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April 22, 2009 > Auto Review: SAAB 9-3 Aero sport sedan

Auto Review: SAAB 9-3 Aero sport sedan

We spent a week in one of Sweden's latest offerings, the 9-3 Aero Sports Sedan from SAAB. If you don't know SAAB, they got their start making aircraft in Sweden. Following the end of World War II, Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (SAAB) needed to diversify so they branched out into manufacturing automobiles. In June 1947 the first SAAB automobile was introduced to the world. Their aviation history is evident in the design and marketing of their products, and they even call this model the Aero.

Our test car had the larger 2.8-liter, turbo-charged V6-cylinder engine. It produced 280 HP and 295 foot pounds of torque. The base 9-3 engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit that is also turbocharged and delivers 210 HP and 221 foot pounds of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is available with both engines; a 5-speed automatic is optional for the 2.0 one and a 6-speed automatic in the V6. Both engines require premium unleaded. Their EPA test results vary between 19/29 and 15/24 depending on the choice of engine and transmission combinations.

The Aero Sports Sedan also comes with SAAB's XWD 4-wheel drive system. The car's computer constantly interprets various vehicle measurements and instantly calculates how the power and torque should be distributed to the four wheels for optimum handling and stability.

We enjoyed our time with the 9-3. It had a smooth ride yet handled like a sports sedan should. It cornered with a flat stance unless you pushed it very hard; then the body would roll a bit. I don't think it would keep up with the some of its German or Japanese competitors on a twisty mountain road.

On the downside, the engine sounded harsh and noisy. It did have a significant amount of turbo lag. This meant that it took the engine a little time (a second or two) to get up to full power after you hit the gas pedal. Another thing that was irritating was trying to turn off the traction control system. It seemed like I had to cycle through all the various computer functions to turn it off. It was necessary to do the same process to get it to come back on.

The 9-3 did have one safety function that I really like. When you selected reverse, the outside rearview mirrors tilt down to give you a better view of what is low and close behind you. This will help prevent backing over items or people behind you. This feature is appearing on more and more cars and I think that is great.

SAAB is currently a General Motors division. Early in 2009 SAAB started the process to reorganize its self as a separate Swedish company.

The 2.0-liter 9-3 Sports Sedan starts with an MSRP of $31,135. The Aero Sports Sedan's base MSRP is $44,380. You can add the XWD system to the 2.0-liter model for an additional cost of about $6,000.

All SAABs come with a 4-year/50,000 mile warranty and roadside assistance program. They also feature 3-years or 36,000 miles no-charge scheduled maintenance services.

SAAB makes nice automobiles that are very distinctive and fun to drive. For something a little out of the ordinary, test drive a 9-3.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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