Autoweek and the 9-3 SportCombi

With pricing for the 9-3 SportCombi just released, Autoweek have published their review of the Aero model, as driven by them and a multitude of others in Sweden earlier in the year.


Like many before it, this review serves as a pretty decent appetite-whetter for those that are hunting around in this market. Some of the quotable sections of the review:

While many baby boomers recoil at the thought of spending time in a wagon—visions of their parents’ fake wood-clad behemoths of the ’60s and ’70s forever seared into their brains—these Euro versions barely resemble what we remember wagons looking and acting like…….

…..Saab designers succeeded in giving the car a sporty look, due in part to a steeply raked windshield, short overhangs, small windows behind the C-pillars, and no roof rails. A lowered suspension adds to the aggressive look. The aluminum tailgate with integrated spoiler is also steep-ly raked, lowering the car’s roofline……

…..we can say at speeds greater than would be legal on U.S. freeways, the car felt stable and fast…….

…..GM has been cranking out great engines lately, from the 2.0-liter Ecotec found in the Cobalt to the 6.0-liter V8 in the new Vette, and this Saab motor joins that list……

…..Another plus: There is nary a wiggle of torque steer……

…..Wagons might never replace minivans and SUVs in American garages, but they can be a lot more fun to drive. Especially with 250 hp.

As an interesting aside, Autoweek also have the story of Rolf Jensen, a Saabnut for years, who got to live out what is a dream for many of us by visiting the Saab Festival back in June.

This ain’t Rolf’s car, but it’s from the Festival, so it’ll do….

Picture from Roger Hart – Autoweek.

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  1. They’re bragging about a drag coefficient of 0.33? The Audi A4 was 0.28 in 2002 ( The new SAABs are nice looking, I guess, but they’re not going in the direction I respect. I like a smooth, sophisticated look (like Audi and VW), but a great performing vehicle underneath. I don’t want a car wearing an aggressive personality like a chip on its sholder, but can’t back it up. What ever happened to “form follows function”? SAAB may be on its way to being a success to the GM stockholders, but it’s moved to my sh*t list–except for the BioPower, I still have a little hope, makes a lot more sense than the hybrid which is nothing but advertising hype. The real SAAB may be dead though. I’ll fix up my strokers and enjoy the memories of a car conceived by real original-thinking engineers, not marketing gurus.

  2. Hey Ted, thanks for your thoughts on the tsn post, by the way. I read it about 8 hours ago, but was too tired at that stage (1.30 am) to respond.

    Except for the bugs bunny look they’re adopting, I don’t mind the current range of Audis either.

    But before you write off the 9-3 completely, take it for a spin (assuming you haven’t). I drove the sedan a few weeks ago at the track and it was as much fun as you could have sitting down. Sensational. Mind you, I’ve never owned a new car, so I’m easy to please.

    What’s the stroker you’ve got? I’m guessing 96.

  3. Swade,

    I’ve got two 1966 Monte Carlos (one for parts, one good), two 1966 standard sedans (one good, the other questionable), and a 1964 bullnose in good shape. None are roadworthy, they are waiting for my retirement or for my wife to quit asking me to build barns and ponds for her alpacas and Koi. Also have a 1963 Studebaker Lark at the opposite end of the handling spectrum–my first new car was a 63 Lark. Then I got a used 66 SAAB, and it was like seeing the light for the first time! Never had so much fun since.

    Pardon the rant above, but I’ve gotten frustrated waiting for something to rekindle that fun. I would have bought a 9-2 if they had put a bullnose style front on it (sorry, I don’t like the 3-port grill), and if I could have read the words “roll cage construction.”


  4. That sounds like quite a stable there! I think a barn’s actually a pretty good idea. If I ever make it out to a SOC (thinking seriously for 06 to tie in with family holiday back to Canada) I’ll have to try and look a few Saabers up.

  5. Ted: A Cd of 0.33 is pretty good for a wagon with real headroom! I couldn’t drive an A4 for long (I’m 6’5″/1.96M tall.), but the 9-3 still fits, just barely. I’m assuming that the headroom available on the Combi will be a bit better given the roofline.

    I think that the 9-3 SportCombi is a step in the right direction — a functional car that people can really live with that has performance in equal measure. Sure, I would like the styling to shout “Saab!” a litle more than it does, but it’s still a heck of a car now. I’ll bet you one thing: none of those 1960’s vintage Saabs never even dreamed of 210 bhp, much less 250!

  6. Yeah, I guess the 23 sec 0 to 60 mph time wasn’t much fun, but everything else was.

    But I’m not sure the headroom, or being a wagon, justfies a higher CD though.

    CD = FD / (1/2 * ρ * V^2 * A)

    where FD is the drag force, ρ is the air density, V is free stream velocity, and A is the frontal area of the vehicle. This is a non-dimensional coefficient that allows drag to be compared between different vehicles. Increasing the headroom increases FD, but the increased area A should cancel out the effect on CD. Big vehicles can have a CD as good as small vehicles.

    I do appreciate, however, that it has zero lift at high speeds on all 4 wheels, that’s uncommonly good. And it might justify the higher CD.

  7. Ted:

    When I wrote that comment, I knew that it was a gross simplfication of the physics behind drag, but I left it out in the interest of brevity.

    In the real world, the shape of the car does affect the drag force — the Audi almost tear-drop-shaped (well half of one, anyway), while the Saab and other cars with more headroom have longer bodies, longer horizontal runs of sheet metal and less tapering at the rear of the vehicle (in this case, nearly none!).

    The additional drag comes from three primary sources: 1. Additional under-body drag since the 9-3 SportCombi is longer than the A4. 2. Additional after-body drag (bluff body seperation) 3. Additional skin friction.

    The bottom line — I should have said, “the Cd is pretty good for a wagon” and left it at that. There is only an indirect relation to headroom.

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