2004 9-3 New Car Test Drive
Saab completely redesigned and re-engineered its 9-3 sedan in 2003, transforming the once quirky-looking hatchback into an honest contender in the sports sedan sweepstakes. For 2004, the 9-3 convertible gets the complete makeover. The 2004 Saab 9-3 convertible features all of the parts and looks that make the 9-3 such a hot sports sedan, plus a folding soft top that's a model of efficiency.
Saab has always dared to be different. Influenced by its aeronautical background, Saab cars have traditionally featured wraparound, near-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. Outside mirrors were bent at the edges to reduce blind spots. Even when American buyers stopped wanting hatchbacks, Saab stoically shipped them over.
General Motors absorbed Saab a few years back, but it didn't turn out to be the deal with the devil the Saab faithful feared. Granted, the idiosyncratic styling cues have been softened somewhat, edging the car closer to the automotive mainstream. In exchange, GM funded a long-overdue development of newer and better-engineered cars.
Model year 2003 yielded a vastly improved 9-3 sedan that's unmistakably a Saab. For 2004, worshippers of the sun get an equally impressive convertible that raises the bar for the class.
The 2004 Saab 9-3 line comprises a four-door sedan and a two-door convertible.
The 9-3 sedan is available in three trim levels. The 9-3 Linear model ($25,995) is powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower. The Arc ($30,090) and Aero ($32,590) sedans are powered by a 210-hp 2.0-liter engine that uses a high-output turbocharger. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Linear and Arc sedans; Saab's Sentronic five-speed automatic ($1,250) is optional and features semi-manual gear selection. The Aero sedan sports a six-speed manual; the five-speed automatic ($1,350) on the Aero features steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
The 9-3 convertible comes in two trim levels, the Arc ($39,995) and the Aero ($42,500), both powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine pumped up with Saab's High Output turbocharger to produce 210 horsepower. The standard transmission on the Arc is a five-speed manual; the five-speed automatic ($1,250) is optional. Aero comes standard with the six-speed manual, optional with the five-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles ($1,350).
Standard equipment on the Arc models includes no-charge scheduled maintenance during warranty; automatic climate control; cruise control; power windows, door locks and outside mirrors; a 150-watt stereo with CD player and seven speakers; power front seats with driver memory; and front fog lights.
Options on the Arc include a Touring Package with rain sensing wipers, parking assist, upgraded stereo, remote window and top operation and auto-dimming rear view mirror; 17-inch wheels with a tire pressure monitor; a Cold Weather Package ($500) providing heated front seats and headlamp washers; metallic paint ($500); bi-xenon headlights ($500); and OnStar ($699), GM's cellular telephone-based roadside, travel directions and emergency assistance and warning system. The convertible offers a blue top ($500) that replaces the standard black top; and a color-matched tonneau ($300) available only with the metallic paint.
The Aero list of standard gear adds 17-inch wheels and tire pressure monitors; exterior body kit; Sport exhaust; a 300-watt, 13-speaker sound system; and leather-faced seats. The option list for the Aero adds to the Arc's crowded list a five-speed automatic ($1,350) with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.