Driving (and making sense of) the Saab 9-3x

Whilst chilling out in Trollhattan a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of driving a Saab 9-3x for a few days. There were a lot of them being driven around Trollhattan at the time and they made for a great sight on the road.

I should bring up some recent news from Trollhattan at this point, where the local dealership is talking about the recent demand for the 9-3x. This comes from TTELA and was translated by ctm (thanks!):

Great interest for 9-3x at home

Since the Trollhättan built Saab 9-3x was launched a few weeks ago, it quickly found its place on the market as a family car that can withstand tough conditions and has a higher IMG_2281.jpg ground clearance than the standard 9-3.

Lennart Andersson is the sales manager at Saab Ana in Trollhättan. He is delighted and describes the customers interest in the new model as substansial.

– Absolutely. We delivered they first one already two weeks ago, after the launch weekend. And there are many who wants to look at it, he says.

According to Lennart Andersson, the interest for the model can clearly be compared with launches of previous Saab models.

– To date we have sold about 20 cars, he says on Monday afternoon.

10 cars a week, from one model at one dealership. In Saab terms, that’s pretty good going. And having driven the 9-3x recently, I can see why.

Ever since it came on the scene back in 2005, I’ve said that the Saab 9-3 SportCombi was my favourite Saab in the current range and the one I’d buy if I were looking and able to buy a new car. So do we say that’s changed completely or just shifted a little if I afford that status to the Saab 9-3x?

I can’t put my finger on it, but this vehicle just works.

It’s extremely comfortable to drive, looks great, and the changes they’ve made to the car are seamless. It feels just like driving a normal SportCombi (as it should), but one with a serious utilitarian streak.

Dave and I took it just north of Trollhattan (I think it was north) to a little spot popular with walkers and cross country skiiers and whilst we didn’t do anything that one would consider a serious test of the car’s clearance or roadholding, we did enjoy giving the XWD system a run with some fun on the dirt.

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This track’s a long circular dirt road and we cruised it at a steady 80 km/h and felt nothing but rocksteady the whole way. We slowed a few times trying to induce some oversteer but the XWD system just wouldn’t co-operate. That might be bad news to the Clarkson’s of this world, but for those who want stability and surety, the system delivers beautifully in the 9-3x.

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My car (I like the sound of that) had the 210HP 2.0T BioPower engine and a six speed manual gearbox. Rowing the gearbox with the right hand instead of my usual left was an adventure, but one I quickly got used to and I had a ball with the car by the end of my time with it.

The twin exhaust system is subtle but has a nice growl when you plant the wellies. It’s a great piece of standard kit. And speaking of standard, the tougher plastic body panel parts, titan fibre interior trim, alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, integrated roof rails, heated seats and raised body-levelling chassis all make for good standard kit, too.

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I don’t want to get on the wrong side of 2006+ Saab 9-3 owners, but in the Saab 9-3x, the 9-3 interior finally makes sense. I’ve been critical of the 9-3’s interior materials before and I still think anyone who forks out the money for a 9-3 ought to save up a little extra for the Hirsch leather dash (FWIW, Dave’s got the Hirsch leather in his Turbo X and reckons it’s worth every penny).

The interior of the 9-3 makes sense in the 9-3x, however.

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This is more of a workman-like car and Saab have dressed it with a more workman-like interior in which the basic black of the 9-3 dash looks to be right in place. The seats are trimmed in a leather and cloth combination that’s warm, comfortable and of course, retains all the Saab comfort you’re used to.

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At the end of four days I was pretty sad to hand the 9-3x back to the good people at Saab.

Many people say that Subaru is the new Saab, and I guess you can say that the 9-3x is Saab doing a bit of a Subaru.

They’ve done it mighty well if you ask me. I’ve spent some time in Suubys (like all day today) and the 9-3x has all of the surefootedness, all of the utility, much better looks, comfort and ride. It asks a premium over a Suuby but that’s because it’s a better drive.

I just hope Saab get to push this one hard in the marketplace. Given the opportunity, it really will win a few hearts and minds.

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