By Gunnar Heinrich with Photos by Kevin Kusina
OVERSHADOWED by Herb’s own multi-story BMW dealer on the right and squeezed by a parking lot brimming with new Bimmers on the left, the largest Saab dealer in these United States proved a so-so location to talk Turbo X.
Symbolizing just what GM is pitting Saab’s halo car against, Automobile plenipotentiary Ezra Dyer made a showy arrival in BMW’s latest M3 sedan. Indeed, as the morning wore on and the automotive press talked and was talked-at, alternatively, the name “BMW” would surface time and again.
Starting off at 8:30 AM, GM staff held an all-business presentation on Saab’s showroom floor that set the tone for performance expectations.
GM’s G.M. for Saab, Steve Shannon (formerly Buick’s Roadmaster manager) made fleeting reference to his background and Saab’s.
“We’re much more NPR than Fox News,” said he, who also spoke of the quality rather than the quantity of Saab customers.
Mr. Shannon, armed with PowerPoint, directed the group’s focus on the new “cross wheel drive” system that Saab bought from Swedish engineering firm Haldex.
For some inexplicable reason, as I watched the presentation of power-to-wheel transfer diagrams, Subaru’s tagline kept playing in my head: “From the wheel that slips to the wheel that grips!”
Competing notions of “brand” identity aside, the Haldex system proved to be nothing less than a revolution for Saab performance (I’ll expound in Part III) and Saab is set to make the system a lineup-wide option.
Following the talk we shuffled from showroom to garage where Saab’s staff had a Turbo X hoisted on a lift. Swedish engineer Tommy Sundin ducked low and explained the engineering wizardry behind Haldex’s technological tour de force and the challenges that, “putting a new system into an old car,” presented.
Mr. Sundin reminds us that the Turbo X is based on the agèd Epsilon platform that the jet black halo car shares with an ’02 Opel Vectra and an ’04 Chevy Malibu, among others.
Following the engineer’s remarks, we made a break outside to drive off in Saab’s latest and greatest.
[Linked: Trollhattan Saab]