Edmunds drive the 2008 Saab 9-3

I’ll get the important bit of news in this article out of the way first:

Edmunds have indicated in this writeup that the price premium for the XWD version in the US market will be $2,000.

Now, on to the review….

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Just about every motoring media outlet has had a representative in Sweden in the last month. And they’ve all been there to drive the new 2008 Saab 9-3. This latest First Drive report comes from one of the most important motoring outlets in Saab’s biggest market – Edmunds.com. And they loved it.

But then, why not? Just have a look at it.

2008 Saab 9-3 SportCombiThis is the Aero SportCombi, but Edmunds’ main concern is with the big news – XWD. Every review I’ve read so far has been uniformly positive, and there’s no exception here. Given that this is such a key model in Saab’s key market, the importance of these consistently good reviews can’t be underestimated.

Here’s a few snippets:

This loop isn’t a WRC-caliber rally stage, but our manual-shift 9-3 Aero XWD SportCombi sucked us into the experience, permitting early and sustained doses of throttle. In a front-drive 9-3, such behavior would assure spectacular understeer and perhaps a trip into the brush. Therein lies the fun of XWD: If your eyes are up and the steering wheel is pointed in the right direction, you can get away with almost anything….

…..There’s a lot of potential for performance here, and we think Saab should take advantage of it….

…..The 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero XWD engages your emotions when you’re at the wheel. It makes you care that it’s a Saab, something not just uniquely different but also uniquely good.

That’s a pretty hearty recommendation, and consistent with what other media outlets have been saying.

They do complain a bit about the interior materials. A complaint which is justified in the class that the XWD Aero will most likely find itself in. If there’s any one model where they should consider the carbon leather interior as standard, it’s this top-level XWD. Just my opinion, but it’d be such a shame to let a brilliant drivetrain down with a disappointing cabin.

Enough of that, though. Saab really are on a winner here. It’s a brilliant car and shows GM what Saab can do with some resources and the freedom to work.

More of it, I say.

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My thanks to James C for the tip!

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15 Comments

  1. I also hope that Saab could improve the interior a bit. Especially those aluminium-like plastics should be changed.
    However, I have seen some Subarus Imprezas which are great cars overall. Their interior feels much more cheaper than Saabs for me.

  2. In a front-drive 9-3, such behavior would assure spectacular understeer and perhaps a trip into the brush.

    I always read stuff like this and wonder, are they racing the car on a track or are they driving it in the streets in every day normal traffic?

    The understeer issue is so over blown by journalist. Didn’t a recent German review of this same car still say they could feel the understeer in the XWD?

    Since its a Saab they seem to have to mention how “quirky” the car, oh that crazy ignition between the seats, and the understeer.

    I’ve had a front wheel drive ’07 9-3 SportCombi for 3 months now and I’ve noticed the understeer two or three times in normal, everyday driving.

  3. Ivan, I know what you mean regarding the interior of Subaru Imprezas. I’ve owned two Saabs now, a 97 900 Turbo and a 99 9-5, and I have to say that the interiors of these two cars beats any VW or BMW that I’ve ridden or driven.

    What I’m concerned with is the hood and lights on the 08. They’ve been steadily progressing the front end of the cars since the 9-3 sports sedans — and I’ve gotten used to those — but I think it’s going to take some time for me to appreciate the 08’s looks.

    As far as understeer, it really is blown out of proportion by the press. I haven’t ever really had a bad time of it, though I have noticed it briefly.

  4. Think they clearly stated the “behavior” in question was on the course designed to highlight the abilities of XWD …

    Journos like to drive cars at and write about performance at the limits, because … well … pretty much anything on the road can handle a 15 mph left-hand turn just the same & what boring articles that would make.

  5. Saabster, my thoughts exactly. Ive thrown my SS into plenty of 50mph bends…at 90!! Do these journos ever mention the ReAxs rear axle or the ESP? BTW does the XWD have ’em? Again AWD is for getting thru really deep snow or mud…theres no point on a dry road.

  6. Swade, while I agree that SAAB’s got to do something about the interior materials, even on the most expensive model (probably the Black Turbo) or even the Aero spec I think that adding the carbon-fiber-look leather from Rinspeed or the leather dash from Hirsch would add so much to the price of the car it’d be cost-prohibitive. If SAAB were to eat that cost it’d eat away much of the profit margin on the car. Then what’s the point of selling the car?

    Also, while the carbon-fiber-look leather is novel now I worry that in five years time it’s going to look dated. I hope SAAB doesn’t bite on “fashion”. They never have in the past (though some might argue that those 99 interiors from the 70’s didn’t really date well…). Even the carbon fiber look accents kind of convey “fashion” to me as they’re not functional. The whole point of carbon fiber is to make the car lighter, not for use as an aesthetic visual texture. When it’s used as a replacement hood or hatch that’s one thing as it’s functional. When it’s used as a headlamp bezel it just looks phony to me, but that’s just MHO. It’s a matter of personal taste, I think.

  7. I just read the article and note that it makes no mention of the Black Turbo project. Had they known about it, this line may not have made it into the article, “Wheel and tire sizes haven’t changed either, as the Aero still wears 235/45R17 all-season rubber.

    This could be a missed opportunity. The Saab 9-3 Aero XWD remains a relatively lightweight car at 3,288 pounds, only now it has sharp throttle response off idle, an easily adjustable cornering attitude and lots of grip. There’s a lot of potential for performance here, and we think Saab should take advantage of it. ”

    Didn’t I read speculation that the Black Turbo will come standard with 18″ wheels with 19″ wheels a possible option?

  8. I don’t necessarily think Saab’s interior quality is that bad. I’ve been in many an Audi, BMW and Mercedes and I seriously don’t quite see what the big deal is: a Benz C Class, which is comparable to the 9-3, doesn’t feel one bit more “luxurious” to me.

    As a matter of fact, I find the 9-3 a far more comfortable car to drive and be driven in than a MB SLK AMG, which has the worst seats ever! Saab’s interiors are understated, yes, but I wouldn’t call them subpar – just different.

  9. The SAAB interiors are universally seen as sub-par by motoring journalists and customers alike. There’s GOT to be something wrong with them. Particularly in the materials. I’ve even read some SAAB insiders secretly confiding that the interior materials need to improve in later gen cars.

    Something unrelated that this reminded me of is that I saw that Ford is starting to use soy-based foam in their seats. I like this. I hug trees (but palm trees are all I seem to be able to find in L.A.). 🙂

  10. I think this new XWD has the potential to steal a fair number of sales off of Audi (great to look at kinda dull to drive) and maybe even a number of rear-wheel drive BMWs as well.

    2008 is going to be very, very interesting at Saab. Cant wait to visit my local dealer and drool all over his new merchandise!

  11. I think what Saab may lack in people’s taste in interior they definitely do make up for in exterior… bravado. They really look like something else.

    An Audi, though? The exterior of an Audi is just so plain. You could line up a similar year sedan with a Toyota sedan and you wouldn’t see much difference.

    Let’s hope they take into account the criticism on the interior, though.

  12. Since crash landing my 9-5 on 30 May 2007, I have been getting a ride with a colleague of mine who drives an Audi A4 1.8T (142kW). Boy, is the interior small (I know I am comparing a 9-5 spacious interior to an A4) but it is really on the small side. What I found interesting is how small the front and rear windows are, the close proximity of your head to the roof. The interior quality is spot-on: no squeaks or rattles but looks boring and ordinary. The seats have got good side-bolsters, but are hard for my tight behind which got used to the 9-5 Aero seats now for 5 years.

    The dash is so ordinary and the red hue of the instruments is so garish and out of sync really. A good car, solidly screwed together, good performance, but bland and boring and lacks the personna my MY01 9-5 Aero has.

    Would I consider it now that my 9-5 Aero is written off: Nope. Bring the 9-3 Aero XWD anytime.

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