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2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X Sport Sedan Review

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By Mark Gordon
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

I was pretty excited when I found out I was going to spend a week with the Saab 9-3 Turbo X. I’ve never driven a Saab, but I have always thought they were a “cool” car. A little outside the mainstream. Design means something to Saab. I have to admit that I really haven’t followed Saab’s trials and tribulations, but I am hooked up enough to know that Saab is now GM. Doesn’t bode well, but I was still looking forward to my time with the Turbo X.

So not wholly unlike an illicit transaction, I was going to meet my ride at the gas station on 6th Avenue. My heart was beating with anticipation as I pulled in to the station and saw my beauty sitting in the back corner. Great lines. It wasn’t an old Saab, but it reminded me of one. You might say it was Saabesque. Actually you probably wouldn’t say that, but I certainly would, and I did. The keys were given me by the friendly trolls from Speciality Transport and all formalities and rituals were put to bed fast. This Saabesque beauty was mine for 1 week.

I circled around her and admired her design. Good-looking car. Opened the trunk and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of space. I could fit all my gear in here. Well maybe not all my gear, but certainly enough gear for any 1 of my hobbies. Enough for a good road trip. I opened the very solid door and sat down.

Damn those seats are comfortable. I felt like they were custom made for me. They felt that good. I liked the fact that the car was a minimalist. I’m not a minimalist. I’m a maximalist who envies minimalists. If only I could throw it all away. No gear; No clutter. Ain’t gonna happen, but I can dream can’t I?

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No matter what the voice in the back of my head, the one who doubts anything GM builds, was saying, the outer voice, the one who always tries to be fair, was convinced no GM engineer designed this interior. It had to be designed by a guy named Sven or Torvold. Someone who could star in a Bergman film had something to do with this interior. It screamed car, but in a whisper. Nothing extraneous, nothing superfluous. This was all I needed, and Torvold knew it.

So now it is time to drive. I wanted to back out of the spot. I wanted to just drive away. I wanted to be as hip as this car looked. But I couldn’t find reverse on the 5-speed manual transmission. I kept thinking I was in reverse, but I would creep forward. This is embarrassing. So embarrassing that the only way to rid myself of the shame is to admit it to the world. So here it is. I couldn’t find reverse in the Jet Black Saab 9-3 Turbo X Sport Sedan. The whole world was looking at me as I kept moving closer to the brick wall at the back of the gas station on 6th Avenue. Everyone had to be wondering why I kept inching closer to the wall in this very cool Jet Black vehicle. “Hey buddy, why are you moving perilously close to that wall?” A crowd of on-lookers began to circle around. Their piercing blue eyes and beach blond hair began to surround me. They were laughing, but the soundtrack was slightly off. I heard the laughter and I saw their smiles, but the two weren’t synced. “If there is a creator in heaven, please heed my prayer. Please show me how to put this Jet Black Saab 9-3 Turbo X Sport Sedan into reverse. And while you are at it make all these extras from Bergman’s last film morph into their doppelgangers and leave me alone.” Just then a brilliant thought came to me. It had to be a divine spark from the good Scandinavian lord. I pulled out the manual. To put this beauty in reverse you have to pull up on the doo hickey that surrounds the shifter. Thank god there was a manual in the glove compartment or I’d still be sitting in the parking lot.

It went right into reverse and the mortal danger that the brick wall posed just moments ago vanished into thin air. The crowd dispersed and all my prayers were answered. This car moves. And it doesn’t just move it moves with aplomb.

Oh how fast my Black beauty accelerated. Oh my, how well you take turns oh great Turbo Saab. You are car and I am driver and the two of us shall never part, until I have to turn you back over to the heathens at the gas station next week.

So now it was time to take the car up to the mountains. To rise up past the arid and flat plains. The dreaded Floyd’s Hill was right up ahead. This is the hill that on some snowy nights I watch as 18-wheelers slide backwards towards on-coming traffic. As they slide towards you, you pray that they jack knife and just stop. It was a dry day, but the 9-3 went up the dreaded Floyd’s Hill like it was a flat parking lot. Halfway up the hill I decided to have a little more fun. I decided to accelerate on the steepest part. The Turbo drive kicked in and this little Saab went. I’m not going to tell you the quantitative statistics of my ride as that could get me in trouble with a certain segment of our state government. But let me say that qualitatively this thing rocked.

The 9-3 is too much fun for the interstate, so I took a little detour. Raw speed is great, don’t get me wrong. And raw speed with amazing acceleration is something that we all crave. But I wanted torque. I wanted to see how this All Wheel Drive car cornered. All the way up to the Continental Divide, this car conquered the roads. The brakes seemed like one of those extras that weren’t needed. I could just accelerate into the next curve as we climbed up to 11,000 feet. I let the engine slow me down just enough to safely stay on the road on the way back down.

The week of my Saab went very fast. If only I could have treasured every second just a bit more. I should have kept reminding myself of the fleeting nature of life. I should have appreciated every G-force that the 9-3 and I shared. But I was having too much fun just driving through the mountains. And then suddenly the week was over. I had to give up the 9-3. Despair surrounded me and infiltrated every pore. Day to day existence weighed heavy on my poor tired frame. I felt like a never-ending winter night. The kind of night Kierkegaard (yes I know he is Danish, but it is still in Scandinavia) lived every day of his sorrowful existence. Oh dreaded life....give me back my Jet Black Saab 9-3 Turbo X Sport Sedan.

Get this car. Now.

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