When you scan the specifications on the Saab Turbo X SportCombi (despite the 9-3 badge on the back, Saab insists you call it just the Turbo X), you can't help but get excited. It's an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged station wagon with a manual transmission. You get 280 hp and nearly 300 lb-ft of torque. Plus, the Turbo X features Saab's new electronically controlled, limited-slip rear differential. On the outside, the eighteen-inch wheels are funky cool and the black paint adds to the good-looking profile. Inside, the front seats are typical Saab comfortable and the turbo boost gauge is a neat retro touch. This is all good stuff indeed.
The problem is, the basic 9-3 is getting old and you really feel that behind the wheel of the Turbo X. Our test car was cursed with squeaks and rattles, and as is often the case with Saabs, the six-speed manual shifter was imprecise. The aging 9-3 chassis is not helped by the stiffer springs and dampers fitted to the Turbo X. The low-speed ride never really settles down and the steering always has a rubbery feel to it. The sportier exhaust sounds good when driving through a parking garage with the windows open but usually it is just too boomy inside the cabin. Sure, the traction of Saab's all-wheel-drive system is impressive but the overall driving experience of the Turbo X does not live up to the impressive specifications list, especially for close to $45,000.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor