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Saab 9-3X 2.0T XWD Sports Wagon

Click to view picture gallery“Much needed good news for Saab
  customers is the arrival of the new
  9-3X Sports Wagon. Aimed at the
  crossover estate sector, it comes with
  an entry price of just £24,995 for the
  1.9TTiD front-wheel drive model

THE 9-3X IS AVAILABLE with a choice of two engines: the 1.9TTiD diesel unit producing 178bhp and 295lb ft of torque, or the 2.0-litre petrol turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 207bhp with the additional benefit of Saab's technically advanced Cross Wheel Drive system (XWD). Both engines, incidentally, offer the extra-cost option of an automatic transmission; £1,371 for the diesel unit and £1,511 for the turbocharged petrol engine.

Saab's traditional distinctive design language is visible throughout the 9-3X, as well as a host of technology that provides more safety and improved dynamics for drivers including ESP electronic stability programme and ABS anti-lock braking, with cross wheel drive (XWD) available on the 2.0T engine.

All models come with high levels of equipment including leather and textile sport seats, heated front seats, cruise control, 9-speaker audio system with MP3 compatibility, sports leather steering wheel, dual-zone electronic climate control, car computer, matt chrome roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Being a 'premium' product, the Saab 9-3X crossover Sports Wagon competes against the more expensive Audi A4 Allroad and the Subaru Legacy Outback which is more or less the same price. Of course there are loads of chunkier SUVs in two- and four-wheel drive guise that also compete for sales in this sector.

During a very brief test drive the most interesting issue for me was — just who is going to buy this car? Saab's answer for the UK market was: "Independent-minded people who enjoy life, culture, outdoors, sports and family life. These are people with active lifestyles who have demands for versatility." If you fit that description, read on…

Saab in the UK said the front-wheel drive 1.9-litre diesel model will be the most popular. So it would appear that the SUV styling with black wheelarch edging and front and rear underbody skid-plates appeals more to buyers than the 'X' all-wheel drive system which comes as standard with the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol model.

However, GM only brought the 2.0T to the media test event, probably to impress us with the all-wheel drive system — similar to the layout used for some Insignia models. And it has been the sales success of the Insignia range that has done away with the need for GM in Europe to have a separate 'premium' brand because the Insignia more than adequately covers that sector.

Traditional Saab styling
and quality
inside and out
First impression of the 9-3X Sports Wagon was the traditional Saab styling and quality inside and out. The extra 35mm of ground clearance and added exterior bodywork protection hints at its tough 'go anywhere' nature but in truth the all-wheel drive system is meant to cope with wet, icy, snowy and muddy roads and the occasional gravel tracks. It also provides for better cornering grip on dry surfaces so on road driving safety is good as well.

The 2.0-litre 207bhp petrol engine is no ball of fire but with 221lb ft of torque available from 2,500rpm it is responsive when it needs to be and relaxed when cruising. Top speed is 143mph and 0-62mph takes 8.5 seconds. Officially this model will return 34.9mpg but only 23.5mpg on my brief — but fast — test drive. The CO2 emissions are 194g/km so the VED road tax is £215 until the end of March 2010 and from April the new higher first year rate starts so it will cost £425 before returning to £235 annually from then on. 'Efficient but not that impressive' sums up the engine.

Drive to all wheels is via a slick 6-speed manual gearbox (an auto option is available at extra cost) and the drive system has variable power split between the front and rear axles via an electronic limited slip differential. On the road it feels safe and well planted, with loads of well balanced cornering grip and sharp steering. There is a seamless supply of variable drive to the front and rear wheels so again driving performance is predictable.

Given the high safety equipment, the superb comfort from the seats and the suspension, this Saab struck me as being ideal for use as a roomy, load carrying, long journey car which will cope with most road conditions. Ideal for going off to the ski slopes — or vets and rural doctors could justify being brave and buy a Saab 9-3X 2.0T Sports Wagon because it is well priced and different.

Against: Unknown future of Saab, potentially low residual value and high running costs. Reasons to try 'n' buy include scarcity ownership value, classic Saab styling inside and out, comprehensive equipment, comfortable and roomy and excellent road holding and cornering grip. — David Miles

Saab 9-3X 2.0T XWD Sports Wagon
| £25,995
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 23.5mpg
Power: 207bhp | Torque: 221lb ft | CO2 194g/km | Insurance group 15E