More 08 Saab 9-3 detail

My business with the Lehmanns now in order, I’m free to reveal this new image of a MY08 9-3 SportCombi undergoing testing in northern Sweden.

Being silver, or grey, or whatever color it is (hard to tell in the light) it gives us a much clearer look at how the front end will look with the new grille and headlamp treatment.

Here it is, click to enlarge.


As you can see, they’ve done some disguise work on this one that wasn’t evident (or perhaps not deemed necessary) on the darker cars. They’ve taped some bump strips on the front bumpers and doors a-la prior years’ 9-3 models, and there’s a thin line of tape on the hood where the gaps would be on prior year model hoods.

The grille treatment doesn’t go the full lengths of the Aero-X and I would guess that this front treatment is a partial transition that will be carried on in future models. The small grille areas between the headlamps and main grille have a taper to them that flows between the outer and inner elements, where the Aero-X had the small grilles incorporated and more rectangular with the headlamps.

There’s also the same tape atop the headlamps as we saw with the dark cars, which is believed to be possibly hiding some LED daytime running lights.

I’ve cropped and enhanced the photo, and retained the original size in the image below so that you can see the slightest bit of bling poking out from the top.


And for those of you wanted a closer look, here’s a cropped closeup of those door handles, which look like they’re going to be shared with the BLS.


Throw some nice 17″ or 18″ alloys on this baby and it’s one fine looking SportCombi. I’m liking it more and more all the time.

And what’s with all that snow on the front? Have they been off-road or something?

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  1. You know, I really like the “blacked-out” look on these cars. I hope I’m not too disappointed when they take the tape off.

  2. the snow in the grill does not mean that they have been off road. It just that when you park “up here in the north” 🙂 you have snow on the parking lots, pushed away on the sides and most of the cars park their nose into the snow banks. Just small details 😉

  3. I’m liking the look 99%. Jury’s still out on the clam-shell hood – looks good head-on on the first spy shots (nice and aggressive in others rear view mirrors) but doesn’t work for me side-on (at the moment!).
    The original bonnet line + a tasteful crease down the side may have been better – but what do i know!

  4. I think this car is going to look pretty sharp.. can’t wait to see it cleaned up and without the tape.. and I agree as well, I like the blacked out look.. hopefully the front will look more smoothed out in general once everything gets cleaned up.

  5. You know, I’m going to say something. I think Saab needs to be careeful with its grilles. Say what you want about the new 9-5 (I happen to think it’s very attractive, though on darker colored cars, the chrome around the headlamps looks like lipstick that got smeared everywhere,) but the reason the whole lamp-flowing-into-the-grille thing works is that the grille and the lamp are the same width. The 9-2X’s snozz is an excellent example of what happens when attention is not paid to this. The old (99-01) 9-5s had grilles that connected to the lights in one smooth band. That was elegant; this one is wrinkling its nose.

  6. Agree that the profile view of the bonnet is not too graceful – maybe in darker colours that seemingly wide gapline will blend in better. I worry the blacked out look (again maybe just in thislighter colour) makes the front look heavy-handed – the 9-5 suffers this too – all bling and gloss at the front but not finish to the rear of the car. Unlike some of the others, I would like to see some chrome (but less thatn 9-5). I think VW etc are going OTT with chrome these days, but let’s fce it, in the exec market (and this is upposed to be a 3 series contender) it is a base-line requirement to have some bling.

    Hope it all looks good in the flesh.

  7. Oh, and good to see rubbing strips back on the sides – the earlier shots made the car look too slab-sided and tall. Plus, they are actually useful in the carpark 😉

  8. This photo gives a clearer impression of the car than does previous photos.

    To my mind, this car shares the mish-mash styling approach that is evident on the M06- 9-5 model.

    Looking at this SportCombi, there is a lack of aesthetic, the whole treatment of the front is awkward, the lines are going all over the place.

    What was once a coherent design has been ruined by redesigning forward of the A-pillars and leaving the rest of the car seemingly untouched, bar nicking some BLS door handles.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Aero-X concept from Anthony Lo is fantastic – but you can not apply design treatments from radical concept like that to an existing fleet car such as the 9-3. It looks odd.

    We’ve been here before. New nose on a Subaru to make the Subaraab 9-2X; new nose on a chevy trailblazer to make a 9-7X.

    New noses on cars is fine, but the ‘design’ as a whole does not work.

    I have a feeling I might be in the minority on this view, though?

  9. i dont know if i like it but i need to see the whole car, i thought i liked the whole aggressive look with the deeper grille but time will. i like the 9-5 though it took some time to like. i hope this car doesnt get screwed cause if it is we can kiss saabs future goodbye

  10. I love how they’ve made the indicator lenses go around the corner just like on the 9-5. The current 9-3 looks weird with the headlight just cutoff at the outside.

  11. I have to say that the upward swing of the clamshell hood gap does look a bit clumsy. I think it should have continued straight and connected with the line from the lower part of side windows.

  12. I will be curious to see if the 2.8L V6 recieves direct gasoline injection next model year in the USA. The 3.6L high feature V6 (same engine) used in the ’08 CTS is getting it with an increase in power and fuel economy…

    Great looking car!

  13. It would be good if a photoshop wizard could work some magic on this photo; remove the bump strips and faux lines, and chrome the grill and led strip in above the lights, drop the 60th anniversary wheels on i think that will be the 2008 93 complete.

    Also i wonder if the linear and vector models will get a different front end (at the bottom, assuming that this is the Aero (by the side skirts) the front appears to be one piece whereas previously the bottom skirt was interchangeable.

  14. I am not a fan of the new clamshell hood either. The panel gap pulls your eye. The hood looks like it is a size too big with the fender trimmed away to make it fit. To make this work, they would need to bring the line straight back to the window sill on front doors as in the 9-5.

    Also, the BLS door handles look very similar to the new (I hate to say it) Chevy Malibu 🙁 Personally, I think the door handles were one of the things that made SAAB unique. Taking them away is probably some sort of cost saving measure. There really is no need to change them otherwise.

    I can’t wait to see some pictures of the back.

  15. Just want to point out that if look closely you can see where they still have the headlight assembly taped off on the outside to make it resemble the 9-5’s. There is a crease line visible through the tape that shows the assembly actually ends in a more fluid swoop to the hood/bonnet. While I understand the mind of those who would like to see a more “classic Saab” line on the clamshell; I find if I look at the lines as a whole, the swoop of the light assembly is being echoed in the clamshell where the visually line created by the seam blends directly into the A-pillar (which takes you up and over the car).

    Also I think the whole visual effect starts at bottom interior corners of the side ports; from there, if you follow the shared top and bottom lines of the port and headlight (making sure to “see” the correct line at the end of the headlight), there is a bit of an eye look to it. Hopefully this wont be lost when the tape comes off.

    I will reserve final judgement until I see one “in the flesh” & I enjoy the current 9-3 styling, but I’m truly starting to like what I see so far.

  16. Reckon the back will be little changed – not a bad thing when it looks so good on the ‘wagon, but the saloon does need a bit mor pizazz.

    I detect a groundswell opinion that there is something just not quite ‘right’ about this new look. Ever so slightly dull as the current 9-3 is, it is extremely well balanced and elegant. the sharp and jutting lines of this re-hash do little to add to the lines of the profile and will make the rear look ‘soft’ -much in te way the 9-5 forgot it had a backside!

  17. If you look at the first pic you can kind of see the light coming from underneath the tape trimming the lights, where the led lighting would be. I only hope that they can make it look more sporty than what it does now on the SS Aero & Linear models.

  18. John, right on with the comments about the nose. It is all over the place, and awkward. I was hoping the new 9-3 would accomodate the Aero-X’s pretty headlights where the grille curves into the lights carefully, and the lights almost have a “tongue” that lolls underneath the grille.

  19. I liked the first bit of pictures better. Maybe its the black paint with the blacked out nose. I don’t know. This looks almost like a *****, kinda stubby IMO.

    I will try not to judge too much though. It has steelies and tape all over it. Give it some time…

  20. here’s an idea..why don’t we wait to see what the car actually looks like before deciding that the car’s styling is a “rehash” or isn’t “aggressive” enough or is “clumsy”. All we have seen are a few spy shots and thats it!! And it is funny the people who criticise Saab for even doing a slight restyle. These would be the same people who would complain that Saab made no changes.

  21. I suppose we should really wait until we see the final car, …but these photos do appear to be a very good indication of things to come.

    Take a look at the grille. Remove the black surrounding bits (which appear to be taped up) and there you have your Saab 9-5 ‘style’ bling-bling chrome-laden grille. 🙁

  22. patric95 – it seems strange to me that we should not be able to comment on what we read and see on Swade’s blog?? That is, afterall, the purpose! 😉

  23. John, I don’t know if we’re in the minority or not, but I completely agree with you.

    The last 9-5 “refresh” (in the post-’05 cars) has a more aggressive nose and… that’s about it. It looks new in the front and about the same everywhere else (I know, technically the taillights are different, but they certainly don’t look “newer” and don’t match the aggressive look of the front end). The nose doesn’t fit the rest of the car.

    The blacked-out treatment on this 9-3 refresh gives it the Michael Maueresque “Darth Vader” look of the current 9-5. I don’t really care for it. I find it funny that the “blackout” treatment is simply some black tape. Here in SoCal when I see a “disguised” car it’s got all kinds of weird cloth panels all over it to disguise the shape of the car and you’d never see the distinctive grille shape to give away what make of car it is.

    I do like the hood crease at least from the front views I’ve seen (I don’t remember seeing a profile) and I like the wrap-around headlights like the 9-5 has.

    As for the hood, I’d love to see a return to the front-hinged hood like the C900 and 99 had, but I don’t know it’s possible to re-engineer the current 9-3 to incorporate this. Hopefully it makes its way onto the next-gen 9-3 and 9-5 as well as the 9-4X. It was so easy to remove that hood to work on the engine! Just unbolt two bolts and it lifted right off (with a friend’s help). Also, it was pretty unique. Whenever I open my C900 hood in public it gets attention!

    As for the concern over the door handles, for all we know this car being tested is a mish-mash of different parts from the parts bin, being tested to see how well the AWD or drivetrain works. This is no means guaranteed to be what the refresh will look like. Maybe they just threw the BLS doors on there because they had them on hand, they fit, and they help disguise the car.

    If those door handles do make their way onto the car, it won’t be the end of the world but it will be disappointing. As was mentioned by Brian this would likely be a cost-saving measure, sharing the door panels between the two makes. It’d be disappointing because it’d be yet another unique “SAABism” lost. I was a bit disappointed when they went away from contrasting color door handles, but I guess time marches on…

    SAAB needs to figure out a way to make their cars for less money. More profit for the car maker and they’ve been having to sell a lot of cars for less than list price. Jay Spenchian was playing up the fact that you can get into a SAAB for USD$27K. So instead of competing with BMW and AUDI here in the States it seems like they’re targeting Toyota and Honda. In order to do that you have to offer more for less money. A difficult juggling act, I’m sure.

    However, he did say that SAAB has lost some of its uniqueness and intends to correct this…

  24. Hang on guys, the 3 ‘grilles’ are all black on this pre-production mule- and so the central body cloured bars that frame the centre grille stands out because of that – and seems to grow from the lower bumper moulding.

    Think how differnt this will look if the grilles are bodycoloured too- totally different- and then what about if they are chrome trimmed- as we discussed in a previous post.

    And as I said in that previous post, the new side lamp shape (again still taped up here) echoes the 1972 onwards, Bjorn Envall design for teh 99 adn 900 side indicators.

    Sadly I can see 9-5 ‘Dame Edna’ stlye chrome around the headlamp upper edge…
    Lets hope the grilles are chrome free …

    The whole look of this front wll change if the 3 grilles go body coloured for production.

    And is that clam shell for real?

    Hold fire folks….

  25. 1985 Gripen …interesting stuff whether we are enamoured by it or not. Will be interesting to see how close this is to the real thing. We all might wonder why we were fretting? 😉 (Or maybe not)

    Lance Cole – How the devil are you? Still selling your book, you know! Give me a call sometime.

  26. Regarding Saab future direction, there is a line or spectrum. On each end of the spectrum you have two extremes- one conservative and one aggressive.

    Previous posts have made me realize this:

    One extreme is to disregard any yield to the current trends- i.e. no AWD, no xenon headlamps, no chrome. The other extreme is to sell out completely, giving in to being just another wanna-be in the field of luxury vehicles.

    To do nothing is to starve the brand (insufficient sales); to change everything is to destroy or dissolve the brand (identity is lost).

    Necessity (the market) currently forces Saab to make changes many of us don’t like. Furthermore, everyone has their varying opinions on where in the spectrum the brand should be- and I don’t know of a single solitary person that is 100% happy with every detail. Some uniqueness has disappeared, and some things are being assimilated from other brands. As much as it sucks, it’s something we have to accept.

    Lastly, for a while now, Saab has not had the opportunity (read: funds) to set NEW trends. As a result, there is this trade-off between selling vehicles and being unique.

    To me, this new 9-3 appears to be playing this game- some nice, new things, and some assimilation.

    From the sounds of it though, the new models coming out (not just refreshes) will give Saab the chance to get back on the front edge- acting rather than reacting.

    Of course, this is just my ignorant (and long-winded) opinion.

  27. Hey Boyz!

    The most sympathic thing about all your comments:
    I’m so happy that there a so many saabadelics out there that care so much about indicatorlight-curves, hood-lines, wrapping windshields etc. A saab-front is a saab-front: and this IS ONE!

    But I wonder why they make it now and not when they released the 9-3 in 2002.
    If anyone has the photo-book about the 9-3 development: at pre-models you can see that they once designed the lights as they are now in 2007, following now the 2005 9-5 face. For me it’s still a very cool »back to the roots« front with the stylish 9-5 aero-bumper.

    Rearlights-Change Combi???
    Here in Germany they are completely WHITE, and nearly everyone that I ask don’t like the »tuning-optik« of the so called »frosted-ice-design« lights.
    Please hear the interested crowd! They like the Car, but not the white Rearlights. So they buy V70, A4 or 3-series Combis with red rearlights.

    Saab, go 4 gold!
    Wish 1: black interieur-roof!
    (born from jets)
    Wish 2: keep the 3-stroke wheels alive
    (like double-evo design is the last 3-spoke saab-wheel – or also:
    the aero-x wheels)

  28. it’s difficult for me to be excited about all the “refreshes,” when saab really needs new, modern designs, not “tweaks” on old designs.

    i’m afraid that 1) anything without copious amounts of aero-x language isn’t moving the brand forward enough and has little chance of competing with the other premium european brands; and 2) that these “refresh” projects dilute already strained design and engineering resources that should be put to better use (on new products).

    …my .02

  29. saab9x: the current 9-3 is only four years old, really. The 9-5 is pretty “long in the tooth”, but SAAB really can’t do anything about that until they’re given the Epsilon2 platform to build the next-gen cars on. I’m afraid we’ll just need patience while SAAB tries to keep the current models desirable until the new ones come out in ’09 and ’10.

    The SAAB Engineer I shared my opinion with regarding the current exterior designs being too “tame” and “boring” agreed with me wholeheartedly and told me that they’re working on remedying this with the refresh.

  30. not sure about the grille, lame aero-x effect I think … the pointy lightunits are pretty slick though, fits perfectly with the frosted-ice design.

    but I need to see the final result before I really can judge. Seems to me the 9-5 facelift was more my kind of thing… the 9-3 will look more ‘aggressive’ (something Saab does not need), more mature and conventional.

  31. Note that the bumper strips look flatter and BIGGER than previous years.
    i have not noticed any gaps in my cars body. I shall look again.

  32. not sure about the grille, lame aero-x effect I think … the pointy lightunits are pretty slick though, fits perfectly with the frosted-ice design.

    but I need to see the final result before I really can judge. Seems to me the 9-5 facelift was more my kind of thing… the 9-3 will look more ‘aggressive’ (something Saab does not need), more mature and conventional.

  33. The bumper strips aren’t real. I’ll draw attention to this line in the story again:

    They’ve taped some bump strips on the front bumpers and doors a-la prior years’ 9-3 models, and there’s a thin line of tape on the hood where the gaps would be on prior year model hoods.

    This black strips you see are totally flat as opposed to the raised bump strips on the current models.

    Admittedly, it’s more evident in a bigger photo.

  34. Those bumper strips are like stickers as a camouflage. If they also don’t fit them for me its another feature I like a lot from Saab. For simply protection and reduction of repair costs. Those strips save a lot of scratches on doors and bumpers. And its a typical functional Saab solution that can avoid quite much money of body/paint repair, when the scratch its quite insignificant.


  35. I also find the bumper stips rather practical. I wish they would keep them, perhaps paint them to match the body colour (certain premium brands do just that).

  36. “Maybe they just threw the BLS doors on there because they had them on hand, they fit, and they help disguise the car.”

    They are not BLS doors because the BLS doesn’t come in a wagon form.

    I spoke with a dealership manager recently who said that they will have AWD for 2008 and that the body strips will be deleted for a “cleaner look” along with restyled front and rear facias. This was before the spy photos came out so I think what we are seeing here is pretty close to production. The manager also blurted out the exact same story about AWD being an American obsession along with xenon headlights and cup holders. Things that European cars didn’t have but included to make the American market happy.

    My only obsession with AWD is to allow a more powerful engine! SAAB won’t be taken seriously until it has a car that compete with the S, M, and AMG.

    Cadillac knows this and hence the V-series. They also know that the interior bits need to be top notch to compete and they are doing that with the 2008 CTS.

    The #1 issue with the dealer had with SAAB is that it doesn’t know which market it is in. To play with the big dogs, you have to come with the right tools. Right now, SAAB doesn’t have any. AWD is a step in the right direction.

  37. hang on RJ and 1985 Gripen, some of us actually want xenon headlamps. I’m sorry, but my safety comes first before other drivers. I have never felt “blinded” by xenons and I have always felt that they give superior lighting all the time and are more reliable. I would also prefer to have AWD over FWD.. some of us actually see these things as improvements.

  38. Anyone else notice the detailing on the top of the hood is different on the white SC than it is on the black SS? The SC hood detailing is much less pronounced than the SS which makes the SC hood less unique.

  39. What do I need to “hang on” about, sethsev7n? I never said you can’t have your xenon headlights. I just pointed out that SAAB was reluctant to offer them and were basically forced to by public demand and the fact that their competitors offered them. The halogens SAAB has are the best in the industry and the xenons are only slightly better but MUCH more expensive. Plus, the halogens don’t dazzle other drivers in oncoming traffic. Just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s happened to me. Many times. I can see it not happening as much if you’re in a higher vehicle like an SUV or truck though.

    If you’re so unconcerned about other drivers’ safety you fit right in with the SUV crowd. Same with AWD. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked a parent why they felt they needed a huge SUV and they’ve pointed out that they want their children in the biggest, safest car. When I ask isn’t that sacrificing the safety of others in an accident they shrug their shoulders as if to say they don’t care. It’s everyone for themselves.

    Internally SAAB (I can only speak for a couple of SAAB engineers I spoke with though) feels xenons aren’t worth the extra money and are a safety hazard and AWD is unnecessary for winter handling. But they’re going to sell them anyway to get buyers like you to buy their cars. If you can’t beat them, join them.

  40. 1985Gripen, all due respect, but some people have to learn to be more accepting of other’s opinions. I also like bi-xenons headlamps, and I do see better with them. Plus whether Saab had the best halogens in the industry is something for others to decide on, not Saab employees.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that Saab’s biggest drawback is not GM, but it’s hardcore fanbase. Most Saabers you talk to would rather see Saab keep on rolling classic 900s off the assembly line. Well, guess what folks: it’s 2007 and competition out there is heated! Saab fell short of innovation long before GM took over and the simple fact that they had to introduce features because the market demanded them proves this point: Saab now follows trends, it doesn’t create trends. Which is sad, you say… Yes, it’s sad, but we all gotta cut them a little slack and let them do what they think is best.

    Just imagine, if 10 years from now Saab is an established global premium player at par with BMW and Audi and is viewed as such by John Doe – are you going to want to drive a Saab? It’s a difficult question for me to answer personally.

  41. Kroum, I think you and Gripen are actually reading from the same page in some ways.

    but we all gotta cut them a little slack and let them do what they think is best

    What Gripen was relaying from the people he met at Saab was that they don’t necessarily think that Xenon’s reflect the best in safety and value.

    As has been mentioned though, the market is king, the customer is always right and the people will go where the products are.

  42. Thanks, Swade. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, I could have TRIED, but as you know I would have required no less than 1000 words and the word “friggin'” thrown-in for color. 😉

  43. 1985gripen, ill just throw in a quick response since this has been more or less wrapped up. I personally prefer xenons over halogens for clarity sake. It doesn’t really matter what saab engineers think, its what I think, the customer. Driving a saab coupe, Ive never been dazzled by xenons.. high beams sure, but xenons never.. either way I don’t go out of my way to look into oncoming car’s lights.. 😉

    I do care about other’s safety, its not like I drive with my high beams on all the time. Before the saab I owned a 4wd vehicle and compared to the fwd saab, was much safer in the snow. I think that because most AWD/4wd have a sense of more safety/control, it doesn’t work out being any safer for them. I’ve seen many times a quattro audi blow by me in snow, just to see them spun out in the shoulder as I drive by. Take the awd invincibility factor out, and for the same conditions and driving style, I would take awd any day. Not to mention I wouldnt have to put chains on at the required check points when driving to tahoe :/

  44. SC rear lights

    Well Olaf I think the issue with frosted rear lights in Germany says more about German conformity with norms rather than bad Saab design. Colored rear lights were offered in the US, perhaps Saab Deutschland can be convinced to buy a batch.
    Personally I don’t believe potential Saab customers shy away from the car based solely on the color of the rear lamps. Sounds more like an excuse to buy a BMW or Audi. There is a tendency in Germany to do what opinion leaders say or do. Therefore car buyers tend to go for “opinion”-approved brands like Merc, BMW and Audi and VW for that matter. Buyers of other car brands are more to be pitied than seen as free thinkers. This makes it so hard for brands like Saab in Germany. I don’t know how many times I have gotten the comment from people I meet that they would love to drive a Saab but when I say they are not so expensive they just shake their heads and laughs nervously “no, no, I think they look nice and are nice to drive but I really can’t own one”

    Sad really.

  45. I like it, let’s not forget that the body of the 9-3 is much more modern than that of the 9-5, so the wrap around lights and modified grille should integrate better with the rest of the body.

    The one piece front is something that the 9-3 has been crying out for, most other manufacturers have a one piece front, especially for their sportier models. A tacked on front spoiler just doesn’t cut it anymore in terms of looking good. I point to BMW’s sport models as an example.

    The rear of Sport Combi doesn’t need to change, as it is striking, and the frosted look goes down quite well in the UK from SAAB fans I’ve spoken to.

    I think the Aero X front end could possible have been a little more bold, but I’m quite happy with the facial update.

    Let’s not forget, the drivetrain here is what is important. I have a ’07 model year 2.8V6 Aero saloon (had the ’07 Sport Convertible up until the end of Jan, parents work for GM so we get to change our cars every 4-6 months), and although the car is great on the motorway, or on long journeys, it can’t keep up with BMW’s and now (surprisingly) Audis on the twisty stuff.

    There is a lovely country road on the way home from work, the SS and the SC before it handled the sweeps and swoops with ease I thought, until I encountered a current shape BMW 330i. The car left me for dead on the corners, straights I was able to claw back a lot of ground, but in the corners, the 3 series is able to carry much more speed into them, and change direction MUCH better than the current 9-3.

    I thought, hey, what if it is my own driving skills at fault here, so I went to an old friend of mine who has a current shape 320d, it handles soooo well, fluid, and yes, it DID change direction much better than my 9-3 (although the ride was a little edgier, long journeys, the 9-3 is a much better choice).

    Dynamically, the 9-3 needs an overhall, and the updates to the drivetrain are welcome ones, especially the AWD. It NEEDS these updates.

    I should get an ’08 model in September, hopefully with AWD if it is standard on the Aero models, so will be able to report back on how it compares with the ’07 versions.

    AWD is an important addition, and one that SAAB has needed for a long long time.

  46. I must say I was hugely disappointed in the new nose treatment of the 9 3. It mimics the 9 5 which must be one of the homeliest cars on the planet. The 2003 to 2007 9 3 is a beauty. The 2008 is an ugly duckling. Saab needs to compete with BMW, Audi and MB in both style and performance. The new 2.8l engine is a big plus as will be XWD when it is introduced. But the style of the 9 5 and the new 9 3 is woefully inadequate.

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