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Motoring: Saab returning to its roots

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | December 1st, 2008

If you are the sort of person who always likes to follow the beat of a different (unique) drummer, then Saab was your kind of car.

However, over the last few years, they have tried to come out with models based on other manufacturers platforms, to help them get their feet into the mainstream market, something Saab purists didn't like.

But Saab enthusiasts don't need to fret; Saab is still making, original, unique, bonker cars, and the best one yet has recently gone on sale. It's called the 9-3 Turbo X, and let me tell you, it has more than just its cool name going for it.

First of all, I love its styling. The newly updated 9-3 is a sharp looking car, but the Turbo X looks downright mean. Honestly, I bet the guy who designed its nose must have a room full of Darth Vader posters. As a result it looks mean and aggressive, no wonder most cars just moved out of my way as I approached them on the highway.

And approach it would, because this is a fast car. Under the hood is a 2.8-litre, turbo-charged V6 that produces 280hp. That power is translated to all-four wheels, a first for a Saab sedan, through a smooth six-speed manual gearbox. This gearbox might have long throws, but it is still a delight to use, because each gear engages with so little effort and feels so silky smooth, you can't help but smile every time you reach for the gear lever.

You also smile when the turbo kicks in and all of its 295 lb/ft of torque hits the tarmac. Since this Saab is all-wheel drive, or as they call it XWD, there is no nasty torque-steer that used to be associated with previous Saab's.

As with any all-wheel drive car, doing a proper quick launch is hard, but when you get it right, 0-100km/h comes up in just 5.4 seconds, and top speed is limited to 250 km/h, which is certainly fast enough to keep up with almost all of its German rivals.

It will keep up with them in the corners too, because this car has a very capable chassis, and that XWD system certainly helps. The suspension settings are a bit too soft for this car's sporty demeanor, but on the upside the ride quality is superb. If you do a lot of highway driving, you will absolutely love this Saab.

For those long drives, you would also love its fabulous seats, its space in the cabin, its spacious trunk, and all the gadgets you'd really want. Sure the navigation system in this car is very much out of date and I hope an update is coming soon, but otherwise there is nothing to fault.

All in all this is a fantastic vehicle and one that I would be more than happy to drive every single day. With prices starting at $55,000 for the Turbo X (XWD), it is priced very well against its German and Japanese rivals. However, nowadays even the Americans are building great cars (by the way, Saab is owned by GM), and this Turbo X is priced almost identically to the new Cadillac CTS all-wheel drive.

Compared to the Turbo X, the CTS has a much nicer navigation system, and the quality of its interior trim is nicer. But as much as I like the CTS, if I was spending my money, I'd buy the Turbo X.
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