The new 2003 Saab 9-3 promised to fix the handling problems that had resulted in chronic complaints in the past, in particular the issues with the excessive torque steering. Saab succeeded. In addition to fixing this issue, the rack-and-pinion steering is helpful without over-assisting. The new model has a chassis that was completely re-engineered with a four-link independent rear suspension and a super-rigid hydroformed front sub-frame. The new handling makes it feel even smaller than it is on a slalom track. Torsional stability has been increased by more than 120 percent.
The new cars sport a central panel just below the windshield called the Saab Information Display that can provide numerous bits of information, everything from the radio station and outside temperature to information from the “profiler system?. Despite increased information features on the interior the Saab stats indicate that they have reduced the weight of the features by utilizing a fiber-optics system.
Body Styles: four-door sedan, two-door convertible
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 16-valve twincam inline turbo
Transmissions: five speed manual transmission, six speed manual transmission, five speed automatic
Models: Saab 9-3 Linear, Saab 9-3 Arc, Saab 9-3 Vector, Saab 9-3 Convertible
The 2003 9-3 received improved handling with a newly engineered chassis and eliminated the hatchback design replaced by a sedan. The convertible design is a holdover. A larger body (2.1-inch wider body and 2.8-inch longer wheelbase) gives improved shoulder and leg room. On the interior, the “Saab Information Display? on the center console is a new feature designed to give the driver key information without having to look down and away from the road.
The Saab 9-3 has attractive modern lines while still looking very much like a Saab. It has short front and rear overhangs and looks like an IS 300 without the sharp edges. The improved lines give the car a 0.28 drag coefficient, which is a 10-percent increase over previous models.
The Saab 9-3 has improved shoulder and legroom thanks to its increased body size and sedan styling. The stark interior is broken up by sleek metal trim. Large gauges and buttons are designed ergonomically.
The Saab Information display, or SID, allows several items to be monitored on a panel located in the center console, just below the windshield. Among items that are included in the SID are radio settings, outside temperature, and the interface for the in-depth profiler system that gives the driver control over numerous items from ventilation preferences to parking-assist sensitivity.
The interior materials are high quality, and metal trim is used throughout to improve the aesthetics. The seats are supportive. Three sound system levels are available, as well as the OnStar navigation system, as standard equipment.
Performance & Handling
Earlier versions of the 9-3 had severe torque steering, requiring a firm grip on the wheel when the engine is gunned. Torque is improved on all models. The two-liter, 4-cylinder engine starts with GM's L850 ?Global? steel-sleeved aluminum short block, and adds its own 16-valve, twincam cylinder head, engine management and exhaust-turbo-intercooler-intake plumbing. The Vector can do zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and the quarter mile in 15.6 seconds, while the Linear’s stats are 8.1 and 16.2 respectively.
The engineers built a new chassis with a four-link independent rear suspension and a super-rigid hydro-formed front sub-frame. The geometry was also revised, thereby eliminating the torque steer even in the more powerful Vector model.
Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes allow stopping in 28.68 feet from 30 mph. Improved external lines improve both appearance and performance. An increased body size provides better leg and shoulder room. The brakes measure 11.8 inches across in the front and 11.4 in rear on the Linear. The brakes are even larger in the Arc and Vector. Unlike previous turbo versions the Vector has no Turbo drag.
The 9-3 includes numerous safety features, including side-curtain airbags, cornering brake control, and active head restraints. Brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control are all standard.
EPA Fuel Economy
Saab 9-3 Linear five-speed automatic: 19/28 mpg city/highway
Saab 9-3 Linear five-speed manual: 20/29 mpg city/highway
Saab 9-3 Arc five-speed automatic: premium gas: 18/28 mpg city/highway
Saab 9-3 Arc six-speed manual: 19/28 mpg city/highway
Saab 9-3 Vector five-speed automatic premium gas: 18/28 mpg city/highway
Saab 9-3 Vector six-speed manual: 19/28 mpg city/highway
Saab 9-3 Convertible five-speed automatic: 18/28 mpg city/highway
Saab 9-3 Convertible five-speed manual: 20/29 mpg city/highway
- Re-engineered chassis and resulting handling
- SID system and other interior features
- OnStar is standard
You Won't Like
- Some lack of response in the automatic transmission
- Less “Saab-like? in appearance
- No wrap around windshield
- Performance of standard models less impressive than Vector
Definitely lives up to sporty, luxury vehicle hype.
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