2006 9-3 New Car Test Drive
With the addition of a powerful new V6, the Saab 9-3 has become a real contender among the sports sedans, convertibles and sport wagons in its class. Whichever body style fits your needs and desires, the Saab 9-3 is sporty, it's tight, and it handles well. A new 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 has been added for 2006 along with an improved 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 35 more horsepower last year's engine. Together, they make the 2006 Saab 9-3 a more compelling choice.
For 2006, Saab has reconsidered, reformulated, and recalculated all of its models, packages and prices, and the new models are several thousand dollars less expensive than comparably equipped 2005 models, enough of a price difference to warrant further consideration by fringe Saab shoppers, who are already looking at the big name competitors: the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Volvo S60 and S40, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Saab, originally a Swedish aircraft company, borrows aircraft design elements for its cars, right down to the twin-engine plane logo, and now calls its top models Aero to complete the connection. Past examples of aero design include 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. More aero touches abound on the 2006 models, which now come standard with body-color trim and body-color tonneau covers for the convertible top. Saab is promoting its airplane heritage in its 2006 advertising campaign.
The 2006 9-3 looks like a Saab and manages to remain a Saab, yet it's a thoroughly modern car with few of the quirks or foibles historically associated with the brand. The 9-3 was completely redesigned for the 2003 model year, the convertible followed for 2004, and for 2006, the lineup includes the new 9-3 SportCombi, a sport wagon. With this new choice of body styles, powertrains and equipment, this is the most versatile family of 9-3s Saab has ever produced, with 18 models in all.
The 2006 Saab 9-3 comes in three body styles, a four-door sedan, a two-door convertible, and a four-door wagon called the SportCombi (or simply Combi). Two trim levels are offered, the 2.0T and the Aero. (The old Linear and Arc model designations are gone.)
The 2.0T sedan ($25,900), SportCombi ($26,900), and convertible ($36,500) are similarly equipped. The 2.0T is powered by the high-output version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 210 horsepower for 2006. A five-speed manual transmission is standard. A six-speed automatic is optional ($1,350). The 2.0T comes standard with leather upholstery, wood interior trim, and dual-zone automatic climate control come standard. Also standard: power windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors; eight-way power driver's seat; leather-trimmed steering wheel; 16-inch alloy wheels; seven-speaker audio with CD and input for MP3; two 12-volt outlets. For 2006, all 9-3 models come with no-charge scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance during the warranty period.
The Aero sedan ($31,900), SportCombi ($32,900), and convertible ($41,900) are similarly equipped and feature the new 2.8-liter V6 rated at 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual comes standard. The six-speed automatic is optional ($1,350) and features shifter paddles on the steering wheel. The Aero is further upgraded with 17-inch alloy wheels; xenon projector headlamps; fog lights; premium audio; moonroof.
A DVD navigation system is available for all models ($1,995). A blue top is available for the convertible ($600). Premium metallic paint ($550) is available in a broad palette of interesting colors. Special upholstery is available for no extra charge.
Options for the 2.0T include a moonroof ($1,200) and a Premium Package ($1,895) that includes Red Walnut interior trim, eight-way power passenger seat, 300-watt audio upgrade with 6CD and 13 speakers, express up/down front windows with remote opening, remote opening for the moonroof or convertible top, and fog lights.
A Touring Package ($1,195) for the Aero adds rear park assist, memory for the driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated garage door opener and compass, rain-sensing wipers, express up/down for the windows with remote opening for windows, moonroof or top.
Safety is a key feature of all 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. Passive safety features include dual-stage front airbags, dual-stage side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted curtain airbags. Saab's Active Head Restraint system that cradles the head to minimize whiplash in a rear collision is also standard.