1999 9-3 New Car Test Drive
Saab's new 9-3 is the successor to the long-lived Saab 900, a car that practically became a legend among its followers. Like all Saabs, the 900 had a reputation for being somewhat quirky. Not everyone liked its styling, the way the ignition key was mounted on the center console and not everyone understood the value of its Black Panel instrument cluster and other unconventional features.
The 9-3 is quite a bit more mainstream. The Saab 9-3 is the result of extensive refinement and re-engineering of the 900. With such a significant evolutionary step forward for 1999, Saab felt that a new model designation was in order. Like the new 9-5, the 9-3 (pronounced 'nine-three') designation traces its roots to Saab's aviation heritage.
A mild redesign has resulted in a smoother, cleaner look for the new 9-3. As we saddled up a pair of Saab 9-3 sedans for a 5,800-mile dash from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, we couldn't help wondering whether Saab might have rounded off a few too many corners. We wondered whether Saab had taken away all of those idiosyncratic touches that loyalists have learned to love.
But by the time we reached the Mile 0 marker in Key West marking the southernmost point on the American mainland, we had decided we liked the new 9-3. Covering the nearly 5,800 miles in just over 96 hours, the new 9-3 had nary a problem. It offered lots of power, a smooth-shifting gearbox and handling that inspired confidence in sometimes-treacherous conditions.