The 2008 Saab 9-3 is an underrated European sedan that offers power, cargo, and style
Saab is renowned for it’s ‘jet-inspired’ design and craftsmanship. The 2008 9-3 sports sedan is no exception — clean flowing lines, jet cockpit styling cues, and of course, an incredible turbo engine. Overall, the 9-3 Aero Sedan is exceptionally refined and offers bit of variety from its European counterparts.
The 9-3 is available in three forms: 4-door sedan, the SportCombi wagon, and a 2-door cabriolet. The sedan is available in four trims: Sport Manual ($35,950 MSRP), Sport Automatic ($37,450 MSRP), Aero Sport Manual ($43,990 MSRP), and my tester version, the Aero Sports Automatic with 6-speed Sentronic ($45,490 MSRP). A 2.8L V6 turbo engine producing an impressive 255-hp is standard, but an extra $2,340 will get you the well-spent Cross Wheel Drive (XWD) System performance upgrade: increasing power to 280-hp while adding self-leveling rear shocks and 17” rims with P225/50R all-season tires.
The overall exterior styling is reminiscent of most sports sedans—lengthened wheel base; long, clean lines; a low profile coupled with a sport wheel package; dual exhaust tailpipes, so on. From a distance, you may not distinguish the 9-3 from the Audis or BMWs. But at closer inspection, the iconic Saab 3-piece front grill will certainly give it away. Some of the finer details on the 9-3 are perhaps a matter of taste. Including the clear glass taillights with a thick black trim. Or the hard, black plastic rear valance. Power sliding sunroof, Aero specific bumpers, tinted heat absorbing glass, and Xenon headlamps with washers are all standard.
The interior is spacious, the instrument panel and centre console are very clean and well laid out, and the seats are arguably the most comfortable I’ve sat in recently (the $1,850 upgrade to sport bucket seats with premium leather probably explains it!). Sport leather appointed seating surfaces with 8-way power driver seat come standard.
The steering wheel is well designed and very comfortable thought the sentronic thumb-shifters proved to be in an awkward position—requires lowering the hand off the wheel in order to make a shift, if hands are at the 2 and 10 o’clock positions, as the wheel is designed.
An 11-speaker Bose sound system with 6-disc CD changer comes standard; the DVD based navigation system ($1,995 upgrade) introduces a 6.5” wide colour display to the centre console, thus, replacing the 6-disc changer with single disc. Other interior standards include auto climate control; power windows/locks/cruise control; auxiliary input jack for MP3 compatibility; XM Satellite Radio with 3-month free service; a cool ‘night panel’ feature I found myself unexplainably obsessed with (basically shuts down all interior lights and gauges except the speedometer); carpeted floor mats; and a cooled glove box, to a name a few.
If you’re in the market for a sports sedan but want to veer away from the other European 4-door offerings, strongly consider the Saab 9-3 sedan. It’s spacious, powerful, safe, stylish, and something a little different.