2012 Saab 9-3 at 2011 Geneva Motor Show

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  • Competes with: Audi A4, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS, Buick Regal
  • Looks like: We’ll have to wait a long time for a truly new 9-3
  • Drivetrain: 210-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder, front- or all-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Late 2011

If you were hoping Saab would roll out a significantly upgraded 9-3 to sell besides its revamped 9-5, you’re in for a bit of a letdown. The independently owned company may have distanced itself from General Motors on the corporate side of things, but the 2012 9-3 being rolled out at the 2011 Geneva International Motor Show is barely changed from the 2011 model you can buy in the U.S. today. And that car is barely altered from when it was last overhauled as a 2003 model.

That’s a long time for any vehicle, especially one at luxury prices. The power plant remains the same as the current model. U.S. buyers will get a 210-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder in front- or all-wheel drive. It’s a fun package with lots of turbo boost pressing you back in the seat, but it isn’t as refined as more modern turbos.
The exterior gets some significant stylistic changes in terms of headlight and taillight treatments and lower bumpers, but otherwise it looks similar to the 2011. Inside, there are some new trim pieces, but we can tell from the early photos that it, too, maintains the dated GM feel of the current model.
Saab does have the new 9-4X crossover going on sale in the U.S. this spring. The 9-4X is based on one of GM’s more modern designs that is also the basis of the Cadillac SRX. The new 9-5 sedan is also a step forward for the brand, but not a huge one, according to our full review.
A completely redesigned 9-3 will be vital to the brand’s resurgence, and we hope one will get to market soon.

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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