1985Gripen and the 2008 Saab 9-3 (part 1)

If you’re not familiar with my writing, let me just explain I have a style all my own. That is to say there is no “style” whatsoever. I just flow with what I remember when I remember it and it’s not all that professional. I type what I saw and include my own opinions. I type things you probably don’t even care about and will have to try and ignore. Hopefully somewhere in my writing you’ll find something of value. So here goes…


Tuesday morning I woke up after only three hours sleep. This is because my wife and son flew-in very late (after midnight) and joined me as we planned to have a vacation in Washington this week since I’m already going to be in town and all. After my family arrived I was so amped-up and excited about them being there (and truthfully about the prospect of driving the first and only XWD-equipped SAAB 9³ in North America, but I wouldn’t tell them that) that I couldn’t sleep. I eventually fell asleep somewhere around 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday but had to wake up for breakfast and the SAAB presentation at 6:00 a.m. I am not a “morning person”. As I type this I’m beginning this account of my day at around midnight. I’m not much of a planner either. My wife would tell you that if you asked.

I took a nice hot shower with the BVLGARI toiletries available in the bathroom (just in case you were wondering what brand the Ritz Carlton would provide) so though I was sleepy at least I smelled good!

I stumbled into a conference room at the Ritz Carlton where we were staying and headed directly for the coffee. This was the most elaborate breakfast setup I’d seen since the last “ride and drive” event SAAB put-on that I attended (in February in San Diego for the 60th Anniversary). I never eat the “most important meal of the day”, but the food smelled so good that I had to eat some scrambled eggs (with Tabasco sauce, of course) and cheese and bacon. It was really supposed to be an omelet but I’m a really picky eater and fortunately I didn’t have to suffer any stern looks from the chef preparing the omelets to order.

I sat at a table with frequent TrollhattanSaab.net commenter (and the man behind the saabhistory.com website) “SG” as he prepared his video camera to record the presentation.

The presentation began with Jan-Willem Vester of SAAB Communications introducing the President of SAAB USA, Mr. Steve Shannon.

This being an event for the media, many of the outlets aren’t as familiar with SAAB’s goings-on as we TrollhattanSaab readers are so there were some elemental explanations going on with news mixed-in.

One of the things I learned is that the 9³ accounts for nearly 70% of total SAAB sales.

He touched on the recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, and pointed-out that of the two “Top Picks”, the only soft-top was the SAAB 9³ convertible.

The new model year 2008 9³ will hit U.S. dealer lots in the middle of September.

The 2008 9³ incorporates 2,157 changes.

XWD will available as an option in the 9³ Aero Sport Sedan and 9³ Aero Sport Combi (but not the convertible) in MY2008 and will be available as an option in the 2.0T spec 9³ in MY2009.

The 2.0T outputs 210 bhp and gets 28 mpg highway. This is a slight decrease (from 30 highway mpg in MY2007) simply due to the new way that the EPA calculates fuel economy starting in MY2008. All manufacturers’ cars suffer an apparent mpg decrease this year, with most being more drastic than SAAB’s. Also the hp is calculated differently as well. Again, SAAB only suffered a modest “decrease” compared to other manufacturers as many of the other manufacturers (particularly Honda, Steve Shannon pointed out to me over lunch at the S.O.C. the Saturday prior) used some shifty methods to make it look like output was higher (I’m guessing measuring it at the crankshaft rather than at the wheels?).

The 2.0T BioPower will output 200 hp and is due MY2009 (this looked to me like a typo on the PowerPoint slide, as wouldn’t the BioPower have more horsepower than the pure gasoline model with the same engine? And I would think that they didn’t flip the numbers as I would think E85 would buy you more than just 10 horsepower…) SW —> I’d take an educated guess and say that the BioPower model is using different engine management software, hence the lower number. I’m somewhat boggled as to why they’d make it lower as higher output is one of the drawcards for BioPower, but I’ll just add this to the list of decisions from the US that boggle my mind.

Now standard (on the MY2008) are XM Radio, OnStar, a tire pressure monitoring system, rain sensing wipers, and the “quiet tuning package”. The following wasn’t specifically mentioned in the presentation, but for those of you who were trying to decide between the 2007 or 2008 9³ that should make your choice easier. You get all that for free and the MY2008 is only going to sell for like $500 more than the ’07 did! OnStar isn’t available in BMW, but I’d like to see someone price-out a BMW 328i with all those options and compare the price to the 9³. SW —> I think the use of Onstar and XM might be for a limited period, after which you’d need to subscribe, but they are built in to the car as standard.

Aero Academy participation is standard on all Aeros, including the 9⁷X Aero.

Warranty on the 9³ is 3 years/30K miles scheduled maintenance, 4 years/50K miles vehicle, and 5 years/100K miles powertrain. The warranties are fully-transferable. Mr. Shannon pointed-out that SAAB is the only manufacturer that offers fully-transferable warranties in their class. So if you were to sell your SAAB after a couple of years (obviously to buy a new one…) then the new owner gets the remainder of your original warranty!

The base 2.0T 9³ Sport Sedan starts at US$28,385. Add $900 for the Sport Combi. Add another $2,000 for XWD.

At this time Mr. Shannon introduced Andreas Andersson of SAAB Sweden. He went on to point out some of the features of the new 9³.

He talked about the “signature position light” in relation to what I’ve been referring to as the “light pipe” above the headlights and some other people have been referring to as the “eyebrow” lights. He also referred to the chrome treatments on the front end as “matte chrome”.

SAAB benchmarked the Aero XWD against the best of the Japanese and German competition in lateral acceleration on a slalom course. He didn’t refer to which models they were by name, but just showed “Japanese” and “German” on a chart showing slalom runs in addition to the 9³ Aero XWD. He did mention that they threw-in a Porsche 911 as well as that’s the epitome of handling in their eyes. The Porsche 911 was mentioned by name and its course on the chart was labeled as such.

The SAAB did the slalom in 7.02 seconds and had an exit time of 100.1 kph. The 9³ beat all except the 911 in exit speed and beat all comers (including the 911) in time.

I’m sorry I didn’t take more notes on the presentation, but I do remember Andreas pointing out some of the design choices in the MY2008 9³ as well. The one thing I remember is that they went to the trouble of lowering the SAAB badge which was previously located on the center of the trunk down into the chrome strip on the rear to make the car look as if it is lower to the ground and has a lower center of gravity. He said that it seems like such a minor thing but they really do believe it achieves the desired effect.

Lastly we were introduced to Peter Johansson, Engineering Specialist Driveline & AWD for GM Europe Engineering. Peter’s grandfather was one of the 16 aircraft engineers who founded SAAB and his father also worked for SAAB and was quite a successful rally driver. I learned later in the day on the tarmac of an airstrip in Northern Virginia that the Johansson’s engineering and racing genes were passed-down!

That’s all I can write right now as it’s after 12:35 a.m. as I write this. I’ll start on part 2 tomorrow which will include impressions of my drive of the MY2008 9³ and MY2008 9³ Aero as well as my own drive of the MY2008 9³ Aero equipped with XWD on an airstrip tarmac and wet grass course! Thanks for reading as always and I hope you enjoyed it and learned something from this writeup.

Catch you tomorrow!

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  1. 1. i love the “signature position lights,” (and the aero-x’s, too).

    2. now i’m curious to compare the re-located rear badge; and

    3. it’s nice to see some previously optional features being included as standard features. the “quiet tuning package” would be at the top of that list for me; the bottom, onstar.

  2. Nice read Gripen, and very informative. It will be nice to hear your impressions of the MY08 2.0 vs. Aero vs. XWD.

    Have a blast!

  3. Gripen…. you’re such a tease!! j/k

    Enjoy the vacation with the family. You’ve definitely earned it after all the torturing work you put in at the S.O.C. 😛

  4. Another advantage of BioPower that’s typically left unsaid is that one can maintain the same level of power as with a petrol-fueled engine while obtaining lower fuel consumption. Just because ethanol isn’t fossil fuel doesn’t mean it doesn’t emit CO2, and agricultural fuel production isn’t really a sustainable solution in the long term.

  5. joemama: Wulf is closer to being correct than I was in my write-up. I looked at my notes and from the media event in February I have a note that says, “start at $27K”, so the MY2008 is indeed a price increase of $1,385. Sorry, my mistake.

  6. 1985Gripen, you tease. I was patiently reading your article and then you go and cut us off just as you were about the drive the car. 🙂

    I don’t think they would get away with a price increase here in Canada as the 9-3 is already more expensive than the A4 2.0t and BMW323i when you factor in the ridiculous delivery charge Saab charges. Add the fact you don’t get any free maintenance at Saab and there is the dilemma.

  7. zippy: I don’t know the GM Canada-specific conditions, but in the U.S. the first 3 years/30K miles you get free scheduled maintenance.

    As for the “tease” I was trying to get Swade some material to put up before I had to break for bed. I’ll write up the rest later today. 🙂

    I also provided him with a bunch of pictures with captions last night, so maybe he’ll get some of those up when he gets a chance to satisfy you. 😛

  8. I was happy to read your account of your upcoming showing of the 9-3. As a Salesman for Saab in California, very excited to get our first look this September. look forward to your next article.

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