Which was bigger?

It probably had more to do with the previous year’s release of the Saab 9-5, but in 1998 Saab decided that the 900 should be called the 9-3. I was pondering my first Saab purchase at the time and didn’t really know much about the current cars, hence this will seem a little sketchy.

Right or wrong, the models are thought of as being reasonably separate. The 9-3 had a smarter looking body kit, smarter wheels and probably enjoyed some mechanical and interior refinements as well. It was all basically the same, but just a bit better thought out and screwed together in a number of areas. Unfortunately a press release saying “we made XXXX changes for this new model….” is no longer available.

The 9-3 dropped the V6 engine that was available in the 900 but retained the 2.0 engine and got the 2.3 engine as well in a number of instances. I’m a little vague on my NG900 history (obviously) so I’m a little unsure if it was ever blessed with the 2.3.

Here’s what they looked like in their 1997 and 1999 five-door guises:

1997Saab900.jpg 1999Saab9-3.jpg


The reason I’m thinking about all of this is the latest vehicle update we’ve experienced from Saab. Here are the 2007 and 2008 Saab 9-3 Sport Sedans:

2007Saab9-3.jpg 2008Saab9-3.jpg

Fortunately for this new model, we do have a concrete number for changes made. That number (IIRC) is 2,157 and they range from body panels to insulation thickness and probably some silly things like the brand of carpets (I’m speculating there).

The point is, there’s a lot changed in this new car and I’m personally tipped towards thinking that the changes in the 2008 9-3 range well and truly outweigh the changes made between the 900 and 9-3, despite it being deemed worthy of a name change.

Just think about the real big-ticket items coming in on the 2008 Saab 9-3:

Major panel work
Twin turbo diesel engine setup
‘Sport’ model added to automatic transmission
Uprated V6 to 280hp
And the all-important XWD
Major NVH work for a much quieter ride

I could probably count BioPower as well, though there were a handful of 2007 models sold with BioPower just prior to this new car’s release.

The point is, this new Saab 9-3 isn’t a fully new model and I’m not claiming it to be, but it’s pretty much got all the attributes to almost deserve the title. Lesser vehicle-enhancements have earned the right in the past to call themselves ‘new’ or even change their name.

I know the whole name-change thing is pretty much a marketing decision etc, but these are the things I think about sometimes.

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  1. NG900 did come with the 2.3, here in Oz anyway. The last 9-3 with the 2.3 engine was shipped in early 1998.

    Having driven both the NG900 and the 9-3 I can tell you the 9-3 was a HUGE improvement and one that i would have to say (given that I haevn’t driven the 2008 9-3) would be hard to surpass between 2007 and the 08 model.

    If nothing else there were big improvements in safety with the 9-3 introduction, as well as the clutch and suspension setup.

  2. Wouldn’t the last 2.3 in a 9-3 have been the 02 Viggen? Call me pedantic.

    I’ve driven the 900, but it was a loooong time ago.

    But a few weeks ago I spent quite a bit of time one afternoon in the 08 and then rode for 5 hours in an 07 and the difference was also huge.

  3. http://www.saabnet.com/tsn/models/1999/9993pr1.html

    “The Saab 9-3 (pronounced “nine three”) was first introduced in May, 1998 as an evolution of the Saab 900 line and provides a performance inspired update of the 900’s distinctive styling along with more than 1,000 technical improvements and interior design changes. Now, only half a year later, Saab’s engineers have further refined the Saab 9-3 in several respects to enhance the driving experience.”

  4. Just pointing out for completeness that the 2.3 litre engine in the 94-98MY 900 was a naturally aspirated (non-turbo)

  5. In the USA the 2.3L in the gm900 was the slowest (best mileage sometimes) option. I often give me friend a hard time for having an NA AUTO GM900…

  6. My 96 900 has the 2.3. It also is automatic…and it’s still pretty quick compared to other cars I’ve driven, which makes me really want a new Saab. Also, my car has the sport button, which is nice.

  7. The change between 07 and 08 is way bigger then that between 97 and 98. I can’t recall a normal mid-life facelift from some of the other well-known brands that had this much change in design and/or technology. Just look at the recent facelift
    of Volvo S40/V50. You can hardly tell the difference even if the cars are side by side.

  8. I just checked the Swedish Saab site. Earlier (like 2-3 years ago) they had an excellent section where they gave all the fact of older models and the exact spec of every model year of NG900, 9-3, 9000 and 9-5. But it’s gone now…

  9. In the UK the NG900 was available with the 2.3i (B234I) although the 9-3 was only available with it for a few months as 9-3 entered in MY98.5 (900 ran as a MY98 until the 9-3) when MY99 came the B234I was dropped and replaced by the 2.0t 154bhp (B204E) as previously the only Turbo engine available for NG900 and 9-3 was the 2.0T 185bhp (B204L). Of course the 2.3 returned later in MY99 for the Viggen 2.3HOT (B235R)

  10. Ok, but B235R and B234I have significant differences, not the turbo only.
    For instance, B234I don’t use DI and Trionic, it was Bosch Motronic instead, as far as I know…

  11. “Major panel work
    Twin turbo diesel engine setup
    ‘Sport’ model added to automatic transmission
    Uprated V6 to 280hp
    And the all-important XWD
    Major NVH work for a much quieter ride”

    What do you get of all these fancy items if you buy the “base”-model?
    Let´s say the 2.0 Turbo patrol FWD?

    How many 9-3 XWD 2.8T are expected to leave the factory annually.

    Still, the MY2008 is just a facelift to surrvive a couple of years on the market.
    And to the upgraded FIAT-Diesel: BMW and others are introducing 400NM Diesel engines as well. So what?

    No wonder, why GM just anounced to be happy with just 160.000 Saabs per anno, not 250.000 in earlier dreams.

    It´s a pity, that GM introduced only an averrage 900 in 1993 and 9-3 in 2003.

    Hopefully potential customers see something new in MY2008. To meet the goal of 160.000! Only Bimmers, Lexus, Volvos and Audis in this segemnt are borring;)

  12. The 900 to 9-3 change was much more substantial, than the new facelift which is in essence for all but the high end xwd just sheet metal. The 900 rode on Opel Ascona/Cavalier underpinnings, where as the 9-3 was moved onto the GM vectra platform. Looked the same but was a totally different car. Where as the current facelift looks like a different car but will probably drive the same.

  13. I think I saved the pages “ctm” is talking about; anybody interested in me sending them? They are pretty good!

    By the way, I’m about to buy a NG900 1996 2.3 L here in Argentina, comments on that?
    Why is it what I feel that in this page nobody talks a lot about the NG900?

  14. I think I saved the pages “ctm” is talking about. Anybody interested?
    By the way, I’m about to buy a NG900 1996 2.3 L here in Argentina, comments on that?
    Why is it what I feel that in this page nobody talks a lot about the NG900?

  15. Sebbe,

    I think most talk about the NG900 when the topic comes up, like a post regarding one.

    Where in Argentina are you? Saab doesn’t have a presence there currently, though when I lived in Chaco there was a BMW dealership that had a Saab-Scania sign out front (they sold the trucks only).

  16. Hi RJ, how are you?
    Back in the nineties there were several Saab dealerships in Buenos Aires (Argentina’s capital city) and even in my homecity, Córdoba (second city in importance). Right now I’m living 80 km away from BA. This weekend I’m going there to check the NG900 I talked about in my previous post.

    What I feel is that due to the fact that NG900 was the first project of the collaboration with GM, it might not be seen as a real Saab. If you look in the “Categories” section, at the right of the screen there’s none for the Saab NG900.

    By the way, sorry for double-posting, I use Firefox =)

  17. I see what you mean, Sebbe. I do remember reading some stuff on the OG900 as well as the NG900 too, but I can’t recall exactly where it was.

    As long as you know of a place that knows how to work on Saabs, you’ll be all set. Send a pic to Swade when you get one- I’d love to see some Saabs in Argentina! They’re a rare sight indeed pretty much anywhere in South America.

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