2005 9-3 New Car Test Drive
The Saab 9-3 sedan is an honest contender among sports sedans in its class. It's tight, it handles great, and there's lots of power from the 210-horsepower turbocharged engine on the Arc and Aero models. It's also smooth and quiet, comfortable and nicely trimmed. It feels like the upscale car it is.
The 9-3 convertible is a near-luxury drop top that seats four passengers. It's delightful to drive and quiet with the top up, with creature comforts galore and intuitive fixtures. With the top down, it wraps occupants in the panorama and aromas of the world around, setting a new standard for the class in all respects.
Sedan or convertible, the 9-3 stands apart from the crowd. It looks like a Saab and manages to remain a Saab, yet it's a thoroughly modern car with no quirks or foibles. The 9-3 was completely redesigned and re-engineered for the 2003 model year. And the all-new convertible followed for 2004. For 2005 the line-up includes a Linear convertible that drops the price of dropping the top. DVD navigation is available for 2005 Arc and Aero models.
Saab has always dared to be different. Influenced by its aeronautical background, Saab borrows aircraft design elements for its cars. Past examples of this have been the wraparound, near-vertical windshields and aircraft-style dashboards with instrument lighting that can 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, but in exchange, GM funded a long-overdue development of newer and better-engineered cars.
In short, these are the best 9-3s Saab has ever produced.
The 2005 Saab 9-3 is available as a four-door sedan or two-door convertible. Each comes in three trim levels: Linear, Arc and Aero.
Linear models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower. Arc and Aero are powered by the same 2.0-liter engine but with a high-output turbocharger for 210 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on Linear and Arc; Saab's five-speed automatic Sentronic ($1,350), which features semi-manual gear selection, is optional. Aero comes standard with a six-speed manual; the optional five-speed automatic comes with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles ($1,350).
The Linear sedan ($26,850) and the new Linear convertible ($37,100) come well equipped. Standard features include leather-appointed seats; five-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels; seven-speaker audio with CD; input for MP3; heated power mirrors; two 12V outlets. For 2005, all 9-3 models come with no-charge scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance during the warranty period.
The Arc sedan ($30,250) and convertible ($39,995) get a higher level of equipment: 10-spoke 16-inch alloys; dual-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; power windows, door locks and outside mirrors; a 300-watt stereo with CD player and 13 speakers; power front seats with driver memory; and front fog lights. Options include heated front seats ($500); Xenon headlamps with high-pressure washers ($650); moonroof ($1,200); and the navigation system ($2,295). Options for the Arc convertible include a Driver's Package ($1,695), consisting of a wood/leather steering wheel, wood shift surround, rain-sensing wipers, rear park assist, 6-disc CD changer, remote top operation, and auto-dimming interior mirror with integrated garage door opener.
The Aero sedan ($32,850) and Aero convertible ($42,600) feature a lowered, sport-tuned chassis; an exterior body kit; 17-inch wheels; a tire-pressure monitor; Sport exhaust; a 300-watt, 13-speaker sound system; and leather-faced seats. A Convertible Touring Package ($1,495) adds remote top operation, an auto-dimming interior mirror with integrated garage door opener, memory for the driver's seat, rain-sensing wipers, rear park assist, a poplar wood and leather steering wheel, and a six-disc CD changer. Heated seats ($500), and xenon HID headlamps with washers ($650) are optional.
The convertible can be enhanced with a blue top ($600) to replace the standard black top. A special color-matched tonneau ($350) is available to go with models ordered in the steel gray metallic paint.
Safety is a keynote feature on Saabs and the 9-3 is loaded with active and passive safety features. Among them: electronic stability control (ESP), cornering brake control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, and traction control, all designed to help the driver maintain control. In addition to the dual-stage front airbags, dual-stage side-impact and roofrail airbags protecting both torso and head come standard. Also standard: Saab's Active Head Restraint system that automatically cradles the head to minimize whiplash in a rear-impact collision.