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First drive: Turbo X and twin-turbo oiler boost Saab

How Swede it is: TTiD comes as a sedan and wagon, but only in Aero trim.

Saab introduces AWD and a twin-turbo diesel engine to its mid-sized 9-3 series

27 Jun 2008

ALMOST seven months after Saab launched its MY08 9-3 series in Australia, the Swedish marque has introduced the two most significant developments in the overhauled range – a TTiD twin-turbocharged diesel engine, and an all-wheel drive variant known as Turbo X.

In a cruel twist of fate, the 2.8-litre V6 petrol-powered Turbo X – a model that Saab claims “sets a new standard for the brand in driver-focused performance” – has emerged as a limited edition model with a mere 30 examples out of 2000 worldwide available for purchase here.

Five of these are SportCombi station wagons, priced from $91,300 the remainder are sedans, priced from $88,800. Saab Australia had three confirmed orders at the time of writing.

“I just want to reiterate that the Turbo X is not about volume,” said Saab director Parveen Batish this week at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in South Gippsland, Victoria.

“It’s about re-igniting the passion for Saab which was famous for cars like the 900 Turbo. It’s about reinvigorating the brand and demonstrating Saab’s leadership in turbocharging and reminding the world that we make cars that are actually fun to drive.” At the official presentation, the expensive and limited-edition status of the Turbo X appeared to be another example of parent General Motors restricting the development of Saab models, as it has done in delaying redesigned and new-segment vehicles for the Swedish brand – and in deciding not to implement all-wheel drive before now, despite more than two decades of in-house development.

38 center imageTop to bottom: Turbo X TTiD wagon Turbo X outside and in. However, Mr Batish later revealed to GoAuto that all-wheel drive was scheduled to be available “fairly soon” across the wider 9-3 range. He would not specify a month, but hoped the first mainstream model variants with the so-called XWD (cross-wheel drive) system would become available later this year.

Saab faces a different challenge with the 1.9-litre twin-turbocharged Aero TTiD, which has arrived at a time when the value of diesel passenger cars is under scrutiny as the price disparity increases between diesel and petrol fuel – and with the price premium diesel cars often attract over petrol.

Significantly, the latter is not the case here, with the Aero TTiD priced from $62,600 – $8000 below the Aero 2.8T V6 in six-speed manual sedan form. A six-speed automatic transmission adds $2500, and the SportCombi bodystyle also adds another $2500.

“Nearly 30 per cent of all Saab vehicles sold are now diesel,” Mr Batish said. “And in TTiD, we have a vehicle that will appeal to these people who are looking for the fuel efficiency of a diesel, but what they’ll also get is performance – in a big way.

“With TTiD there’s no ‘either or’ – it is performance AND responsibility.” Mr Batish illustrated this with the sport sedan version’s official fuel consumption average of 5.7L/100km (manual the auto consumes 6.8L/100km) and the engine’s output: 132kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm at 1850-2750rpm (again, in manual form the automatic is detuned to 370Nm at 1750-3250rpm).

Other statistics of note include standing-start acceleration (0-100km/h) of 8.5 seconds for the manual sedan, and impressive in-gear acceleration (80-120km/h in fifth) of 8.4 seconds. CO2 emissions are 151g/km for the manual sedan and 179g/km for the auto.

By comparison, the 188kW/350Nm 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 petrol Aero sedan (manual) completes 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds, completes 80-120km/h in fifth in 7.9 seconds, consumes 10.6L/100km and emits 250g/km.

The twin-turbo version is a substantial improvement over the base 1.9-litre common-rail single-turbo diesel that produces 110kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm from 2000-2750rpm.

The single turbo sedan manual is 1.1 seconds slower across both abovementioned performance measures, consumes more fuel in manual form (6.2L/100km the auto returns 6.8L/100km) and emits more CO2 (163/181g/km auto/manual) – all no great surprise considering the extra components on the so-called “two-stage” version.

These include a new camshaft housing design, redesigned cylinder to head (to cope with the increased combustion pressure and temperature), larger-capacity high-pressure fuel pump and injectors, new intake and exhaust manifolds and catalytic converter, and a new stronger engine block, pistons and piston rods.

Maximum boost pressure is 1.8 bar versus 1.1 bar for the single, and the compression ratio is slightly lower at 16.5:1 compared to 17.5:1.

Claimed to be the first of its kind in the premium-car segment, the “two-stage” engine refers to the use of a large turbo for ultimate performance and a smaller one that spools up quickly for fast throttle response, especially at low speeds.

This is the first time a diesel has had enough performance orientation to warrant specification in Aero trim. As a result, it carries signature traits of this premium-sports level, including bi-Xenon headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, sports-tuned suspension, “Aero” leather upholstery, electric front seats and a premium Bose stereo with six-disc in-dash CD player.

Also based on the Aero specification, the limited-issue 9-3 Turbo X combines XWD – which features an active limited-slip rear differential (dubbed eLSD) that can direct up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels – with a higher-output version of the 2.8-litre V6 turbo. It drives through a six-speed manual gearbox or a ($2500) six-speed automatic.

Running on a minimum 98 RON premium-unleaded fuel, the X-rated engine produces 206kW at 5300rpm and 400Nm from 1900-4500rpm, and, combined with the manual, can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.2 seconds.

In-gear acceleration is identical to the lower-output version, while fuel consumption is higher at 10.9L/100km (11.6L/100km for the auto) and CO2 emissions are likewise up the scale at 261g/km (auto: 276g/km).

Compared to the Aero, the Turbo X has had its chassis lowered a further 10mm, the springs are harder and, at the rear end, Nivomat auto-levelling shock absorbers have been introduced.

The limited edition also features a deeper lip spoiler and integrated air intake to help reduce drag and increase airflow to the engine. At the rear, a reprofiled bumper and insert panel lowers the point of airflow separation in order to further reduce drag and assist in high-speed stability. The sedan version also has a rear spoiler that reduces high-speed lift forces at the rear axle.

Other unique items on the all-black X include rhomboid-shaped twin exhaust outlets, an 18-inch alloy wheel pattern (three-arm 19-inch alloys are also available for $2250) and matte grey titanium-look exterior detailing. There is no colour other than jet-black metallic.

Inside, the black turbo theme continues with black leather (with additional bolstering), a thicker-rimmed steering wheel, carbon-look highlights, a replica 900 Turbo boost gauge and a “Ready for take-off” welcome message. Premium natural leather is a $4000 option.

Owners can also get their name and the vehicle’s edition number programmed into the car.

Saab 9-3 TTiD and Turbo X range pricing:
9-3 TTiD Aero Sport Sedan $62,600
9-3 TTiD Aero Sport Sedan (a) $65,100
9-3 TTiD Aero SportCombi $65,100
9-3 TTiD Aero SportCombi (a) $67,600
9-3 Turbo X Sport Sedan $88,800
9-3 Turbo X Sport Sedan (a) $91,300
9-3 Turbo X SportCombi $91,300
9-3 Turbo X SportCombi (a) $93,800

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