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.

33 Comments

  1. Swade

    If it’s like other Saabs that have gone before it, the gas cap door will lock automatically when the car is locked. When the car is unlocked you can open it and fill up. When you get used to it, it’s fantastic!

    A great writeup. Congrats!!

    Reply
  2. Swade

    Oh, and I’d contact SOH about that Vector running board. I think that’s a factory mistake, but it’s not good. A small blemish on what otherwise sounds like a superb car.

    Reply
  3. berenerchamion (Post author)

    Yeah – I figured it was some kind of strange mistake…I’m sure it can be fixed quickly…

    Reply
  4. Ken B

    Both of my running boards say “Turbo X.” Swade’s right, tell the dealer.

    Reply
  5. berenerchamion (Post author)

    Thanks – I already shot them an email. I guess that takes the whole “quirky” image to a new level 🙂

    Reply
  6. Kroum

    A great write-up, Beren! Congrats! Cannot wait for my own X to arrive in a week or two, to finally experience all the goodness first hand.

    Reply
  7. Trent

    On the auto lock, my dealer has told me they can program it in when I make my next service. He says it will auto lock when you put the car into drive.

    Reply
  8. Bob

    Very nice… very nice indeed!
    I have a Turbo X SportCombi on order, it’ll take a few more weeks to arrive!
    BTW – did you get the Turbo X Mug with the car – or did you buy it as an accessory!

    Reply
  9. James

    Interesting you note the rear windows going all the way down. I was told that when the rear windows don’t go all the way down, it’s because the door doesn’t have space for the entire window (impeded by the rear wheel usually.) So, if the door does have the room for the window (like in your 9-3) it should go all the way down.

    It’s a gorgeous car, and I hate to see it marred by that stupid Jersey windshield sticker. Everytime I go back to New York/New Jersey (and I used to live there) I’m just in shock that people willingly deal with those blasted stickers (especially New York, where it seems like the sticker eats up half the windshield.)

    Reply
  10. berenerchamion (Post author)

    My dealer gave me the cup as a gift – pretty fitting since I had a t-shirt with a caffeine molecule on it. I was very relieved this morning however when my large Dunkin’ Donuts cup fit nicely in the holder.

    Agree about the sticker…you’d think they would have a nice small bar-code or something.

    I was always under the impression that the rear-window thing was a safety feature in the US.

    Thanks for all the feedback!

    beren

    Reply
  11. MarkoA

    Of course you should not let them replace that Vector running board. Its a factory mistake, that´s coorect, but it only makes car a bit more rare if you like. I would not fix that bug.

    Reply
  12. berenerchamion (Post author)

    true true – I’ll think about it. It is pretty funny and adds to the “limited edition” feel. You’d never get that kind of mistake on a mass-produced car 🙂

    Reply
  13. 9000for10years

    Saab of Hunterdon is the worst dealership I’ve ever dealt with. They like to sell you parts and labor you don’t need. No surprise they gave you a Vector running board.

    Reply
  14. berenerchamion (Post author)

    9000for10years,

    Uh…I don’t think they manufacture the car and even I was not sure if it was supposed to be that way or not. Either way I sure wasn’t going to leave the car at the dealer to fix it.

    My experience has been different – but this isn’t a “I hate my dealer” blog. In NJ your signature is required before any repairs are done so get educated about your car and you won’t get ripped. I would apply that to just about any make/model/dealer…or in fact anything that cost more than a few hundred bucks.

    beren

    Reply
  15. Bob

    I am gettting a twin of your car next week. Thank you again for the email

    WATCH OUT! The BSR PPC tune is out, with a 23hp gain, and 480Nm total!

    http://en.bsr.se/products/t1303/

    Reply
  16. Bob

    Re. BSR PPC:

    I had the same BSR system (licensed to RICA of Holland, a more aggressive tune) in my Volvo S60R, fantastic results, the best part is that you can stop at the rest stop before the dealership and retune your car to original settings in 5 minutes, so the VIDA (OBDII Volvo interface computer) system can say it is Kosher for warranty, then back to the tune on the way home.

    Reply
  17. Bob

    Sorry, me again, the RICA version, also BSR box based is the one to look for, as historically their tunes tend to be more aggressive:

    http://www.rica.nl/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=58&products_id=172

    No Turbo X yet from RICA, but anyday now!

    Reply
  18. berenerchamion (Post author)

    I’ll probably stick with the factory settings. I would wonder if the suspension/tranny can handle the extra power without reducing the service life of the car.

    Congrats on the combi! If I hadn’t had a hatch already then I would probably have gone for it. The 9-3 combi is really nice looking I think.

    Frankly I’m just shocked that these things aren’t flying out of the dealers. Good luck with your X – I really love mine. 1700 miles now and it is a dream come true.

    BTW: I’ve been using Meguiar’s NXT series products and they really pump the shine. The wash is a ph balanced formula that rinses very clean. I’ve found the wax to be excellent as well.

    Reply
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  20. Carson

    Beren…
    I am also looking at the Turbo X…Since I am in NJ as well, did you have to paid list for the car? If not, how much discount were you able to negotiate? Many thanks.

    Reply
  21. berenerchamion (Post author)

    Pretty much list. Since I ordered mine on the first day possible there wasn’t much leverage to work a deal.

    Worth every single penny in my opinion.

    Reply
  22. XfreakX

    Hi Beren,

    Can you tell me what the three little buttons are next to the cup holder,
    my X doesn’t have them ??

    http://memimage.cardomain.com/member_images/9/web/3117000-3117999/3117762_5.jpg

    Regards,

    Fil.

    Reply
  23. berenerchamion (Post author)

    Those are the on-star crap buttons we have to deal with in the states.

    Reply
  24. 666xxx

    Ok, so it’s a car safety device, we are lucky here that we don’t have this because it isn’t that nice to look at !!

    Reply
  25. adrian

    If you want the extra performance do consider the hirsch enegine mamagment uograde to get to 300bhp. Makes more of a difference that the extra 25bhp would suggest.

    Strange that in US you couldn’t get a discount – in UK very easy to get at least 10% off.

    Reply
  26. berenerchamion (Post author)

    Saab-USA does not allow the Hirsch stuff. I think if you install it then your warranties are voided. At least that’s my understanding. I’ve also heard some debate on what the extra HP might do to shorten the lifetime of the drivetrain.

    Reply
  27. adrian

    Fortunately in the UK, Saab does (the company dealership fits it) and I have the standard 3y warranty with the Hirsch upgrade.

    Agree that the wear and tear of the extra bhp is a concern. However, the other way to look at it is that if we were so concerned about buying into new technology (e.g the xwd), we’d all go off and get Audi quattros instead! Fortunately there seems to be just enough people of taste out there who want that something a little moe individual.

    In my case I’m glad I have the Hirsch on mine (test drove one with and without before buying), it just makes the car a bit more alive and responsive (though would not take anything away from the standard car), and as I’m a relatively low mileage user (live in inner London) prepared to take some risk on extra wear if it means the rare times I give it the full welly I get the full 300bhp. If the rumours are true about the high-performance new 9-5, they are going to need to get the xwd to deal with a lot more than 300bhp!

    Reply
  28. adrian

    Saw the note about the cup – got the dealer to give me a pair of those plus some caps. My wife thought asking for the Turbo X driving gloves would be just too sad! This car has got under my skin far more than my old 9-3 Aero Convertible.

    Reply
  29. berenerchamion (Post author)

    LOL – true about the Audi comment…except I’m a former VW dude so buying in on Audi’s stuff is a bit much for me. A lot of $$$ for those rings. In reality I’m a jealous American that wishes he had the Hirsch option.

    Agreed on the 9-5 XWD and my guess is that Saab over-engineered the 9-3. That’s the only answer to the weight question: why is the 9-3 so heavy? They knew that a bunch of breaking cars in a limited series sold to their biggest fans would be the last nail in the coffin. At least that’s my guess.

    That Turbo-X cup is a perfect size for a double shot capuccino – I prefer a Lavazza myself. I also have a Keurig coffee maker. The large size fits perfectly into the cup.

    Reply
    1. busablade

      im going to look at an x turbo saloon on wednesday. the main dealer has it since new as his own car and has done 17000 miles.il get the full 2 year warranty.its my wife who will be driving it most and she thinks it will be too loud inside compared to our 04 aero. personally i love the sound but can anyone tell me if its any quieter inside the saloon compared to the estate which i have driven…..its a beautiful car and i want one…

      Reply
      1. Beren (Post author)

        Hi Busablade,

        I can tell you for sure that the Turbo-X is designed to have this sound and will be louder than an Aero. It was definitely louder than an 08 Aero both outside and inside. Inside the car the sound is much less, but is still louder than an Aero in my opinion.

        The car does get quieter after the first 45 seconds after you start it. Most of the noise is during acceleration. On the highway or at speed the car is pretty quiet – like an Aero.

        I’ll admit I absolutely love the sound – its not a cheese fat tail sound, but a deep mature rumble and not really all that loud. People that hear it are impressed and surprised that a Saab could be so “powerful”. lol.

        Good luck with your test drive – I have 34K miles and love the car.

        Reply
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  31. Beren (Post author)

    Still one of my best posts ever – and still gets quite a few hits. Sure do miss the car – if you didn’t read it, my car was wrecked by an idiot girl on a cell phone. I also admit that I miss the Saab community – I still participate, but its not the same without the Griffin in the gargage.

    Reply

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