Saab 9-3X – Work hard, play hard

Article from Saab Magazine 2009-01 – Photos by Mark Bramley

We invited a super-active couple from Trollhättan to test-drive the new Saab 9-3X to see how it matched up to the needs of a sporty, adventurous lifestyle.

It’s mid-morning in Gothenburg and spring is in the air. We’re driving north, heading towards some of Sweden’s inland waters to meet our super-sporty test drivers. They’re not difficult to find: they’re stood alongside a striking Saab 9-3X in Arctic White. This car certainly makes a statement. Its powerful stance makes it look ready to drive – anywhere.

The 9-3X is a sporty, rugged addition to the Saab 9-3 range, offering the perfect vehicle to those who love the outdoors but don’t want a large crossover. Also, for the first time, Saab has combined its cutting-edge XWD with a BioPower engine.

Our drivers are naturally drawn to the car, and it’s easy to see why. Magnus Eriksson and Maria Stjernqvist simply live for sport and adventure, and they have an infectious passion for the outdoors. “We live on the outskirts of Trollhättan and our garden backs on to a forest,” explains Maria. “It’s the perfect place to go for a run. I love to run.We also go kayaking on the river in the city, as well as mountain biking – sometimes we even bike to our summer house, which is 98km away.”

Magnus and Maria clearly love to travel using their own power. “We take part in the annual Åre event, which is 800km from our home – that’s a bit too far to bike.” laughs Maria. Magnus adds: “It’s an endurance event that combines mountain biking, running and kayaking. With the kids too, we usually end up with a very full car.”

Designed for real life

Such an active couple clearly needs a car that can meet the demands of an adventurous lifestyle, and the new Saab 9-3X has been designed for just that.

We take a walk around the car. The raised chassis gives the car a higher stance that looks ready to handle rugged driving terrain – specifically designed for those who frequently hit gravel or unpaved roads, without compromising the driving experience on tarmac. “The XWD is perfect for us,” explains Magnus. “In many of the places where we compete, the roads are pretty bad leading down to the water, and we need to unload our equipment as close to the water’s edge as possible. It’s great that this is available in a mid-size car.

Taking their seats, they discuss the detail inside the car. As an owner of several Saabs in the past, including a Saab 9000 CD and a Saab 9-5, Magnus is no stranger to the Saab design ethos and driving experience. “It’s very Saab,” he smiles as he looks around the interior of the Saab 9-3X. “A very clean interior, very Scandinavian design and very functional. Everything is where you need it to be. Saab always thinks beyond the obvious and it’s this attention to detail that makes Saab stand out from the rest.”

On the road

It’s time to drive, and the Swedish culture of being close to nature is instantly apparent as we leave the highway for some of Sweden’s smaller roads. The first thing Maria comments on is the white carpet of flowers on either side of the road. “These flowers signal the first sign of spring,” she smiles.

Typical of many Swedish people, Maria and Magnus have a profound respect for nature. “It’s part of us,” adds Magnus. “We’re brought up this way, and wherever you are in Sweden, you’re never far away from somewhere beautiful. It’s a great country to live in and to be able to enjoy the environment that surrounds you.”

Both are huge fans of Saab BioPower too. “We’re very impressed by anything that makes driving more environmentally friendly,” says Magnus. “The 2.0T BioPower engine in the Saab 9-3X feels nice. It has power on low revs – that’s the way a car should be.”

For the first time, Saab has combined its cutting-edge XWD system with a 2.0-litre turbo BioPower engine (210 hp / 154 kW / 300 Nm), combining a bioethanol capability with all-wheel drive. The sporty styling is also complemented by a six-speed manual gearbox.

Play time

We drive down the dusty track towards Lake Hällungen and the XWD means the car grabs the road with all four wheels. Parking up to unload the kayaks, the 9-3X looks right at home in this rugged environment.

In between working for Canon as a regional manager, Magnus likes to kayak on the river in Trollhättan before he leaves for the office. After a day’s work managing a fitness training centre, Maria enjoys a run before dinner. “For us, sport and exercise is like brushing your teeth – you just wouldn’t go to bed at the end of the day without doing it, it just wouldn’t feel right.”

Today they are kayaking and, as they unstrap the kayaks from the kayak holder on the roof, Magnus and Maria discuss the exterior details of the car. Front and rear bumpers, side sills and the edges of the wheel arches have a dark grey, grained finish offering protection from loose or muddy terrain. Skid plates with a matt aluminium finish curve up towards the door opening at the rear, and visible twin round exhaust tailpipes complete the ‘ready for action’ look from behind. Multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels add to the 9-3X’s character and reflect its ability to handle mixed road conditions.

Form meets function

As they open the rear door to unload their paddles, wetsuits, life vests and bags, the spacious cargo area becomes apparent. “There’s so much space in here for such a compact car,” says Maria. “You wouldn’t expect this much room for equipment.” The 9-3X has been designed to make loading sports and leisure equipment easy. The compact design of the rear suspension allows a deep, box-like space for cargo, offering a useful rear seat up/down volume of 477/1331 litres (VDA).

The 60/40 split rear seat-back incorporates a ski-hatch and folds down without any need to move the fixed seat cushion.The fold-down front passenger seat-back also makes it possible to carry items up to 2.5 metres in length. The fully carpeted rear load space is illuminated by two interior lights and is accessed by a lightly weighted tailgate that opens down to bumper level, its damper rods completely hidden in the roof to allow a clear, uncluttered opening.

The flush-fitted black moulded floor plate will not become marked or scratched in heavy use – a feature that appeals to Magnus: “I love the practical details in this car. The bumper protection mat is a brilliant idea and leather seats are also great for people with a lifestyle like ours. It’s nice to have a car you can keep in good condition despite constantly loading and unloading big, heavy items into the car.”

Safety is another important factor for Magnus and Maria. “When we travel to our competitions, our car is normally full to the brim with equipment, kayaks and bikes, plus we have three children to fit in. The Saab 9-3X is perfect for our lifestyle. It has space for all our equipment – and the kids! It also has a great profile and looks really cool.”

The 9-3X’s TwinFloor stowage facility is also perfectly suited to transporting bulky equipment, helping keep luggage and equipment safe and tidy.A 12-volt power socket in the main load area for a hot or cool box and the separate storage compartment on either side of the floor (one with a moulded holder for larger bottles) are clever finishing touches that highlight Saab’s attention to detail.

Off the beaten track

Magnus and Maria relax by a small fire on the beach after their kayaking. As we chat, we discuss their infectious attitude towards life. “We are both fascinated by ‘life motivation’,” explains Maria.

“We come across so many people who don’t realise that their only obstacle in life is themselves. It’s their choice to be happy. We love to help people discover this and have given talks in gyms and in businesses.”

It’s this ‘life is out there’ attitude that underpins the thinking behind the Saab 9-3X – a distinctive impression of Saab’s Scandinavian inspiration that has been created to take people closer to their goals.

As keen cross-country skiers too, Magnus and Maria have fallen in love with Norway. “It is the most beautiful place we’ve been to in the world,” says Maria. “When we’re 55 we’d love to live in Norway during the summer and then the Swedish mountains during the winter. We’d be happy working in a bar or something to earn money to live. It’s the lifestyle that always comes first for us, and there’s nothing stopping us.”

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