GTI had a very short shift and clutch. The shifting in the Turbo-X is quite a bit longer. Nevertheless the car has power and from a standing start it can really move. There’s plenty of turbo power. You really feel the car’s acceleration all the way up to 5000 RPM- I can’t say beyond that since I’m in the break in period still.
Handling in the car is really amazing. While I haven’t pushed it too hard yet, I can move through corners and turns easily where my previous ride would be straining and dipping just getting through. There’s plenty of feel in the wheel although it is not heavy. The ride is stiff without being jarring. Road feel is excellent and not damped or mushy. New Jersey’s one-lane country roads present an excellent challenge for the Turbo-X and it delivers.
Overall this is a great car. I haven’t found anything about it that I don’t like – its got personality and funk and it has guts and performance. If Saab keeps producing cars of this quality then there will certainly be a bright future for the company and its enthusiasts.
PS: A shout out to my friends at Saab of Hunterdon for a great buying experience.