2008 Saab 9-3 – new owner review

Kaz got a new baby boy on the weekend and a new baby Saab just a day ago. Kaz has some sweet contacts, so he gets to renew his Saab every four months or so – a very good basis for writing this 07/08 comparison.

He’s a very happy boy.

Kaz Saab Convertible

Now, before you prospective 2007 owners read this, I just want to say that it’s normal for a car that goes through some refreshing and re-engineering to come out a bit better than its predecessor. Such is the case with the 2008 Saab 9-3, but the 07 is still very much a worthwhile purchase, especially at the current runout prices.

You think I’ve been talking the 2008 model up? Get a load of this:


Snow silver looks soooooo much better in the flesh than in the pictures. The way the light hits it is fabulous.

The car itself is a massive leap forward over the ’07 model. Not just aesthetically externally either. The interior has had an upgrade in materials in just the right areas. The handbrake no longer feels like cheap plastic and icky, it now has a nice soft touch material. The slot cover has also been endowed with the same soft touch material.

The steering wheel in the Aero V6 is a godsend!! No more silver plastic trim. The rim is now covered in lovely leather and it just fits much better in the hand, adding the impression of more quality. So, steering wheel and handbrake, much needed improvements sorted there then.

Now the rest of it…..yes, there is more, much more.

The ride is much more compliant, the ’08 model seems to caress sudden bumps where the ’07 model used to almost crash over them in comparison. The engine management has also improved. The ’08 revisions to the power delivery are so smooth and linear, without losing any of the responsiveness.

One of the biggest improvements? The gear change, without a doubt! No longer does one hit reverse when trying to engage first, no longer does the gearbox feel notchy and no longer is it a lottery as to which gear is actually going to be engaged. The last ’07 model I had was woeful in
comparison, perhaps woeful is too strong a word, maybe average would be a better one to use. Either way, the ’08 model’s gear change is very welcome. I read that they spent a lot of time and effort improving the gear linkages, and it has most definitely paid off! Well done gearbox boffins!

Another huge improvement is the refinement. The car as a whole feels more solid, and that shows in the general driveability. The steering has better weighting as well, and loses none of its accuracy. It turns in well and there isn’t the kickback one sometimes had with the pre ’08 models.

I took it briefly over some of the same roads I know well in the area and the above all adds up to much more likeable machine around the twisty stuff, especially the gearbox, engine and steering improvements.

If you are still deciding between a run out ’07 model offer or a new ’08, stop right now, the ’08 model is more than worth the extra expenditure, and I for one am incredibly impressed. I honestly wasn’t expecting the difference to be as large as it is, but I am happy to be proven wrong.

I went to a store earlier, and was stopped several times, everyone wanted to hear about the car. The light pipes are a huge hit! Everyone likes them. I have the euro version of the sat nav system in there, the screen and UI is superb. Traffic monitoring as well, and it automatically changes your route if the traffic is too bad, well, it offers you the option first. I really feel for our American friends having to put up with OnStar.

I really am very impressed with this ’08 version. I have a list of family members who now want to come for a drive with me tomorrow.

Kaz Saab Convertible

Kaz Saab Convertible

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  1. Wow, you really did notice a lot of differences.

    Personally, I didn’t really see a difference, but I haven’t driven an 07 for an extended period of time.

    What about the cup holders? Are they in fact better quality?

  2. Sounds great, but 1 question, if you only own the car for 4 months, and europe is heading into winter, why buy the convertible, why not get the ss or sc, then get the convertible in 4 months time, ready for the summer driving.

  3. Good writeup Kaz! I´m wondering about the handbrake upgrade. I haven´t noticed it though I´ve driven ´08 now three times. on 1.8t model the gearchange was still the same as on ´07, I think they didn´t change anything on 5spd transmission.
    Overall it seems that they´ve done a good job on refreshing 9-3. Do you know if there´s any sound insulation improvements made on convertible?
    I have also noticed that snow silver looks so much better in person. On the pictures it looks like “just” silver, but in flesh it has nice touch of brightness on it. The new front end is a killer! It´s truly a masterpiece of facelifting. Unfortunately it makes pre ´08 to look somehow sad and tired in straight comparison.

  4. ctm // Oct 18, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Those yellow number plates are a crime! Why do you have them in yellow?

    White on the front, yellow on the rear, that’s the way it has been since 1973 in the UK. France is going the same way, white on front, yellow on rear. Many countries have white front and rear, whereas The Netherlands has yellow front and rear, and so does Israel, IIRC.

    It looks fabulous from the front in silver!


  6. Thanks peeps, much appreciated. It really is a lovely car to drive. Mini Kaz will be going for a ride shortly too, he has his first clinic appointment. Now for some answers to questions posed.

    Jomama: Haven’t really noticed much difference with the cup holders yet, not had a chance to use them. I also literally jumped straight from my ’07 ‘vert into the ’08, the best way to do a comaprison imho.

    Trent: I ordered this car early enough to get an early Sept delivery, but, due to the MY crossover there was an increased delay. I am in the process of trying to get my hands on a Turbo X combi for the next rotation, wish me luck 🙂 Oh, and the last few Octobers and Novembers have been relatively mild 🙂 I’m hoping for a another very mild start to winter 🙂

    John: They tend to turn a blind eye in that area as it is used as a rat run and if people didn’t, the traffic would be horrendous. I think they only REALLY enforce that rule in busy town centres and London itself 😉

    MarkoA: I think you are right, I only remember about the 6 speed gearbox being upgraded, maybe Swade can enlighten? As for sound insulation, it certainly seems so. My previous ‘verts almost always had a creak, a rattle or a tiny gap somewhere in the roof alignment which caused horrid wind noise at anything over 30mph. This new one doesn’t seem to have the same issues.

  7. I remember when the silver plastic trim on the steering wheel was introduced and ‘everyone’ seemed to love it.

    At the time I was wondering if Saab would come with a full bakelite steering wheel as an expesive option.

    Thanks Kaz for recognizing that the hard plastic trims weren’t such a good idea after all…

  8. Riku, I’m pleased to count myself as one of tose didn’t. Never been a fan of the batwheel. Sharp edges didn’t make for a good driving experience from my perspective.

  9. The word out of Sweden was that the cupholder now had a metal core, so it should be a sturdier. I’d suggest that failures, if there are any, might be design related.

  10. Please tell me that red tailight lenses are a dealer option 😛

    I could, but I’d be lying and then I’d go to hell…..

    I believe the old lights will probably be a straight swap if you don’t like the mascara. – SW

  11. Kaz, thanks for taking the time to contribute – I must say I’m quite jealous! Also, congratulations on the newest member of your family (your son I mean…..well, I suppose the Saab too)!


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