The turbocharged 207bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine feels punchy once the revs rise and turbo cuts in, but it's not muscular enough to be a real pleasure. Stirring it gives perky results, but this is a car far happier on the motorway, where the high sixth gear keeps revs and fuel consumption low. There's also a 177bhp diesel version with two-wheel drive for better economy and lower emissions, but we haven't tested it yet.
Saab 9-3X 4x4 ride & handling
The ride is comfortable, given the 35mm increase in ride height (20mm in 2WD versions). It's only the worst potholes that upset it, and over the standard 9-3 it's refined on the motorway. In fact, the 9-3X rides better than standard 9-3s. It's no great handler, though – and it's much poorer than similarly priced rivals. However, the worst facet of the car is its steering – it feels indistinct and distant, and doesn't give you confidence to push on through bends.
Saab 9-3X 4x4 refinement
It's generally a quiet car – you can hear noise from the petrol engine, but it's not invasive. Saab has done an excellent job of insulating the cabin from road noise, so although you can feel the suspension crash on the harshest of bumps, you tend not to hear it. There's barely any wind noise, either. Gearchanges are smooth and all the switchgear feels solid and durable.