Autoweek 9-3 review – Part I

This review out of Autoweek is a pretty big one and deals with several different areas to do with Saab, so I’m going to divide it into two parts.

And I’ll start with the latter part – the actual review of the car.

You’ve all heard me rave on about the 2008 Saab 9-3 and some of you may have figured “well, saab did treat him to a drive of it in Sweden and he’s being pretty nice about it.” This is a Saab enthusiast site after all, right? So would I be critical about the car if it warranted it?

Well yeah, I would. But the press in general have been very positive about this new 9-3 and for good reason – it’s a brilliant car and it’s definitely a worthwhile progression.

Autoweek cover Autoweek put the 2008 Saab 9-3 on the cover of it’s latest issue and the review from that issue is now available online.

Our reviewer is Dutch Mandel, and it seems he was as smitten with the car as I was.

Back in 2003, the 9-3 was met with a mix of excitement and reservation (where was the hatch?) but the new model sold well. With a small market looking for Saabs and a few problems emerging after a year or so, sales dropped off accordingly and have maintained a steady rate since.

The addition of a V6 and the SportCombi have helped, but save for the Convertible, the 9-3 range (and Saab in general) has never really been recognised by the motoring press or general public as a genuine competitor for the bigger Europeans.

But perhaps that might start to change.

…..After a day behind the wheel, we find the Saab 9-3 is finally a car worthy of serious consideration.

That has not been the case before. As Saab relished its individuality—hell, let’s call a herring a herring: its quirkiness—the preferred transport of global iconoclasts has never stood alongside other European contenders. Now it can sit at the big table with everyone else.

And it’s about time too. It’s been previously acknowledged within GM that Saab’s under-development in a macro sense was due to over-development of components such as the whole fibre-optic net that ran through the car and couldn’t be shared with other GM vehicles. With the sins of the past now re-worked it’s hoped that investment into new models will reap dividends for Saab, especially in Europe.

So has the car got the legs to carry it this far? it’s the bread and butter model right now and this release is an important springboard for Saab into the future.

This new 9-3 is familiar—yet tougher—in style and design. The design leap is not to the degree Cadillac shifted personality a few years back, but it has something going on. The car’s face is deeper and more pronounced, a nod to Saab’s Aero X concept that wowed Geneva showgoers two years ago…..

…..The interior is no less spectacular, which goes to show that these Swedes not only have figured out a way to make the cockpit a place you’d like to stay and live in, but they’ve done so in such a manner that it doesn’t translate the cold, abrupt, Scandinavian minimalist style. The seats coddle, and the dash is like what you’d expect in high-line cars from other European nations. The wheel is thick and comfortable, and it seems no matter how large or small your hands, it fits perfectly….

The driving part of this review focuses mainly on the XWD version. It’s a natural thing given that it’s so new, though it’d be good to see some 2.0T reviews in there for people that aren’t considering XWD.

Nevertheless, the XWD has found another convert:

The best thing about the 9-3’s XWD handling character is that it doesn’t get flustered with abrupt surface transitions; jogged quickly from gravel to asphalt, the car knew it was dancing on something new but wasn’t upset about it. It gobbled up fast lane transitions and showed no push exiting a large-radius turn into a sharp decreasing one.

It’s no small thing, this new model. The addition of XWD has definitely been the attention grabber and for good reason, too. It’ a great system.

But this is a great car, regardless of the addition of XWD.

I’d recommend you click through at the link above and check out the Autoweek story.

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2 Comments

  1. That is a great cover shot and one I hoped the car would get.  I mentioned in an earlier post that the XWD system would hopefully get SAAB some positive press and it looks like it happened. Given that most people just ‘read’ the cover of magazines, that should get the 9-3 the attention it deserves.

    I need to go find a copy of that down here at Garden City (right down the street from Myrtle) Beach… Kind of funny – I drove 700 miles to get here and only saw one other 9-3 SportCombi, and it was from Ohio. Did the guy follow me?

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