Edmunds review the 2008 Saab 9-3

Well, it had to happened some time. A non-glowing review of the 2008 Saab 9-3.

And wouldn’t you know it, it’s one of the serious car sites. Edmunds.com.

It wasn’t all bad news. They like the refreshed look, the quietness, the steering and they go so far as to call it “one of the most attractive entry-luxury cars on the road”. They talk up the XWD system, describing it as one that brings a new level of driver involvement, one that they claim has been absent for years. Many recent-model Saab owners may beg to differ on the absence, but that’s another thing all together.

Edmunds are a bit like C&D, in that they kneel at the alter of BMW and sing from the Audi hymnal. The areas that they pick out on the Saab are the interior, which we’ve commented on here before, and what they see as too much body roll on the Aero model.

They advise that someone considering the 2008 Saab 9-3 shop around before committing to one. I’d agree, and I’d go one further. Price up those alternatives so that include all the standard equipment you get in the 9-3. See the size of the hit you’ll take.

Then, as part of your research, go and drive a few Saabs long distance. Include some straights where you can check out the massive low-end torque as well as some twisties where you can check out exactly how bad that body roll is. My guess is that if you’re also kneeling at the same alter then you’ll be pleasantly surprised – especially if you’re driving the XWD that they’re supposedly talking about (though, there was only one XWD vehicle at the press event in the US, and that didn’t get run around the highways, but I digress).

Here’s some snippets from the article:

The sophisticated new XWD system is a bright spot, as it adds a level of driver involvement that has been absent from Saabs for years. Additionally, when equipped with XWD, the 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero picks up a higher-boost version of the turbocharged, 2.8-liter V6 rated at 280 hp. But even with its newfound grip and power, the 9-3 Aero XWD isn’t hard-edged enough to be considered a true sport sedan or sport wagon.

This one really cheesed me off. I really think the SportCombi is the best looking wagon out there and it drives just as well as the sedan does. I was following a BMW wagon through traffic last Friday morning and had to ask myself what. were. they. thinking? The SportCombi really is one of the sportier wagons out there, great looking and truly versatile.

The higher-boost version of the turbo V6 on 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero XWD models adds some excitement to the range, as it delivers noticeably sharper low-end response. The automatic transmissions can be reluctant with downshifts in “D,” but they respond with reasonable haste in sport mode…..

….Steering is light and accurate, but body roll around corners is excessive even on the more athletic Aero model. Enthusiasts would be wise to wait for a 9-3 Aero XWD, as the all-wheel-drive model’s exceptional grip makes for a more engaging driving experience.

It’s horses for courses, really. As Jay Spenchian said just over a year ago, Saab aren’t trying to make a car for a BMW buyer. Let them have them. If what you’re after is a great, versatile sport sedan or wagon that offers excellent value for money and great fun, the 9-3 should definitely be on your list.

The bulk of this review actually reads like it was written by a robot. There’s very little enthusiasm or feel there, which can only indicate that they didn’t get into the groove of this car at all. Edmunds’ head honcho, Karl Brauer, owns a Sonett III, and perhaps the individuality of that car is the standard by which all Saabs are judged. That’s a far-fetched line to draw, I know, but there’s little else to explain the lack of emotion or personality in this report.

All I can say is make sure you go and drive one. It’s got plenty of personality, both inside and out.

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14 Comments

  1. I think this all comes back to the conversation we have on this site occasionally. Saab needs to articulate what they stand for.
    So Spenchian says they’re not making cars for BMW drivers, but Saab continues to cite BMW and Audi as their competition. That Edumunds used them for comparision is nothing Saab hasn’t asked for as far as I’m concerned.

  2. My biggest gripe with the ’08 9-3 is the interior. It doesn’t look a whole lot different than the ’05 I’m giving up. Just for comparison’s sake, I took the Mercedes C30 Sport and the Infiniti G35 for a test drive. Similarly equipped (with moonroof and heated seats packages), they are very similarly priced. The interiors of the non Saabs are noticeably more luxurious. Not sure if that’s enough reason to derail me from my intention to buy the MY08 Saab, but it does raise some questions. It may come down to the European Delivery option, and if it exists next spring.

  3. I personally don’t put any credibility in Edmunds.com reviews. Their data is often inaccurate (click on the safety link and it contradicts the article). However, they are a general consumer site where people who don’t know anything about cars go to find (mis)information. I find their site cluttered, slow, and confusing in general.

  4. When you are selling a car that costs the same as an Audi A4 2.0T and BMW 323i – they cost the same here in Canada – the quality has to match said cars so this lack of “perceived quality” is not good news. I must admit my heart sank a little bit when I read that as that was one of the issues I noticed when I sat in a 2007 9-3. Fix it – quickly! 🙁

  5. Edmunds does a great job with their long-term reviews. With both car guys and average folks living with the cars instead of just driving them for an hour or so, you get a feel for the nifty extras and glaring weaknesses.

    They need to add a 9-3 SS or Combi to their long-term stable. If Saab can’t get good press from editors that actually live in a Saab, then we’ll really know if Edmunds can keep bias out of their writing.

  6. Well, I took Swade’s advice and priced the alternatives that Edmunds suggested (Acura TL, Audi A4, BWM 328, and Infiniti G35. I was a little unsure of the packing on the BMW and Infinit so I have two prices for each of those. Here’s what I found (Edmunds TrueMarketValue in US dollars):

    $34,238 Acura TL

    $34,408 Saab 9-3 Aero

    $35,382 Infiniti G35 (lower price)

    $36,416 Infiniti G35 (higher price)

    $37,155 BMW 328 (lower price)

    $39,800 BMW 328 (higher price)

    $40,369 Audi A4

    Looking at the specs, I give Acura and Infiniti demerits for lacking a folding rear seat (how am I supposed to get a bicycle into this car without a folding seat?), parking assist, and dimming outside mirrors (the 9-3 also lacks the latter). Audi and BMW get demerits for having too little front seat space. Finally, I eliminated Acura and Audi for lacking a manual transmission.

    That leaves me with the least powerful car (BMW). the most powerful (Infiniti), and the Saab. RWD isn’t acceptable for me because we have both hills and winter snow here outside of Philadelphia; Infiniti’s AWD option lacks a manual transmission so it, too, gets eliminated.

    That leaves Saab and BWM. So, for $3-5K more than the 9-3, I can have better interior materials, all of the other things that the auto press crave, but give up space and power. Fair trade? No.

  7. Have you driven the BMW or Infiniti? I have, they’re great. I’m a Saab guy, but I can’t deny the greatness of those other cars because they’re not on my team.
    That said, as I mentioned above I think those are probably not competitiors of Saab, except with AWD. My guess is the TSX, S40, and Legacy GT are more likely to be cross-shopped against the 9-3. I’ve driven those too.
    Reliability data consistently show the 3-series and G35 ahead of the 9-3 SS, which to me at least is very significant.
    What it comes down to is each person has to make his own judgement and I understand if Saab isn’t the choice. Everyone has different priorities and needs. I have driven all those, I think the Legacy GT is the best for the money, but it wasn’t worth trading in the Viggen.

  8. After speaking with an “automotive journalist” it seems to me a lot of the giveaways at these “ride and drive” events for journalists should have a bit of influence on the reviews.

    Maybe Saab should one-up BMW, who reportedly gives away expensive BMW jackets and backpacks at their press junkets. Or fly journalists out to Big Sky Country for a stay at an exclusive resort while driving the new Land Cruiser like Toyota does. Saab’s events are nothing to sneeze at, with first-class accommodations (the Ritz Carlton!?!? Are you kidding me!?!?), but maybe they need to give away high-value gifts or something. Some people call this “bribery”, but I understand it’s the norm in the auto publications industry. Funny thing is, I don’t remember ever reading a review where the author was up-front about what the auto manufacturer paid-for in the trip or what was received as gifts.

    You can’t tell me this sort of thing doesn’t make these auto journalists feel they need to “pay back” just a little in their reviews…

  9. I really find it hard to believe that, as Edmunds states in their review, that body roll is excessive. Perhaps they would care to define their version of “excessive”.

  10. I agree, Mark. I drove an Aero TTiD in Sweden and I was smiling all the way. We were driving it on public roads and did so for around 4 hours. “Excessive roll” on a track and “excessive roll” on the road in real-world driving are most likely two different things.

    Adam, interior materials continue to be an item of concern. I understand, from a business point of view, why they didn’t change it for 2008 (having just implemented it in 2007) but even though it’s OK at the moment, OK doesn’t quite cut it for some. Personally, I spent some time in a 335i earlier this year and found the materials to be better (definitely) but the design not to my liking at all. I think the Saabs have exceptionally good ergonomic and functional design. If they get the materials up to speed then they’ll be on par.

  11. I hate Edmunds, it has the most confusing navigation on any car site I’ve ever been on. I just use it to figure out how much used cars are worth.

  12. I am still baffled by BMW ranking so high in the reliability stats. I have several friends who have had BMW’s (one was a BMW freak!) and none of them would buy another. Two of them with 3 series are going back to Japanese brands (Lexus and Acura). Two other friends, one with a 7-Series and the other with an X5, each had so many problems with their vehicles that they were given new ones as their problems could not be corrected. The X5 owner went to an Infiniti FX.
    I had a 2003 9-3 SS and had very few problems, namely a sunroof sensor, a battery, a headlight and my emergency brake. This was replaced by a 2007 9-3 convertible. I would not consider a BMW if it was the last car manufacture on the planet!

  13. David, I am with you. My MY 2006 9-3 SC has had no problems, but my friends with BMWs tell me that they spend a lot of time at the dealership. One neighbor even waited three months for a new BMW 3 Series hard top convertible (335i). He had it for a week when the hard top locked up. It had to be hauled to the dealerhip, where it has remained for the last 3 weeks. His second choice was the SAAB 9-3 Convertible. Everytime I see him, he tells me that he wishes he had gotten the 9-3 over his cursed 335i.

    That’s just one of the reasons why I am always astonished that the automotive press, at least in the U.S., always drools over BMW. I just don’t get it.

  14. Is it the chicken or the egg? Another review on Edmunds: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drives/FirstDrives/articleId=121626
    For the interior, I rate function over fashion. I think the Saab 9-3 dash successfully emulates the feeling of a light airplane cockpit/dash – only the airplane dash can be truly stark. And yes, I realize the 9-5 interior is done at a higher level. Still, I’m considering purchasing a MY2008 9-3 and can live with that. I drive and demand a lot from the mechanical package. Status and vanity come into play for a lot of folks, I know.

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