What is it?
This is the new Saab 9-3X, which constitutes not much less than a new lease of life for Saab’s ageing compact competitor. Only available with an estate body but with either a 180bhp 1.9-litre diesel or this, a 210bhp, 2.0-litre petrol motor, the Saab 9-3X will enter the market this summer at the same time as the new Audi A4 Allroad to make a new class of compact soft-roader.
Lack of development money precludes changes to the metal on the Saab 9-3X, but the new bumpers, side sills, wheel arch covers and round tail pipes are surprisingly successful at giving the 9-3X an identity of its own.
In technical terms the Saab 9-3X has been raised by 35mm and, though its four-wheel drive system is available in other 9-3s, only the now-defunct Turbo X has the same electronically controlled limited-slip differential in the rear axle as standard.
Why not the diesel too? Because despite retaining the ‘X’ in its name, a singular absence of funding has meant that Saab has been unable to adapt the fourth-generation Haldex four-wheel drive system to its unique diesel engine. The oil-burner retains a standard front-drive configuration only and should therefore be seen as an off-roader in looks alone.
What’s it like?
You cannot expect such a limited degree of modification to turn the old and never brilliant 9-3 into a fully competitive class member, and they don’t. However, Turbo X aside, for perhaps the first time in a long time, there’s now a Saab you can buy with a new look, a new positioning and an appeal that is at least broader, if not necessarily that much deeper.