2008 Saab Turbo X vs Saab 9-3 Aero XWD

I got an email last Friday from Saab USA. They’re concerned that there’s still confusion about the Saab Turbo X and the email had a presentation attached.
The presentation shows how, as an enhanced model, the Saab Turbo X is a greater special edition than the 9-3 Viggen was relative to the OG 9-3. This is a reasonable thing to discuss and shouldn’t be devalued, but devalue it a little I must, as it completely misses the point.
No-one’s shopping the Turbo X against a Viggen, so whilst that discussion will be a good one for a future Saab Owner’s Convention, it’s of limited relevance in the here and now. The one question people want answered about the Turbo X is “Why should I buy one instead of just getting an Aero with XWD, or waiting until 2009 when the Aero with XWD will have the eLSD (at least in the US market)?”
Saab Turbo X
I pointed this out to SaabUSA and they’re not able to provide the answer to that at the moment, primarily because the 2009 specs haven’t been set. Fair enough. But if they want to clear the air on the Turbo X, they’re going to have to address it some time.
So here’s a brief Trollhattan Saab comparison, based on known information about the cars.


I don’t list this first because it’s the most important, not by any means. But you’ve got to start somewhere. I had a question on the site a few days ago asking if the Turbo-X would be continued in to the 09 model year, so it’s relevant to mention here.
The Saab Turbo-X will be limited to a worldwide volume of just 2,000 units for the 2008 model year only. Each country has an allocation, so if you want to get one, it’s not one in 2,000, it’s one in 600 if you’re in the US, one in 500 if you’re in the UK, one in 30 if you’re in Australia. I’ve got a number of national volumes listed here (along with everything else you need to know about the vehicle), but if your country isn’t listed you need to check with your national Saab organisation to see how many you’re getting.

If you think exclusivity doesn’t matter, then have a chat with a Viggen owner, or a 900 Turbo S owner. I love Saabs of all generations and iterations, but these special Saabs are special for a reason.

XWD System

The Saab Turbo X will be the showcase vehicle for the new XWD (cross wheel drive) system, which allows for torque splits not only between front and rear, but also from side to side in the rear.
Haldex XWD
The Saab 9-3 Aero with XWD (hereon referred to as the ‘XWD Aero’) will also get the XWD system, but in 2008 that system won’t have the electronic limited slip differential (eLSD). And this is critical, as it’s the eLSD that allows the torque split from side to side on the rear wheels.
It’s understood that the XWD Aero will get the eLSD as standard equipment in 2009 in the US market. It’s unknown whether it will be standard or an option in other markets.

XWD awesomeness

It’d be easy to read about the XWD system being available, partially available, delayed, etc, and not think about how good the system is. This system, from my brief drive and from similar drives by multiple motoring press, is absolutely brilliant.
Don’t just read about the XWD system and think about it intellectually. This system gives great reassurance. It’s fully tied in with the ESP system, which is tailor made for the car so as to cut in later, allowing the XWD system to control more of the traction characteristics by shifting the torque around in any given situation before cutting in.

Power Delivery

Both the Turbo X and the XWD Aero will come with a V6 engine of 2.8 litres displacement and both will put out 280hp and 400N of torque.
So where’s the difference?
The gearbox in the Turbo X is strengthened and will have the torque limitation removed in first and second gear, which the XWD Aero will miss out on (for 2008 at least – no indications yet for 09 onwards). This will give you much more grunt early on and explains the improved 0-100 km/h time.


The XWD Aero already comes with a sports tuned chassis that’s lowered in comparison with the 2.0T.
The Turbo X comes with an even finer-tuned chassis that’s lowered a further 10mm. This lowers the center of gravity even further and allows for better handling and control. The front and rear dampers have been selected to suit and the rear dampers are self-levelling to provide a consistent ride.
People spend considerable amounts of money doing this stuff on other cars, aftermarket. With the Turbo X, the suspensions system is already done and tuned to the dynamics of the XWD system.


The XWD Aero, as far as I know, will come with 314mm front brakes. These will be fantastic.
The Turbo X will come with massive 345mm brakes on the front.
This is another one of those instances where you might see a number and think “oh, that’s good” without really giving it the thought it deserves. As a Viggen owner, I can testify to the reassurance a good set of brakes can give to a driver. These are much bigger than my Viggen brakes.
Again, people spend bucketloads on uprated brakes. We’re talking upwards of $3,000 for a big brake kit in some most instances. This is a real and tangible difference maker. A car can get as angry as a cut snake when you hit the gas, but if you can’t stop it properly then it’s just one thing – dangerous.
You won’t believe the reassurance and confidence that better brakes can bring until you try them.
Saab Turbo X


It’s somewhat superficial, but in so many instances the wheels maketh the car. So it is with the Turbo X.
At the Detroit Auto Show the Turbo X they had there didn’t have Turbo X wheels fitted. It had a standard set of double-blade 18-inch wheels on it. A handsome set of wheels by anyone’s standards, but the Turbo X wheels are something else again.
These babies really stand out and dress the car very well indeed. And they’re exclusive to the Turbo X.

Exterior and Interior Trim

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this as for most people, this is just gravy. The meat is in the powertrain and the way the rubber hits the road.
But there are a number of exclusive Turbo X additions. As I mentioned earlier with regard to exclusivity, ask a Viggen owner if he/she likes the Viggen specific interior. You’ll get a resounding ‘yes’
Saab Turbo X
The exterior trim includes a new rear spoiler on the sedan, a new rear air dam and a deeper front spoiler – all designed to reduce drag that little bit more. Add all that to the already improved, more purposeful design of the 2008 9-3 and thrown in those rhomboid exhaust pipes at the back and you’ll be smiling every time you walk up to the car.
The interior gets some good stuff too. I love my carbon fibre, and the old-school turbo guage and fancy display messages will be a nice touch that owners will appreciate.
The details do count.
If you just look at a list of differences between the Turbo X and the XWD Aero, most of the items on the list will be details such as trim, etc. That’s why I’ve tried to actually write about the differences here and just include the trim items as a group. The list view gives a disproportionate picture and discounts the importance of the fundamentals.
I’ve tried to emphasise a little more on the material differences between the vehicles as I think that’s what buyers really want to know. And I think when you measure those differences and the real-world effects they’ll have on the driving experience, then you’ll see that the Turbo X will indeed stack up nicely.
The XWD Aero is going to be absolutely superb.
The Saab Turbo X is going to be a limited edition screamer.
I’ve heard from a number of people who have ordered one already and all I can say is that I’m insanely jealous.
And if anyone at Saab has some other fundamental differences to add that I’ve missed, you know where to find me. I’ll be more than happy to add them to the post.