Saab 9-3 retains distinctive personality loaded with features
To some, it may come as quite a surprise to learn Saab automobiles have a large following in the U.S.-of-A. This Swedish manufacturer that was born from jets is popular with a special kind of driver. At least, that is what every owner feels. In many ways, they are spot-on. In the past, it took a special person to own and drive a Saab automobile. That is until about a decade ago when Saab began to attract more mainstream owners. Today, the attraction is far reaching, yet there is still the air of individuality attached to ownership of any selection of the Saab stable. The most popular of all the models is the 9-3 and that popularity is sure to continue as the Swedes introduce the new 2008 version of the 9-3 in a number of models.I spent the better part of this test tossing the 9-3 along country roads, city streets and highways. On every road and every situation, the 9-3 performed extremely well. Power comes from different variations of engines starting with a 2.0-liter inline-4 that is turbocharged, which explains the 210 horsepower. This engine is available with either a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission. I think the manual version will be quite popular because it performs admirably. It offers plenty of performance for most drivers. The up-level power plant is the 2.8-liter V-6, producing 280 horsepower transferred to the road via either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. The power and performance offered will entice not only the enthusiast but also those who want the foremost in performance for merging in traffic or passing other vehicles. Styling has received a more aggressive stance while retaining all the favorite design features that true Saab fans consider a must for any vehicle that carries the Swedish badge. Such design attributes include the clamshell hood, though it no longer opens with the hinge system of earlier models that was an engineering marvel. The familiar Saab grille, while now blacked out with chrome accents, continues to tell the world this vehicle is indeed Swedish. Dual ports on either side along with the headlamps accentuate the wide and aggressive look. The side profile continues with a modern take on the look originated by the 93 of the 1960s. The interior is nowhere near the one found on that early car. I say that in the most flattering of ways. This interior is comfortable by today's standards. The leather seats are supportive with a comfortable feel. Instruments are easy to read and most switching is accessible. As quirky as early Saabs seemed, I have always appreciated the quality and manner with which the manufacturers or designers approached automobile design and engineering. Saab vehicles continue to attract idiosyncratic enthusiasts with vehicles that are individualistic yet contain all of today's features that owners of more run-of-the-mill vehicles consider important. It gives you an opportunity to project your individuality while enjoying the comforts of normalcy.
Ron Moorhead, a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.