It was a small, local launch, General Motors laying on the full range of new Astras to allow hacks to sample the versions they haven’t previously driven, and to experience Saab’s new 9-3X. Then, suddenly, this launch took on a slightly morbid character, because it came the day after Konigsegg announced that its deal to buy Saab had collapsed.
That puts the famous Swedish company in mortal peril – while GM hasn’t given up hope of finding a buyer, it will almost certainly kill the brand if none can be found. That will make the 9-3X a rare car over here, and the new 9-5, of which there are some preproduction versions about, rarer still – most will probably end up in the crusher.
So it was with heavy heart that I set out in this 9-3X, a 2.0 litre turbo petrol yielding 207bhp that’s channelled through all four wheels. The 9-3X is an Audi A4 Allroad equivalent, a four-wheel drive estate whose loftier ride height allows it moderate off-road capability. There are minor styling changes, but the main benefit, apart from the additional security of all-wheel drive, is a ride more pliant than most cars can muster these days, and certainly any Saab. The 2.0 litre turbo gives it decent pep, which the chassis encourages some exploitation of if you can put up with steering that feels springily distant when you start going hard.