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2003 Saab 9-3 compact Near Luxury Sedan

By the Staff   

Images by Brian Leshon   

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Saab's second series of front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicles in 2003 moves upscale with a larger package size and a bump into the elite premium compact sport sedan segment supported by two new turbo-charged engine choices.

A new chassis marking a generational change for the 9-3 sedan stretches the wheelbase and widens the tire width to form a stable platform that's larger than the previous 9-3. First in what will become a family of models, the four-door 9-3 Sport Sedan projects the sleek wedge-shaped silhouette of a racy coupe with windswept lines flowing over a raked windshield. Two new aluminum engines, each a 2.0-liter four-pack, tack on a turbo-charger to boost the muscle while economizing on fuel. Different tuning changes the power output -- from 175 hp to 210 hp.

The two versions go by badges of 2.0t (175 hp) and 2.0T (210 hp).

Standard transmission for the 2.0t is a manual five-speed, while the 9-3 2.0T gets a six-speed manual, yet both offer Saab's five-speed automatic with new Sentronic manual shift mode plus optional shifter tabs mounted on the steering wheel.

Mechanical assets include four-wheel independent suspension and large disc brakes on all wheels, along with Saab's Electronic Stability Program (ESP), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and a Traction Control System (TCS). The Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR) are aboard, as are dual-stage front air bags and side curtain-style air bags.

Three themes diversify the 9-3 with Linear, Arc and Vector issues.

Cabin styling for Linear is understated in leather upholstery with anthracite trim. 9-3 Arc piles on more gear for luxury and the trim shifts to poplar wood. Vector slants toward the sporty edge with 17-inch alloy wheels and a leather interior defined by trim in matte chrome. Saab offers an optional package for Linear with 16-inch alloy wheels, a ...

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2003 Saab 9-3 Near Luxury Compact Sports Sedan

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2003 Saab 9-3 Near Luxury Compact Sports Sedan

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Changes Over the Previous Model

The Saab 9-3 Sedan is an all new vehicle for 2003. It is the first in a series of new cars to be based on the 9-3 platform. Although the 9-3 is longer, wider and roomier than its predecessor, it is lighter, has dramatically improved handling and better performance than the model it replaces.

Saab has moved the 9-3 upscale with these changes in order to compete with entry-level sport sedan segment leaders such as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS and ES 300, Jaguar X Type, Volvo S40 and S60 and the Infiniti G35.

The 2003 9-3 is available in three trim levels, or 'themes' as Saab calls them. Linear is the entry level version. The Arc is the luxury version. The Vector is the 'higher' performance model providing a sportier and more responsive ride and hip styling.

Vehicle Exterior

Saab design has always been interesting, to say the least. People tend to love them, or hate them, with the former being passionately enthusiastic about the styling.

Saabs have distinctive design cues. The grill, with its two small side and single, large split center air intakes, and the shape of the headlights are two such cues.

The downward sweeping rear deck and tailights are also trademark Saab designs. The difference is now it has been refined into a flowing wedge shape with a steeply raked windshield and tapering rear deck. Because of this the 9-3 looks more like a sport coupe than a sedan. This among is the best designs we have seen from Saab, and bodes well for the next redesign of 9-5.

Vehicle Interior

The 9-3's interior design began with the driver. 'Driver focused' design in this case means making the driver feel connected to the vehicle and ready for twisty roads � Saab wanted drivers to have fun when they drove the car. The dashboard has the feel of an airplane cockpit. It wraps around the driver and flows downward to form the center console. The controls are angled so the driver can easily see them. The exception is the Saab Information Display on top of the dashboard, just below the windshield. The display shows information about the entertainment system, heating and air conditioning and data from the trip computer. These controls are all conveniently placed for front passenger use. The steering wheel adjusts for both height and reach.

Located in the center console are the parking brake and gear selector for either the 5-speed automatic, or 6 -speed manual transmissions. The 9-3 includes Saab's trademark center console mounted ignition switch, which is also a feature of the 9-5.

Saab has always had good supportive seats, necessary in a sporty car. All 2003 9-3 models come standard with leather seating surfaces. The entry level Li...

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2004 Saab 9-3 Compact Sedan and Convertible

by Sandra Kinsler and Brian Leshon   

Images by Brian Leshon   

New Car Review of the 2004 Saab 9-3 Compact Sedan and Convertible

Description: Compact Near Luxury Sedan and Convertible
Base MSRP Range: $24,929 - $42,500
Invoice Price Range: $24,929 - $40,078

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The 9-3 series of compact-class cars, representing the largest product development program in the history of Saab, begins with the Epsilon platform employed for various products of General Motors. It features a long wheelbase and wide track with world-class chassis dynamics and superior handling traits.

First to emerge for what will become a family of models, the four-door 9-3 sport sedan rolled out in 2003 revealing the sleek wedge-shaped silhouette of a racy coupe with windswept lines and wheels pushed to corners with little overhang apparent.

For 2004, three versions of the sports sedan return with revamped wheel packages and new paint choices. But the line expands to encompass a new open-top premium convertible in two trims.

Actually, Saab developed the convertible 9-3 concurrently with the sedan so there are shared features like chassis and powertrains, although the drop-top was fortified with a ring of steel around the cabin to unify its structure and maintain rigidity in the absence of a roof. Added safety elements for the convertible include front buckets with seatbelts integrated into the seat frames, two-stage side-impact air bags large enough to shield torso and head, and Saab's active head restraints that help counter the painful whiplash effect during a rear-end impact. Then a new DynaCage concept goes to work in the event of a roll-over incident with pop-up roll bars concealed at the rear of the cabin, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and reinforcements built into the windshield pillars.

Saab 9-3 as a sports sedan offers a choice of two aluminum engines, each a 2.0-liter four-in-line design with dual overhead cams and a turbo-charger tacked on to boost the muscle while still economizing on fuel. The base 9-3 Linear sedan draws from a version rated at 175 hp with five-speed manual shifter. Two other sedans (Arc and Aero) as well as the convertible's two trims (also Arc and Aero) get the more powerful plant for 210 hp. With Arc trim a five...

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