Everyone has that fun ex-girlfriend you keep going back to even though you know she's all wrong for you. Or that reality show you can't stop watching even though you know it's rotting your brain. You like them, but doing so doesn't make any rational sense.
Well, welcome to the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X Sport Combi, a really fun car with a really long name that makes as much rational sense as Jenny and America's Got Talent. It's a sport wagon with Mt. Denali high points and Death Valley low points. We walked away liking it, but knowing that we could only recommend it to a guy named Sven who has two kids and lives at the top of Latigo Canyon Road.
Of course, the 9-3 Turbo X is only going to be produced for 2008 in teeny-tiny numbers — 600 sedans and Sport Combi wagons, to be precise — which might make you wonder why we're even bothering to road test it in the first place. Well, for most folks, the sorta-mass-produced 9-3 Aero Sport Combi XWD will seem mostly identical to the Turbo X edition. The added bits and pieces between the two cars can really only be appreciated when tearing through a serpentine road. A firmer and lower suspension, self-leveling rear shocks, larger 18-inch alloy wheels and larger-diameter brakes all do a tremendous job of turning the 9-3 into a true sport sedan/wagon with superb handling potential. Of course, if you can't enjoy said potential, the Aero and its more comfortable ride should do you nicely, while still offering the same turbocharged V6, smart all-wheel-drive system and communicative steering.
So does that mean the Turbo X is the ex-girlfriend, while the Aero is the gal you should take down the aisle? Well, no. All of the Turbo X's major low points are actually shared with the Aero — cramped backseat, disappointing fuel economy, chintzy interior and most of all, an absurdly high price. According to Edmunds True Market Value® pricing for August 2008, both the 9-3 Aero and Turbo X on average sell for $2,000 below invoice, but at about $41,000, that would still make our Turbo X test car too expensive given similarly priced competitors. The Aero is no different.
If we were to buy a 2008 Saab 9-3, there's no doubt that we'd track down one of the very few Turbo X Sport Combis. But that's a pretty unrealistic if. No amount of adept handling, wagon utility and Saab funkiness can make up for such huge drawbacks. We just couldn't marry Jenny.