Aussie 2008 Saab 9-3 review

Carpoint have published their review of the 2008 Saab 9-3.

Our reviewer is Melissa McCormick and I was eagerly awaiting this one as I drove one of the stages of the Australian launch for this car with Melissa, in a TiD SportCombi.

If there’s one word to describe this review, it’s all-encompassing.

Is it still one word when it’s hyphenated? Doesn’t matter. For those Aussies wanting a comprehensive look at the Saab 9-3 range for Australia, this is a review you might want to take a closer look at.

Saab are a small brand in most markets around the world and that’s especially true here in Australia, where they’re working hard to crack just 2,000 sales this year. Consequently, there’s a fairly good overview of Saab’s current situation to give readers a bit of background. Just in case they thought Saab had fallen off the map completely. Here’s a taste:

Stakeholders identified three problem areas preventing the brand from turning out a profitable, premium product: heretofore its portfolio has been too narrow; historically the company has failed to utilise GM, in particular for the “back office”; and while orphaned it lost its unique design direction.

The new focus will be centred on the “desperate for renewal” 9-5 and “return to the original Saab design language” with an invigorated and expanded model range.

There’s a couple of minor errors in there, but in the context of who Carpoint are writing for, that’s not going to make one iota of difference.

Whilst we’re used to seeing motoring writers approach Saab with a cynical point of view, my first hand experience driving the car with the writer assured me that this isn’t the case here. She’s one of the few that didn’t seem to worship at the Teutonic altar and had a genuine appreciation for Saab’s differences.

The writeup progresses with pretty detailed looks at Price and Equipment, Mechanical changes and setups, Safety Equipment and a look at Saab’s competition. On that subject, it was interesting that Carpoint touted Saab’s competition as mostly the “fringe” European players in the Australian market, rather than the German mainstays.

After all that, there’s the drive.

Melissa drove all TiD vehicles – one stint in each of the Sedan, Combi and Convertible. I don’t know if that was planned (i.e. all-TiD) or not.

We all rotated through various vehicles, though not everyone got a big variety in their driving experience. For example, out of my 3 drives, 2 were in the same car: a 9-3 SportCombi TiD. My other drive was also in Sportcombi, a 2.0T. But I’m sure the “proper” journos got more variety in their schedule.

The TiD is a good performer, though she seemed disappointed with the torque on tap down low. Marks were also deducted for a dash made of materials that don’t do justice to the rest of the car – a knock that’s becoming a theme in these reviews. Take note, Saab!

I’ll let you click through and read the whole thing, but here’s her opening and closing paragraphs from the article, which I think set up her thoughts over all pretty well:

Restyled and refreshed, the 9-3 works hard to stay remembered.

Saab is finally off probation. Executives admit the company was slow to utilise resources available under GM’s governance but the hands-off approach no longer applies……

……Saab says we can now expect “bolder, more assertive” products and the 9-3’s mid-life makeover goes some way to helping at least the volume-seller’s cause. With new ‘green’ options and AWD-equipped models in the offing, premium shoppers might have more reason to remember the brand.

Thanks to Turbin and PT for the links and a few thoughts.

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  1. “premium shoppers might have more reason to remember the brand.”

    With the AWD and TTiD on the way I expect that shoppers are going to bloody well sit up and take notice!

    Regarding the competition, this Euro “fringe” is really the ‘prestige’ segment rather than ‘premium’. It is really where Saab belongs these days as much as they might be ‘aspirational’.

    In the average Joe’s eyes Saab hardly stands for anything these days, which is great because nobody will really have a reason not to check them out.

  2. 3.0/5.0 on safety? uh, sure. i don’t find her other ratings justified, either. after reading the review you would expect more 4s and 4.5s.

  3. Jeff, you beat me to it. Another reviewer (Mike Sinclair) on their site gave the Mercedes C320 a 4.5/5.0 on safety, but it only rates “acceptable” in the IIHS side crash test. Saab deserves better than this because safety has always been one of their cornerstones, and the 9-3 is the safest in the world in its class. And given its great avoidance handling, I think it might be the safest in all classes.

  4. The position of “Sport” option button should be pointed out more. This is something that seems to irritate the most. And I totally agree. It´s a strictly to drive affecting detail so it should be more at hand. Like overtaking. If you need a bit more oomph and quicker reactions from ´box, you´ll need to remove your hand from a wheel and find the button. More functional place would´ve been on steeringwheel or on the top of gearlever. I have complained about this at the dealer´s and the salesman agreed with me. He also thought that this postition is very annoying. What do you think?

  5. Agreed, MarkoA. I thought it was strange. I can’t envisage buying an auto for a number of years yet, so I didn’t make a fuss of it. But I could understand a regular owner could find it annoying if it were used all the time.

  6. “I can’t envisage buying an auto for a number of years yet”

    One fellow Saabclub member put it this way “First you´ll quit adjusting ignition timing while driving, then later on, you´ll loose the need to change a gear yourself.. “. I guess I´m already at that point now..

    NOT! I´ll keep T16S forever, and when feel like it, I´ll go´n play with that notchy 4 speed for awhile just for fun 😉

    Manual is fun, for sure. But I´ve never had an automatic and I´m really keen on getting one really soon… 😀

    And by the way, I find most of testdrive writeups very boring. Like this one for example. I got the feeling that driver did not even drive the car (very typical)! There should always be something behind opinions. Something to chew for readers. Not only plain facts from the brochure…

  7. I use the Sport button all the time, and I wish it were on the dash rather than the shifter. When I start my car, I turn it on and I don’t turn it off. It would be nice if it were out of the way so I don’t accidentally hit it when I shift to neutral or reverse.

  8. Turbin, the following has just been sent as part of a larger email:

    ….I actually skimmed over the scores you gave for the car and missed this, but one of my commenters at the site picked up on the fact that you only scored the car 3.0 out of 5 for safety.

    Your safety section of the review itself states that the car has won 5-star Euro NCAP ratings, and just yesterday it was announced that the 9-3 is a Top Safety Pick award winner in the United States.

    3 out of 5?

  9. Luverly. Just what a reviewer needs, a lobbyist on their back. Watch out you don’t get cought for Saab-barrelling though. Bloody hell this election is getting to me…

  10. We’ve put in a postal vote due to a new Saabisti on the way any week now.

    Timing on your holiday is good, I’m off next week too so it will be a slow post-reading week

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