With the 9-3 sedan, the automaker has traded its quirks for broader appeal. As it turns out, this is not a bad thing.
Saab is remaking itself and in so accomplishing loses the quirkiness that has admiring some Americans to the Swedish automaker. But as apparent by the new 9-3 auto — aboriginal of the adapted Saabs — that’s not a bad thing.
Gone, for now, is the five-door auto and the continued rear end that fabricated Saabs Saabs for so abounding years.
For 2003, the 9-3 is a sleeker car. It still looks like a Saab from the advanced with its three-piece grille and channelled V-shaped hood. But from the ancillary and rear it looks ambrosial abundant like the accepted European sports sedan, with a adumbration of BMW.
There is acumen for this. Saab’s owner, General Motors Corp., abstracts that the Swedish car maker is activity to accept to lose its quirkiness and alpha ambrosial to a broader admirers if it hopes to about-face its contempo money-losing ways. The new attending is advised to do so.
GM captivated a 50% pale in Saab for years but has acclimatized options and bought the added half: Saab is now a 100% accessory and gets to allotment in those economies of calibration and allowances of aggregate that administration academy advisers and accumulated chieftains are consistently touting.
So the 9-3 becomes the aboriginal Saab to use GM’s all-around small-car platform, dubbed Epsilon. It debuted aftermost year, basement the Opel Vectra in Europe, and bows assimilate the Arctic American arena beneath the 9-3 for the 2003 archetypal year. In 2004 the Epsilon will be the abject from which the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac Grand Am will dispatch (as will a redesigned Saturn L-Series afterwards that).
But in anniversary application, GM insists, the cartage will be alone acquainted for their specific market. The 9-3 isn’t an Opel Vectra, and the Malibu won’t be a 9-3.
I haven’t had any bench time in the European-market Vectra but can adjure afterwards a anniversary with the 9-3 in my accustomed Southern California driver mode, as able-bodied as a day of putting it through its paces on the arced wine country anchorage arctic of San Francisco, that GM could do far worse than carbon Chevys, Pontiacs and Saturns from it.
Purists can artifice over its looks, but in agreement of amalgamation and performance, the new 9-3 is one of the neatest Saabs ever.
The new belvedere gives the auto appreciably added acerbity than its predecessor, and that translates to a solid anatomy and a abeyance that accomplish the 9-3 an absorbing alley car, with administration that puts it at or a the top of the class.
Though the 9-3 shares the aforementioned basal architectonics as the added Epsilon belvedere vehicles, best of the suspension, steer- ing and agent apparatus are different to the brand.
The 9-3 rides on absolute advanced and rear suspensions, anniversary angry calm with anti-sway bars, and the council arbor has been relocated to the advanced abeyance — it had been on the firewall in antecedent models — to advance responsiveness. The bigger abeyance and relocated council additionally annihilate the torque steer, or able alongside cull from the advanced drive caster during acceleration, that has bedeviled Saab models for years.
The agent is a new all- aluminum 2.0-liter four-banger equipped, as are all Saabs, with a turbocharger that boosts both application and torque. The abject adaptation with a low-boost turbo is rated at 175 application and 195 foot-pounds of torque, and the high-boost archetypal pumps that up to 210 ponies and 221 foot-pounds. Neither agent suffers from turbo lag, so the accelerative ability of the torque is present as anon as the pedal is mashed to the floor.
The 9-3 comes in three versions: the abject Linear model, the flush Arc and the performance-oriented Vector. (And with archetypal names like that, I assumption it could be argued that Saab still has at atomic one arbitrary feature.)
Saab launched the band with the Linear in backward October and says the Arc and Vector models will be accessible in the U.S. aboriginal aing year.
Base amount for the Linear is $25,900, about $2,000 beneath than the approachable 2002 9-3 hatchback. The Arc starts at $29,995 and the Vector at $32,495.
All can be had with a five-speed automated transmission, with Saab’s chiral about-face option, but the Linear comes accepted with a five-speed chiral and a new six-speed chiral is accepted in the 210-horsepower Arc and Vector models. Vectors with automated trannies additionally action racing-style fingertip shifter paddles on the council caster as a branch option.
Overall, the car is adequate for commuting and a bang on the accessible road, conceivably the best-handling, best-balanced car Saab has built.
I did acquisition the automated to be a bit apathetic on the upshifts, abnormally in the lower-horsepower Linear, but if the primary use of the car will be to sit out continued Southern California freeway commutes, that should not be a bother to most.
Four-wheel anti-lock brakes accommodate affluence of endlessly power, and computer-controlled anchor force administration and cornering ascendancy are accessible with assorted trim packages.
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