Saab Story: From Front-Wheel Drive To The Haldex Cross-Wheel Drive System

I’ve learned to value traction in the pursuit of torque.

(This series covers the author’s attempt to build a ludicrously fast Saab 9-3. The first installment was published on a different site. You can read that by clicking here.)

When I originally purchased my 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero, I was really looking for a Saab 9-3 Turbo X, but I couldn’t find one with a manual transmission. After I thought I broke the Aero (more on this in a bit), I decided to jump on the opportunity of finally owning 1 of 600 9-3 Turbo Xs equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, making it all the more exclusive.

To clarify, the original plan was to install the Stage 5 package from JZW Tuning on the Aero, in a quest to reach the estimated output of 532 lb-ft of torque. But when the car wouldn’t turn over, I was convinced that my hunger for excess led to me ruining my Saab.

20170912_Work_Saab 9-3 2.8 Spec Clutch

Ultimately, I hadn’t turned the crank pulley enough to realize that the engine wasn’t making a full rotation. If I had checked this properly, I would’ve realized that Spec sent me a twin-disk for the wrong application before I reassembled everything. I received components for an all-wheel drive (AWD) 2.8T V6, instead of a front-wheel drive (FWD) application, with the main difference being that the flywheel needs to be machined down in order to accommodate the 6-speed F40 transmission’s bellhousing, which is more shallow for FWD applications than it is for AWD. Spec offered to machine the flywheel if I sent it in, but by the time this was all figured out, I already owned the Turbo X.

For those who might not be familiar, the all-wheel drive system used on this Saab is a Haldex system dubbed ‘cross-wheel’ drive (XWD). It’s the same sort of system that’s used in various Buick and Cadillac models, and it’s what Audi has implemented with its longitudinal-engine cars, such as the A4 and Q7. These XWD systems have been criticized for tending to understeer more than conventional, rear-wheel biased all-wheel drive systems, but this is really only relevant at the track and not so much during your daily commute.

As such, I’ve decided to enhance the performance of the Turbo X instead of the Aero, and I haven’t yet fully decided the fate of the latter. Given the value of the car, it probably won’t be very lucrative to spend the money on getting it to run and then selling it—but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

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