Saab 9-3 is suitably quick, entertaining
THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2009 Saab 9-3 Aero XWD (cross-wheel-drive system) luxury sedan. DOWN THE ROAD: Though a carryover from 2008, the Aero gets a boost of 25 horsepower for this year. Not that the turbocharged engine needed more muscle. Nonetheless, this suitably quick and entertaining sedan offers an ideal mix of ride and handling. TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.8-liter V-6 engine pumps out 280 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque at 2000 rpm. It is mated to a slick-shifting 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Front suspension duties are handled by MacPherson struts. The rear is equipped with a four-link suspension system. However, both ends get gas-shock absorbers and antiroll bars, allowing the car to soak barriers with skill and self-assurance. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system is precise and linear. Best of all is the XWD, which can send up to 100 percent of engine torque to front or rear wheels whenever the need arises. So, whether you are in the midst of inclement weather conditions such as rain or trudging over rough terrain, the Aero is equipped to take on any challenge. LOOK & FEEL: The traditional three-port grille up front is an instant giveaway that this one is straight from Sweden. Also striking is a semi-overwrap-style hood, wraparound xenon cornering headlights and monochromatic doors and bumpers. Staying true to its Scandinavian tradition, the car boasts the familiar center console ignition switch, sliding plate air vents, dashboard-integrated cup holder and satin-nickel-ringed gauges. The fresh addition of carbon-fiber finish on the doors and above the glove box enhances the sedan's luxury aura. The three-spoke, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel offers a solid grip. Other standard features include a power sun roof, heated seats and an eight-way power driver's seat.SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, Electronic Stability Program, antiskid system, front seat active-head restraints, rear obstacle detection system, limited slip differential, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard. OUT THE DOOR: $43,605, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 235/50VR17; wheelbase, 105.3 inches; length, 182.5 inches; weight, 3,220 pounds; fuel capacity, 16.5 gallons; city, 15 mpg; highway, 24 mpg. WHY DIG IT: The on-demand XWD works its wonders so the agile sedan can deliver a pleasant and lively ride. Apart from performance, the 9-3 boasts a top-notch interior and numerous safety amenities to make for the near-perfect sport sedan from Sweden.
Nitish S. Rele is an advertising staff writer for The Tampa Tribune.