By on August 19, 2014

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When Michael Karesh reviewed the Saab 9-3 Turbo X some 6 years ago, he found it wanting. I still want one.

The Turbo X was meant to celebrate three decades of Saab’s turbocharged powerplants, with a limited run of just 600 units. The 2.8L twin-turbo V6 made 280 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and could be had with a 6-speed manual transmission. Saab’s XWD system, which allowed for rear torque vectoring, was standard.

Buying a used Saab is a bit of a crapshoot, but for the price of a new Hyundai Accent, you can have this 70,000 mile example “no-story automobile”. Is it as good to drive as the equivalent BMW 335i? Probably not. But what it lacks in neutral handling characteristics, it makes up for with gobs of character and sheer novelty.

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27 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: X Marks The Saab...”


  • avatar

    It’s why we are curious about the dodo. How would it feel to have one, as a pet?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Even with a ecu tune the bigger 2.8T(single turbo V6) with direct injection and variable valve timing gets eclipsed in the torque department from peak power until redline compared to GM Ecotec 2.0T LNF/LHU with the same intake, exhaust, and ecu tune.

      http://shop.zzperformance.com/store/p/1004-LHU-Regal-High-Flow-Intake.aspx

      AWD will only help from a stand still. Plus the extra mass is a 10 mpg hit vs the more efficient 4-cylinder.

      But a the SRX with the same engine and supporting tune is quite the beast., passing Acura/Infinity and playing AMG, S, M.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I still have a soft spot for Saab wagons.

    • 0 avatar
      hshields

      I have a 2006 9-3 2.0T. I really enjoy this sedan and I think it would be thrilled with the wagon version. I’m not a track enthusiast, I’m not going to tinker with the engine. I’m a middle class consultant with kids that has to commute. The 9-3 has many drawbacks compared to the the competition but, it does have great seats, different styling, surprising power and a comfortable ride.

      Now, I would never buy a brand new one – hence why Saab went out of business. But, on the used car lots the value for the dollar is unparalleled. I bought it at 90,000 km and it has 130,000 km on it now. I’ve had to replace brake pads and tires. I’m going to properly maintain it and see how far it will go.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I bought a brand-new ’08 9-3 wagon in ’09. For *$13K* off list, which made it a no-brainer. Great car for ~$22K, I would say it was 85% of my current ’11 328i wagon for 50% of the price. But that last 15% is sooooooo worth it if you can afford it! At the $35K list price it made no sense at all.

        Sold it in ’11 due to the combination of seeing the writing on the wall for Saab, and BMW making noises about no more wagons for the US. Got $18K for it, so absolutely no regrets, it was a great 2 years. Sold it to the daughter of a Saab Club buddy, she still drives it and loves it, no major and very few minor issues to date.

        • 0 avatar

          The 93 Combis are one of the best looking wagons out there. Great hatch, bikes, strollers, dogs…no problem, much better than the puny things offered by others. And theres very few out there, maybe one in thirty 93s. 6M trans even rarer.
          Not a fan of the V6s…mileage stinks, runs way too hot and the turning radius is 5′? more.
          Shame they never brought the 1.9 T and TTiD diesels…woulda kicked VWs @$$.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Keeping my 9-5 Sportcombi with stage lV tune(JZW Tune) At 3,800 lbs it is a little portly when it comes to the twists roads but it’ll get up and go!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The interiors of these cars never felt anywhere near their price premium and the turbo fours sounded pretty coarse from the passenger seat, but I like the styling of the 9-3 and absolutely love the 9-3 wagon. Don’t know if I’d need the 2.8, I’d be quite happy with the 2.0 liter turbo wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Agree with all points, except I want the 2.8 or whatever the largest engine was.

      The 9000 style-wise was a thing of beauty, but the interior didn’t match up.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    This one for sale is a sedan, which I like more than the wagon. Which is strange for me, I like saabs and I like wagons but the saab wagon is only so so for me. I hear the 6 leaves no room for working on, I would go with a icy myself but those who own the 6 love it for the reasons you mentioned DK, you see Bimmers everyday and these Saabs are a rare sight, not for everyone but I that is part of the appeal

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    I considered buying one of these new, and was offered one at a very tempting price from the dealer where I bought my 9-5 Aero. Two issues kept me from pulling the trigger: (1) my experience with the 9-5 Aero left me very concerned about reliability; and (2) the exhaust produced a loud, resonant drone at cruising rpm that became tiresome even on my test drive, so I knew it wouldn’t work for family road trips. These were great cars though, with generally good dynamics and plenty of power. I almost preferred the lighter, more agile feel of the FWD V6 9-3 Aero, and came even closer to buying one of those. I still remember the fantastic feel of its old school hydraulically assisted steering, so if I had bought one I’d probably be keeping it as long as possible.

  • avatar
    gsf12man

    I mostly agree with 30-mile fetch on the price vs. interior of the 9-3. They were a bit dear for what you got in general—but man, what a great-looking sedan. I’d own one just to look at it. In my universe a Saab must be a turbo 4/manual. I once would have said must also be a 3-door hatchback, but the sedan is just so perfect…

  • avatar
    Dan

    “… but for the price of a new Hyundai Accent, you can have this 70,000 mile example”

    This piqued my curiosity for about as long as it took to realize that a Hyundai Accent now costs $17,000.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    We have the 2009 Aero version sedan with pretty much the same features, including the 6 speed manual. Bought it for an even more reasonable price (and with less miles) from someone who was moving overseas, and had among other things an Aston Martin Vantage too (we didn’t buy that).

    And we have a 2010 9-3 wagon, but with the turbo-4 and the auto/manual. So we can definitely do the comparison thing.

    Obviously the wagon is our hauler/utility car, and better for long trips because the fuel economy is better, yet it doesn’t want for power in just about any situation.

    The Aero is the only 6 cylinder, AWD Saab we’ve owned, and I use it mostly for occasional commuting and fun backroad stuff, even though it’s a noticeably heavier car. The 6 speed sure seems like a close ratio job, reminds me of my old Rabbit GTI in that respect–sometimes I don’t even bother with 1st gear and start out in 2nd. Clutch is pretty stiff though. Fuel economy, even during commuting, is not bad (low 20s mpgs) if you’re not hooning it–comparable or better than the Sportcombi, though it never gets much better than 25 mpgs max on the highway–it’s just too fun to put down the pedal and let the turbo blast you around trucks and slower cars. It is true that the engine compartment is very crowded, and the heat soak from the turbo can be considerable under the hood, so some of the plastic components can deteriorate faster I would think. But yes, you don’t see Aeros or Turbo Xs every day, especially with three pedals.

    Both cars do very well in winter weather; the Aero even with all the power is what I’d use for really snowy days, and it’s quite fun.

    It’s true the interiors are nothing to fawn over–the dash is pretty plain in the Sportcombi, but at least the Aero has a carbon fiber epoxy finish. But neither do they seem to deteriorate much either, and the lack of a nav/infotainment screen is of no consequence for us. What is of consequence are the decent quality leather seats and the fact that they’re Saab seats, about the best around.

    So far the Sportcombi has been one the most reliable cars we’ve ever owned, Saab or non-Saab. The Aero really hasn’t given us much trouble either, but my son knows what could be the vulnerable areas and we keep a watch accordingly. In any case, we know that as long as it’s kept in decent shape we can sell it to another Saab enthusiast who wants an Aero with the unicornish manual gearbox.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Question for the masses: There’s a 2011 Sportcombi turbo 6MT in my area. Should stay as far away as possible or pick it up right away? 21K miles

    I drive about 15K/year and will definitely need to put up with snow in the winter

    • 0 avatar
      hshields

      The Sportcombi has the room to haul most groceries and bulk-barn purchases. The turbo/fuel economy is a nice surprise and feel on those non-winter months. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. It’s undervalued compared to BMWs, Audi etc…

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      They are no for everyone but I would think it is worth a test drive to see if you like it, compared to over wagons in that size it should be a great deal.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I loved my ’08, which was also a 4cyl 6spd wagon, and it has been completely reliable for its current owner. Go for it if the price is right. In many ways I preferred the 4-cyl turbo to the n/a inline 6 in my BMW. It may not sound as good, but it really delivers the goods, especially in the mid-range, while having really excellent fuel economy. The interior is the big letdown, just plain cheap. And the ride handling balance is no match for the Germans.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Thanks guys. Thoughts on longevity/reliability. I have an overall shakey feeling about Saabs, especially now that the brand is gone from US. From that standpoint, what do you guys think? Electrical gremlins and such?

    • 0 avatar
      hshields

      They are a crapshoot. I wouldn’t say they are ALL horrible. For example, my 2006 9-3 has never had electrical problems. The one you test drive might. They share SOME of their parts with GM. However, there are many generic parts available and many older models to plunder so I am not too worried about replacement parts or their cost.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      If you plan on keeping it a long time, just be aware that prices and availability of parts/trim are inversly related, and will only get worse as time goes on. They’re the cheapest they’ll ever be to own/maintain right about now.

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        It should be noted that the company responsible for Saab spare parts from Sweden was separate from the manufacturing firm and never went bankrupt. It’s still in operation from Nyköping. Whether GM will continue to support spares is more of a question in my mind, but again, some of the stuff was sourced from GM Europe and European suppliers (Bosch etc.).

  • avatar
    Jason Lombard

    I do have a soft spot for the Swedes. The wife has a Volvo wagon (not brown, nor manual), and I was looking for a 9-3 with a manual as a DD. Glad to know (thanks Bill H.) that parts availability isn’t an issues—for now at least.

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