4Car and the 2008 Saab 9-3

Why is it that British motoring journalists, and Brits themselves I guess, see a lot more in Saab that their US counterparts? Is the smaller roads and shorter distances that make a what the yanks call a compact car seem just the right size?

Whatever it is, the poms seem like their Saabs a lot. This is not to say that the 9-3 is getting crticised heavily in the US – far from it. But there just seems to be more enthusiasm for the brand in the UK.

The latest demonstration of this comes from Channel4’s motoring site. They’ve recently reveiwed the 9-3 and it’s come up with 4 out of 5 stars and a whole lot of good press. That’s a lot better than their last SportCommbi review. If you o to the link above and click “play video” it’ll show the previous review. If you discount the errors (3-litre V6) you’ll hear that they found it pretty uninspiring. Not so here.

The drive:

The Saab combination of powerful, turbocharged engines and a carefully-honed, well-balanced chassis makes for a very different and more relaxed experience than that offered by, say, a rear-wheel-drive 3-Series. Saab has now virtually eliminated the tyre-scrabble and torque-steer inherent in its earlier powerful turbo models and the 9-3 is immensely civilised, but it doesn’t have to be boring – it depends on your driving style.


We’ve not had a chance to try this out on the road yet, but a quick sample on Saab’s test track suggests that it’s going to be very good indeed. Handling stability, control under hard cornering and on slippery surfaces, and resistance to both understeer and oversteer all seem excellent.

On TTiD:

The 180bhp/295lb ft TTiD engine is, in many ways, the most impressive so far. With a two-stage turbocharging system – one small turbo for low engine speeds and start-up, a second larger one kicking in at higher speeds – it is highly refined, with no trace of turbo lag, no clatter and none of the traditional disadvantages of diesels.

On economy, they don’t like the bigger options, but there’s these:

The new 2.0t Biopower does 35.8mpg and the 1.8t 37.7mpg, which sounds more impressive, but, as there are no fiscal incentives (as yet) to use E85 in the UK, the diesels remain the economy options – 52.3mpg from the 120bhp TiD, 48.7mpg from the 150bhp version, and 47.9mpg from the 180bhp TTiD.

Don’t you American’s wish you could get the TTiD over there? 400Nm and 47 mpg.

It’s a recommended read. It’s not all postives but a good all-round review of a great new Saab.

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  1. I recently read an article at Edmunds about how diesel cars pay for themselves faster than the current hybrids: Edmunds link

    It will be interesting to see how well the forthcoming 50 states-legal diesels fare in 2008 and I hope Saab pays attention. I fear that Saab will either be late again (i.e. – bringing diesel as an option to the US at the same the the Chevy Volt goes into production), or they will just forgo diesel to keep the message all about BioPower.

  2. The popualrity of Saab in the Uk is a good image a (generally) good dealer network with staff who understand the product. The product itself is great value, just above VW but below Audi in cost. Dealerships are usually stand alone or shared with an apporiate brand – here in Belfast it is Porsche. The main drawback in the UK is dyanamics.

  3. Yes we would! VW has even been offering diesel for a long while! And there’s certainly no shortage of diesel pumps around! I’d much rather have a TTiD 4-banger than a big gas-sucking V6 or V8 any day of the week! HELLO!? Saab!? Are you listening? I AM your US market!
    It used to be that Saab wanted to be “a better BMW than BMW”, but instead it’s turned into a situation where Chevy and Toyota are better Saabs than Saab. The 08 Malibu is looking killer so far, and it’s on the same platform as the 9-3 (the suspensions are actually a straight swap between the cars). Toyota is pushing more power from a NA V6 than Saab is from a turbo 6. Chevy is pushing more power from *SAABs* ecotec than Saab is!

    C’mon guys, put the politics to rest. If Cadillac can’t keep up with Saab, that shouldn’t be Saab’s problem. Your customers aren’t looking at both cars anyway. No one is saying, “Yeah, I like the look of the 9-3 more, but the CTS has more power…” Instead they’re saying “Why is the Cobalt SS more powerful than my 9-3?” “I want 300hp, but not if I have to buy a V6…” “Why is the interior of my car self-destructing?”


  4. As for diesel pumps in the US … they are certinaly not rare, but at 47 mpg or more for all models, the pumps don’t really have to be all that tightly-packed, now do they?

    I knew that diesels got better “gas” mileage … but I hadn’t realized that it was along the lines of twice as efficient … that’s just insane.

  5. I love my V6 Aero but I really would have considered a diesel had it been available.

    47mpg is right up there with any hybrid sold here in the USA – and I really don’t want a hybrid car at all. Hybrids look great on paper until you realize you will have to maybe pay for the battery in them one day. A Prius battery is right around $2200.00 US dollars pre-install. All that money you thought you saved on gas goes right out the window with the battery fee.

    Yea – I know they are better for the environment but my wallet does not care about that.

    Honda will have diesel Accord in USA by next year – they dropped the hybrid model. And Honda is a pretty smart company so that should tell you something.

  6. If I could purchase a LHD TTID with an mph-based speedo (not in km/h) and import it to the US, I would do it. Absolutely.

    Problem is overcoming all the questions raised by it. How do you get it serviced by someone who’s been trained on Saab’s diesel? What about inspections, safety, emissions, etc? Isn’t that the problem why we don’t have the diesel models here in the US?

    “My 9-3 diesel gets more power than your 3-series but gets better mileage than your Toyota Yaris or Corolla!”

    Oh that would be the day.

  7. If I remember correctly, several states, including New York, make it illegal for passenger car manufacturers to sell brand new diesel cars in said states. That must be why whenever I travel up into CT I see a lot more CDI Mercedes’ with CT plates than around New York.

  8. Canada too please! We’d love to have at least one other choice in diesel vehicles other than a VW Jetta or any number of these ugly behemoth, road hogging trucks. Come on Saab! Why do we have to settle for the “end of the roll” models after they’ve been sold in the rest of the world for years? (see Smart car). Certainly we won’t see Biopower in these parts for a long time.

    End rant. 😉

  9. ..”2.0t Biopower does 35.8mpg ” …thats
    less than (can’t use symbols evidently) 7L/100Km in Napoleonic terms.

    Can we check this because its incredible. I wouldn’t mind having my skepticism allayed on this one, given the trend for increased fuel consumption with E85.

  10. craig – that sounds closer the fuel efficiency using regular gasoline in the 2.0t BioPower engine. From the engine description on the Saab international site:

    Fuel consumption (l/100 km)*: M6 11.1/6.0/7.9; A5 12.9/6.7/9.0

    *City/highway/Combined driving cycle, according to the 1999/100 EC directive. There are no official fuel certification for E85. Therefore the figures is based on petrol consumption. E85 consumes around 30% more fuel than petrol. Regarding CO2 emissions, E85 reduces fossil carbon dioxide up to 80%”

  11. Yep, it’d definitely be for gasoline. Saab don’t publish mileage figures for E85 anywhere in the world. The reason given by either Parveen or Jan-Ake Jonsson last week is becuase there isn’t a worldwide standard for E85 yet, so the fuel you buy could differ by quite a bit from place to place. Also, given the scant distribution of E85 and the ability for BioPower to run on any combination of E85 and gasoline, it would probably be more likely that people will run a mix of the two most of the time. This would give you mileage somewhere in between.

    Having said all that, it’s also a case of “well, we can pubblish the petrol mileage figure, which is good, or we could publish the E85 figure, which won’t look so good – let’s go with petrol”

    Until governments force them to publish both, I think all we’ll see is the gasoline figure.

    The most accurate rule of thumb is to reduce the petrol figure by 27% to get the likely E85 figure.

  12. We’ve all been saying this for years – build it and they will come.

    Get a diesel here in the US with AWD and bluetooth/ipod integration and you will have a HUGE winner.

    It’s not rocket science.

  13. Winding Road just printed a letter from some guy bashing the new 9-3. He said it was an over-aggressive snout on a boring car.

    I’m all for magazines printing dissenting opinions in the letters section, but they should print letters written by people who don’t talk out of their asses.

  14. Regarding E85 fuel economy (or rather lack thereof) Saab’s own fine print says to figure that on E85 the vehicle will get 30% worse fuel economy than straight gasoline. According to wikipedia E100 has 34% (that’s more than a third!) worse fuel efficiency than gasoline. I would guess that E85 falls somewhere between 25% and 30% worse fuel economy, with Saab erring on the safe side by claiming 30% worse, so that nobody can come and complain that the economy is worse than what Saab claimed it would be after they bought the car.

    I would imagine the fuel economy would also vary depending on the time of year you’re buying the E85. The “winter blend” of E85 in the U.S. is actually closer to E70 to help with “cold starting”. The summer blend is closer to E85. So during the winter I’m guessing your fuel economy is going to increase if you’re running on E85 due to the 30% gasoline content.

    Kraig: I would imagine those numbers are in Imperial gallons as Channel 4 is a U.K.-based publication. Because the Imperial gallon is greater than the U.S. gallon the mpg will be more. 35.8 miles-per-Imperial-gallon is equivalent to 29.8 miles-per-U.S.-gallon and the 1.8t’s 37.7 miles-per-Imperial-gallon is equivalent to 31.4 miles-per-U.S.-gallon. As for the diesels, the 120 bhp TiD gets 43.56 U.S. mpg, the 150 bhp TiD gets 40.6 U.S. mpg, and the TTiD gets 39.9 U.S. mpg.

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