Saab's 9-3 sedan gets a redesigned exterior for 2008, and it will gain all-wheel drive later in the model year. It's positioned as Saab's entry-level sedan, and it competes with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Volvo S60. The 9-3 is available as a convertible, SportCombi (read, wagon) and sedan. The Aero is the uplevel trim in all body styles, and each comes with a 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 engine.
Base models feature 16-inch alloy wheels and a power driver's seat. Aero models include the more powerful engine, 17-inch wheels and slightly larger brakes. Both trims offer six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. An upgraded Bose Centerpoint audio system will be available in the fall of 2007. It will be optional on base models and standard on Aero sedans and SportCombis.
Exterior changes for 2008 include new wheel designs, a larger front grille, smaller side grilles and a more V-shaped hood. Saab says it borrowed some styling ideas from its Aero X auto-show concept when it refined the 9-3's looks.
(Skip to details on the: 9-3 Convertible or 9-3 SportCombi)
For 2008, the sedan and SportCombi get new doors with body-colored door handles. Aero models get unique bumpers. All models get new headlights, taillights and fog lights.
Styling features include a coupelike silhouette, an integrated grille and headlights, short front and rear overhangs, and a steeply raked windshield and back window.
An entirely new optional leather interior makes its debut for 2008. Gray is out as a color choice; it's been replaced by black. XM Satellite Radio and OnStar are standard on all models, and an upscale Bose Centerpoint sound system will be available in the fall of 2007. It will be standard on the Aero trim and optional on base sedans and SportCombis.
The 9-3 sedan accommodates up to five people. It was freshened in 2007 to include a larger instrument cluster with chrome details. For 2008, there is an optional leather interior in parchment or black, replacing the gray interior. The sedan's trunk holds 14.8 cubic feet of cargo.
Under the Hood
The 9-3 offers two engines: a V-6 that gains 5 horsepower for 2008 and a four-cylinder. Base models can come with a 210-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 221 pounds-feet of torque, while Aero models get a 255-hp, turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 that churns out 258 pounds-feet of torque. Despite the increased horsepower, the V-6's torque rating is unchanged. Both base and Aero models get either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
Saab says a new all-wheel-drive system will be available late in the 2008 model year for the sedan and SportCombi. The system is adaptive, meaning it will allow the car to function similar to a two-wheel-drive car but shift power to other wheels as needed.
A long list of standard safety equipment includes seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, Active Head Restraints, traction control, and an electronic stability system with all-disc antilock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution. Convertibles get side-impact airbag head extensions in place of the curtain airbags. Across all configurations, Aero models get slightly larger disc brakes.
After launching the redesigned compact 9-3 sport sedan for 2003, Saab released the 9-3 convertible as a 2004 model. Both feature the same chassis dynamics. Saab says the 9-3 convertible is nearly three times as stiff as its soft-top predecessor. The convertible got an all-new suspension layout, and supplementary "ring of steel" reinforcement compensates for the loss of structural rigidity that convertibles ordinarily suffer. The seat belts are integrated into the seat frames, and the rear seats have pop-up roll bars.
All convertibles come in either base or Aero form, with the 210-hp turbocharged four-cylinder in base models and the 255-hp turbocharged V-6 in Aero editions. Leather seats are standard. In base models, a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic is available. Aero models offer a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Back to top
The SportCombi wagon completes Saab's 9-3 lineup. Saab says the SportCombi carries on the hatchback tradition that Saab owners have enjoyed. It features a signature wedge-shape profile ending in vertical, LED-lit taillamps and an integrated roof spoiler. For 2008, it gets new doors and body-colored door handles, as well as the same redesigned front end of the sedan.
The SportCombi comes with either the 210-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder or the 255-hp, turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6.
Smooth roads produce a near-gentle ride and appealing control through turns. Saab's electronic stability system is highly beneficial through wet curves, yielding an appreciated level of confidence. Braking from high speeds is swift at times but less assertive on other occasions.
Backseat headroom and toe space are abundant, but legroom suffers if the front seat is adjusted rearward. The center occupant must endure a high, hard perch and straddle a tall floor hump. Cargo space is appealing. Back to top
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