My thoughts on the Saab 9-3 – a prelude

A few weeks ago, you might remember that I posted a request for comment by a guy who was looking at either a Saab 9-3 or a VW Passat. I haven’t heard anything more from Sudip about this request, other than to say thanks and ask me what my own thoughts were on the Saab 9-3. I don’t know if he’s purchased one or the other, and I haven’t replied to his request yet.

The reason I haven’t replied yet is twofold. On Friday I’ll be heading to Melbourne for the Australian launch of the 2008 Saab 9-3, so I figure that’ll give me a good chance to reacquaint myself with it and write something from a fresher point of view. I don’t get to drive new Saabs that often, so I figured a fresh perspective would be better.

Sudip, I can tell you that from times past, my experiences with the Saab 9-3 have all been very positive indeed. But one of the reasons I posted your question here on the site is that the opinions of owners, people who actually live with the vehicle, are much more valuable than mine.

Having said that, have had a couple of recorded experiences with the 9-3 (and a bunch unrecorded) and you can read about those at the following links:

The V6 Saab 9-3 Aero – My Drive (w/ cameo from the Viggen and Matt the Fudgepacker)

The 2008 Saab 9-3 (report from Sweden, mostly on the TTiD)

So, coming from a background of always driving older cars and based on these and other experiences in the Saab 9-3, I’d have to say the following.

The Saab 9-3 is one heck of a good car. Like every other Saab I’ve driven, the seats are absolutely superb, and unlike most other Saabs I’ve driven, I found the car to corner and take shifts in weight really, really well. If these guys at Car and Driver are really pushing the daylights out of it, then yeah, it might suffer a little. But for the average Joe driving everyday and having some fun on the weekends, this car has got you covered, and then some.


I’m pleased that the 2008 model has come along and updated the exterior. I loved the 03-07 design the first time I saw it and I’ve loved it over the years, but theres times when I find certain angles on the car to be a bit tiresome. Particularly the front headlamps. I’ve found that the bigger the eyes a car has, the better it looks long term. It’s probably why the first-gen 9-5 still looks great now and the why the 2nd gen is starting to look better to my eyes. Bigger peepers.

I’m pretty sure that’s it. All I know for sure is that whilst the 03-07 model still looks great to me, I’d rather look at it from the back than the front.


I know that owners of the MY07 car seem to like the simpler dash layout. I’m still a button dash guy, myself. One of our local Saab owners recently got what is perhaps the modern Saab of my dreams. A black 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero with the V6 engine and the button dash interior.

Owning a car’s an emotional thing and one of things I really love about the button dash was that it looked so unbelievably good at night. I never found locating the right buttons to be a problem, and on the odd occasion that I might have been frustrated I found it a small price to pay for something that made me feel so good. My Viggen interior, whilst of a different layout to the later 9-3, is similar in concept (but with better materials).

I really think that getting the interior just right is a crucial element in design and I’d urge Saab’s designers and beancounters to do everything they can to make it special. All the interiors in past models were special. The new ones should be as well.

The >2007 interior is by no means a bad place to hang out. It’s comfortable and it’s functional and a lot of people will tell you that’s what a Saab interior should be. Saab do have a concept called ’emotional functionality’ though, and the new knobby interior lost a little of that for me.

Fortunately, it drives better than any Saab 9-3 before it.


And that’s where I have to leave things for the next few days.

The only petrol-driven 2008 model that I’ve driven was the XWD version in Sweden back in June. Whilst that was absolutely brilliant, we were driving it on a test track and not on the open road. The TTiD model that I drove on the open road for a few hours was absolutely superb, so I’m really looking forward to driving the petrol driven models.

So this Friday I’ll drive the new 9-3 again, and I’ll report on it right here and all those owners can tell me if I’m right or where I’m wrong.


And as far as the VW Passat is concerned – there’s a review in the Montreal Gazette that probably sums it up pretty well – Pep without personality.

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  1. Just a short comment concerning Saab 9-3. It really seems to be of a high quality. The Auto Zeitung -sonderheft, Gebrauchtwagen 2008, a car inspection organization from Germany released their latest report. It shows a value which represents number of faults/100 cars. And the cars inspected are 1-3 years old.

    Here´s the result of middle size class:

    1. Saab 9-3 2,4
    2. Honda Accord 6,0
    3. Jaguar X-Type 7,5
    4. Volvo S40/V40 8,3
    4. Mercedes-Benz C 8,3
    6. Peugeot 406/407 8,5
    7. Opel Vectra 9,1
    8. Audi A4 9,2
    9. Mazda6 9,7
    10. BMW 3-series 10,6
    11. Ford Mondeo 12,0
    12. Toyota Avensis 12,1
    13. Nissan Primera 13,4
    14. Citroen C5 16,4
    15. VW Passat 17,6
    16. Skoda Superb 18,1
    17. Renault Laguna 18,7
    18. Alfa Romeo 156 21,4

  2. And it has been mentioned that few European makers have made a huge improvement on quality. A Saab 9-3 for example. It was fourth overall, covering all the sizes and makers available in germany. I´d say that´s a pretty good result. Concerning that the quality was really a problem on a ´03 models.

  3. The fact that anything beat out Honda and Toyota on that list brings a smile to my face, and the fact that that that anything is a Saab just makes the smile bigger.

  4. Everyone loves the ‘quality’ that you get with a Bimmer. I’ve said it before — their ‘service package’ that includes free oil changes and the like for three years or so is pure marketing genius. Take a look at this listing. One-tenth of all new 3-series BMW automobiles must be repaired. Most of the ‘faults’ will be taken care of while the car is at the dealership for a whole day for a freakin’ oil change! The customer feels little or no pain, so they conveniently ignore the fact that their car is broken half the time! Pure Genius!!!

  5. “emotional functionality”!?!? Methinks someone’s been reading The Spirit of Saab! 😉

    eggs: Saab also offers free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36K miles now (at least in the U.S.). Will they do the same thing? Maybe this is helping their quality numbers?

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