2003 9-3 New Car Test Drive
The Saab 9-3 is completely redesigned and reengineered for 2003. Instead of a quirky-looking hatchback, it's now a sports sedan.
Saab has always dared to be different. Influenced by its aeronautical background, Saab cars have traditionally featured wraparound vertical windshields and aircraft-style dashboards with instrument lighting that could be switched off at night. Small map lights looked like they came from a cockpit. When buyers stopped wanting hatchbacks, Saab continued making them.
Now that Saab is a wholly owned division of General Motors the Swedish car company has more funds for developing new cars. By the same token, Saab is now expected to sell more cars, which means its cars need to appeal to a wider audience.
That's why the new Saab 9-3 is only available as a four-door sedan, initially anyway. Fortunately, Saab has managed to maintain some of its character even though the newest 9-3 sedan is far more mainstream than previous models.
Saab's line of 9-3 models is a little confusing for the first half of the 2003 model year. The 9-3 convertible continues to be based on the old 9-3 model.
The all-new Saab 9-3 is initially available in Linear trim, powered by a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower. The 9-3 Arc and Vector models will midway through the model year with a more powerful 210-hp version of the same engine and an optional six-speed manual gearbox.
To compensate, Saab is selling a special 'launch package' that includes many of the features, with the notable exception of the more powerful engine, that will be included as standard on the Arc model. So if you want a Linear model, these early loaded versions may be the hot ticket.
The Linear model starts at $25,990, which is a really competitive price and $2,000 less expensive than the outgoing 9-3 hatchback. The Arc model will sell for $29,995, while the Vector will be priced at $32,495.