Saturday, October 22, 2011
2011 Saab 9-3
The Saab 9-3s are sporty and dynamic cars featuring progressive Scandinavian design and a powerful turbocharged engine. Known for their leading turbo technology Saab hasn't neglected safety, luxury, and style. They have earned top safety honors for the past several years from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
The Saab 9-3 is available in three body styles; a four-door Sport Sedan, a two-door soft-top Convertible, and a four-door wagon called the SportCombi. All are powered by a high-output, 210-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine available with a six-speed manual or a five- or six-speed automatic transmission.The Convertible features front-wheel drive while the Sport Sedan and SportCombi are available with either front-wheel drive or the XWD all-wheel drive system. Standard safety features include front and side airbags as well as Saabs' anti-whiplash Active Head Restraints. The Sport Sedan and SportCombi include side curtain airbags and the Convertible includes side airbag head extensions and rollover protection.
The Saab 9-3's cabin offers comfortable front seats (especially in the Aero) and good ergonomics, but the quality of the interior materials doesn't measure up to that of competitors in the class. Fit and finish also leaves something to be desired. The sedan and wagon are sufficiently roomy, but rear legroom is limited in the convertible.
Stereo and climate controls are a model of simplicity (a welcome departure from past Saabs), but in a class where topping the competition's high-tech features is commonplace, the 9-3 is practically standing pat. There's no iPod interface, the navigation system is antiquated, there's no real-time traffic and Bluetooth is packaged with OnStar. At least there are a few remaining kooky Saab features, like the console-mounted ignition and the "Night Panel" function that dims most instrument lighting (except most of the speedometer) for nighttime driving.
The Saab 9-3 does carry more cargo than many cars in its class, offering 15 cubic feet of trunk space in the sedan and 12.4 cubes in the convertible. The wagon offers 29.7 cubic feet of storage space with the backseat up and an impressive 72.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat. That's more than most compact crossover SUVs.
XM Satellite Radio and OnStar are available on all models. An upscale Bose Centerpoint sound system is optional on base sedans and SportCombis and standard with the Aero trim. The 9-3 sedan accommodates up to five people. Interior features include:
*Power driver's seat
*OnStar and Bluetooth technology
*Standard dual-zone climate control
*Standard cooled glove box
The convertible features the same chassis dynamics as the sedan. Saab says the 9-3 convertible is nearly three times as stiff as its soft-top predecessor. The chassis features a supplementary "ring of steel" reinforcement that compensates for the loss of structural rigidity that convertibles ordinarily suffer. The seat belts are integrated into the seat frames, and the rear seats have pop-up roll bars.
The convertible comes in base or Aero form, both with the 210-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder found in other 9-3s and front-wheel drive. Leather seats are standard. In base models, a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic is available. Aero models offer a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Seen from above the 9-3's aeronautical heritage is evident in the rounded front-end and windshield, and less so in the tapering towards the tail. There are no rough or superfluous edges on a 9-3 as those run counter to Scandinavian practicality.
The nose is clean with nice proportions between grille openings and painted surfaces, the lines drawing it closer to the ground for that hunkered down looks; this is especially apparent on Sport and Aero models that sit closer to the ground and have the larger diameter wheels. Regardless of version the 9-3 is relatively void of chrome and clutter, what's occasionally called jewelry when the basic design isn't so arresting.
A wedge side profile is accentuated by the hood seam at the top of the fender, the clamshell hood design better at keeping pine needles and tree droppings out of the engine compartment and shedding snow and ice. Signal repeaters are in the front fenders where they can be seen 180 degrees and are less likely damaged than similar devices mounted in mirror housings. Practical.
Since the convertible's top is folding cloth (and available in four colors) there's no bulbous rear end to hide; it looks alright with the top up (sort of a Bentley profile to it) but looks much better with the top down; only the headrests distract from the purity and you want those. At the rear of the convertible there is a small trunk spoiler and different lights and sheet metal than the sedan; it still looks like a 9-3 but aerodynamics dictated the changes to maintain stability and light visibility.
The SportCombi has no issues with rear light visibility because the LED lamps run vertically up the pillars next to the hatch; even an all-wheel drive throwing snow or spray around is easily seen, and every 9-3 has a rear fog light for just such conditions. Sleeker roof rails are matte-finish but no less capable, and the roof of the SportCombi is a few inches higher than the sedan so it has lots of hat and cargo room even if it looks a bit utilitarian in profile.
Saab claims a coefficient of drag of 0.28 for the base model, a good showing for a compact car. Equally good is the wind management that limits snow buildup on the headlights, moves rain away from the side window/mirror, and keeps taillights clean on dirty roads. Even your gloves don't get too dirty grabbing door handles.
Every Saab 9-3 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 210 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard on all but the 9-3X, which is all-wheel drive. AWD is also optional for the sedan.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the front-drive 2.0T models, and a no-cost option on the Aero, 9-3X and AWD sedans. A five-speed automatic standard is standard on the front-drive Aero models and optional on the 2.0T models. A six-speed automatic is standard on AWD models and the 9-3X.
With the manual and front-wheel drive, the 9-3 sedan and SportCombi return an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Getting all-wheel drive results in a drop to 17/27/21, while opting for the automatic or convertible returns fuel economy somewhere in between.
A long list of standard safety equipment includes:
*Side impact airbags
*Side curtain airbags
*Active head restraints
*Electronic stability system
*Antilock brakes with brake-force distribution
*Front seat belt pretensioners and load-limiters
The 2011 Saab 9-3 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, active front head restraints and side airbags. The sedan and SportCombi include side curtain airbags, while the convertible features taller side airbags that cover the head of each front occupant. OnStar emergency telematics is optional on the 2.0T and standard on the Aero.
The 9-3 has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) saw it receiving four out of five stars for frontal and side rear crash protection and five stars for driver side protection. The convertible was not tested. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 9-3 sedan the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash tests.