2008 Saab 9-3 review from Canada

Auto 123 is the latest automotive source to check in with their report on driving the Saab 9-3 in Washington DC last week.

This one’s another great review, over all, but I can’t hide my annoyance at some of the negative conclusions they drew. Here’s their summary:

Auto123Saab 9-3

As you can see, there’s a lot more good points than “bad” so this is by no means a negative review. But some of their less than green findings must be open to question.

For example, the fact that base versions are not as stylish or as nimble as the Aero versions. Well, the styling issue is a matter of interpretation. But even more relevant is the fact that they’re base versions, not Aeros. If they were as nimble, powerful and trimmed as the Aero versions then they wouldn’t be the base versions. That’s why you have base versions and performance versions, so that people can choose the option that best suits their needs and budget.

Then there’s the claim that the SportCombi styling is awkward. What planet are they living on? Show me a better looking wagon you Crazy Canucks! I’ll bet you a Grouse Mountain beaver tail that you can’t.

I’ve covered pricing here before. Spec another car up to the level of equipment that a Saab will typically offer you and then come talk to me about pricing.


I have gripes with obvious areas where I think a review is flawed. This shouldn’t stop you from reading through it, though. There’s plenty of good reading there as well:

Motoring across such a picturesque setting, the temptation was to really put your foot into it – and that’s precisely what we did. With little traffic to contend with and an open road in front of us, it was the perfect day for a quick country drive. Amid such circumstances, the new Saab 9-3 proved a willing companion….

….The automatic transmission, when placed in Sport mode and left in the fully automatic setting, actually worked extremely well, holding lower gears longer under acceleration and shifting with decent speed….

….While some reviewers have complained that the new 9-3 still suffers from torque steer, they are incorrect. Even with the traction control system switched off, the 2008 model restricts this undesirable characteristic better than any other Saab or any other front-wheel drive car of similar engine output; it’s an exceptional achievement….

….On the passive safety front, the Saab 9-3 continues an established tradition of superior standards….

You can read the full review at Auto123.


Thanks to Kroum for passing on the link.

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  1. Never trust a Canuck Swade, I don’t knew how many times if said it!! πŸ™‚

    See ur point though. You sometimes get the feeling they write stuff just to be heard without actually thinking about it. Esp about the price! Wow, find me a base A4 or 3 series with the same appointments for the $$$

  2. I think this is a fair and balanced review. Except for the comment on the sportcombi..a bit dumb if you ask me.

    The comment on pricing is right on the money (pardon the pun). The only thing missing from it is the gaping hole that would be where the 2.0t would fit.

    This is the kit i think many buyers would be interested in.

  3. Craig, when they released the SC here initially, there was only a Linear and an Aero. So it was the most docile 4-banger (110 KW) or the V6 with nothing in between.

    Thankfully, they’ve upped that min power to the 129KW output and introduced a Vector model with 154KW – the old Aero engine. A much better lineup here in Oz now.

  4. Never really been into 6 cyl cars FWD as a rule. But then again not looking at 6 cyl.

    I think that FWD with too much power to the front wheels is a scary thing, especially under difficult cornering conditions.

    This is why i think SAAB needs to get the XWD platform established across the range asap. Looks like a great package with the edge to beat others in this class.

  5. Gripen, right now my Viggen IS underivable *sob*

    Craig, I was please to see the TRD Aurion get a caning in the msm press this week for exactly that reason. Toyot tried to play it down too, which was a laugh. In the mainstream market they pitch it against Commodore and Falcon but the TRD one’s not supposed to be playing in that particular company, according to Toyota.

    Can’t have it both ways.

    The scary part is that they’ll learn from this and come back with a killer AWD version in three years.

    If I gave a stuff about that segment of the market I’d be worried, but i don’t. My main satisfaction just came from seeing Toyota rightly critiqued.

  6. There is a recent a test of 9-5 2.3t BioPower on czech car site http://magazin.auto.cz/testy/saab-9-5-2-3t-biopower-alkoholovy-dychanek.html

    The summary has some strange points

    – the option to buy BioPower model in Czech republic (there is no goverment support for E85 as for now)
    – the option to run on any combination of petrol & E85
    – interior space
    – quiet engine for high speed long distance travels with appropriate mileage for an automatic
    – smooth automatic transmission

    – at first brakes are engaged weaker than expected
    – high consumption of E85
    – consumption of E85 is more variable (with driving style) than normal petrol
    – Paddle shifting works only in manual mode, you cannot downshift in automatic
    – disputable choice of some interior materials

    Generally its quite neutral, quite good part goes to the E85 and they say without subsidies its not worth it. From design view they like the back part of the wagon (from C pillar onwards), the front looks ‘flat and overhung’. The space or better the versatility is appreciated (did I mention the Czech are crazy for trunk space ? see Skoda marketing πŸ˜‰ ) The comfort and space is appreciated (seats, headrests, dash…)
    They are missing a more aggressive braking characteristic, the design of navigation unit user interface (compared to the high bonus price), the area around shifter feels cheap…

  7. What a conincidence – I just a client asking for Premium Midsize Combis. He was not into german cars in the first place and considered alternatives as well [espcecially swedes]. After having looked at the new ’08 9Β³ and the facelifted V50 he said, even though the Volvo seems to be cut of one piece of wood, the rear is way sleeker than this disproportional 9Β³… its not the first time I heard it, others dislike the new front as well [germans don’t seem to like chrome of any kind – but then go with monster grilles like Audi’s]… I already have discounts of up to 12.000,- for a new Saab, but many only recall the Saab 900 as an “akward” car… this is no fun any more… a half a year ago I placed one in an Aero Vert and after driving it they were so suprised about how good this car actually is! They took it instead of an Audi A4 conv. 3.2 FSi / BMW 328ci and C70 T5! Getting customers to actually drive Saabs is the real deal! Saab should do more in advertising their superior handling and many would buy them instead of the S40/S60/V50…

  8. the ’07 Aero SC costs around EUR 45.000 in OZ – and we sell the ’08 Aero SC for about EUR 32.000,- … this is part of the problem as well. Saab won’t be profitable, if the discounts needed to sell a Saab are that high πŸ™

  9. they do not have such a high moms and luxury tax… but therefore you have a social system that works… one of the reasons my uncle moved from germany to norway – the living standards are much higher and was actually able to find work [the fishing grounds proved the difference after all ;)]

  10. The conv. actually starts at Eur. 40,000 is Australia, and the SS is roughly half that. The price competes with ovlov and VW, and significantly cheaper then audi and BMW.

  11. rayman,
    High living standards yes, but Norway also got more old cars than any other Western European country. Old cars that are polluting the atmosphere and that are not safe in a crash… That’s one of the costs of our social democratic mindset.

  12. I know – but you do earn about 2-2,5 times compared to germans πŸ™‚ to be honest, I have seen it in denmark for years. We have lots of friends over there and always wondered about the masses of older cars, whereas germans intended to buy a new one every 4 years. No these guys seem to have an enourmous economic push and what do they do with all the “freed” money? They buy cars with extreme CO2 slip out – big and heavy machines, almost zero Diesels or even flexfuel cars. Hopefully you do not make the same mistakes πŸ˜‰

  13. Arild, are you sure about the currency rates ?

    In Finland, also known for its high car-tax, the ’08 Aero costs around 55000 euros and the 90 kEur sounds too high, even for Norway.

  14. The base 9-3 is $1,000 cheaper than the Passat in Canada if you spec the VW with leather seats. Same thing for the Aero vs V6 Passat.
    This is very competitive, especially since the 9-3 is more of an Audi/BMW competitor.

  15. “no paddle shifters for the automatic” – what does this mean?
    I guess I have them on my MY06 SC…did Saab cancel them on the MY08?
    Or am I confusing something here?

  16. Rayman, I’d like to drive a new 9-3 BioPower, less pollution and more power! πŸ˜€

    Riku, the price of the 9-3 Aero SC is NOK 719000, and NOK 100 equals EUR 810, so the price of a 9-3 Aero is EUR 88765. πŸ™

  17. Rayman, I’d like to drive a new 9-3 BioPower, less pollution and more power! πŸ˜€

    Riku, the price of the 9-3 Aero SC is NOK 719000, and EUR 100 equals NOK 810, so the price of a 9-3 Aero is EUR 88765. πŸ™

  18. Wienerschnitzl, I think they were lamenting the fact that the paddle shifters are actually buttons mounted onto the steering wheel as opposed to being separate paddles stickng out from the sides of the steering column. I must say that the comment is somewhat valid.

  19. SportCombi styling i “Awkward”…???? Thats from a county were the Cutlass Sierra Cruiser has done so good in the past??? Uhhhhfff.. Guess itΒ΄s from a journalist that only likes flat top roofs and an anonymous apperance… The SC is in my liking “sΓ₯ himla snygg”!!! (Beautiful.. sortaΒ΄) Beefy, just like the SS in handling (Wich no other brand can manage. Not even the BMW 3) and soooo delightful to look at.. Without roofrails that is…


  20. And yes, the paddle shifters are there.. anyone that see it different..? Goooooooodness, if journalists could have a look before they write.. You guys would be frightened over the way journalists compare Saabs with Volvos in Sweden.. They forget alot when it comes to Saabs strenght.. Not everybody, but it is still Volvo country… Nope, IΒ΄m not bitter.. Just sad.. The 08 9-3 is the best Saab ever in my saying and should be given great if not exquisite in all revues..
    More is yet to come.. And yes.. ofcourse the 900 and 99 turbo were ahead of there time, but this is now..


  21. Tompa, the journo was complaining that the paddle shifters on the Aero are mounted to the steering wheel instead of the column, and saying they’re not on the base model.

    Completely agree about the SportCombi being called “awkward” though – what a dumb statement.

  22. I’m surprised they didn’t adjust the Canadian pricing for the rise in the Canadian dollar. It’s still $8,000 USD more than a US model. Looks like I’ll be finding an auto broker to import one from the US. This isn’t a problem unique to Saab though. I’ve heard of people importing Toyota 4Runners for $15,000 less.

  23. Coming back to the so-called akward styling of the estate / sporthatch: if I was in a position to buy a new 9-3 (I now drive a 2005 9-3 SS), it would either be the sporthatch or the convertible. And the convertible I would only pick because I like verts, while the sporthatch would be chosen because it’s the only design SAAB has on the market that can compete with the original 99 and 900. Those are the real historic design benchmarks for SAAB. Besides the Aero-X, of course, but I haven’t seen that one in the shops πŸ™‚

    (Before you ask: if I don’t like the SS, then why do I drive it anyway? Quite simple really: at that time, I thought the A4, 3-series and S-60 were even more bland or more ugly, and the new 159 wasn’t out yet. And I prefer underdogs to egos. Perhaps I’m not the typical SAAB-fan πŸ˜‰ )

  24. Quite a fare review, IMHO. Maybe they are right when they say they would sell way more of the things if the price was a few $$$$ cheaper. The price difference between the USA and Canada is disgusting considering our dollar is almost on par the the USD.

    Make mine a 2.0T with XWD in Snow Silver with a black interior!!

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