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Saab 9-3X Griffin

Essentially a repackaged version of the Saab 900 series second generation vehicles from 1994 to 1998, the Saab 9-3 line was a compact executive car initially produced in 1998. It ended with the bankruptcy of Saab at the end of 2011. In the North American auto market, compact executive cars are generally regarded as compact entry-level luxury cars.

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Saab 9-3X Griffin Origins

Throughout its model run, the 9-3 series was offered in multiple body styles: a four-door sedan, a two-door convertible, a one-time hatchback that was discontinued in 2002, and a four-door wagon that would later receive the SportCombi title. Within the SportCombi trim, consumers were offered an all-wheel-drive (XUV) vehicle known as the Saab 9-3X. The Griffin label was introduced for the final year.

Since its inception in 1998, the Saab 9-3 received a number of industry awards, including Best Compact Executive Car of the Year in Great Britain for 2004, one of the Ten Best in the Hong Kong market for 2004, and Best Car of the Year in Australia for 2002. Fortune Magazine also listed the Saab 9-3 series on its best list in 1998 and 1999.

About the Saab 9-3X Griffin

Since the Saab 9-3 series was a carryover of its predecessor, the 900s, the 9-3s ushered in a whole host of design and vehicular improvements, all of which would further cement Saab’s stellar industry reputation.

In an attempt to tighten up the ride handling of the 900s, the Saab 9-3s in 1998 received better suspension and an increased overall crash ratings due to the inclusion of standard side-impact airbags with head protection and active headrests. Some exterior design features changed as well, most notably a black rear spoiler and centrally mounted snow flap. Once Saab dropped the hatchback from its lineup in 2002, this made room for the introduction of the Saab 9-3 SportCombi, better known as the 9-3X.

Classified as a wagon, the Saab 9-3X SportCombi featured an improved 2.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine that delivered 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. With a top speed of 152 mph, the Saab 9-3X could go from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds with an estimated EPA fuel economy rating of 22/28 mpg city/highway.

With its powertrain essentially unchanged, Saab would add the Griffin moniker to the entire 9-3 line for the 2011 and 2012 market year. The Saab 9-3X Griffin includes a higher ride height, the addition of roof rails, and assorted other features to make it more manageable on rougher roads.

Saab 9-3X Griffin Features

Obviously drawing inspiration from its very own symbol, the Saab executives decided to name the entire 9-3 line the Griffin for its send-off year in 2011 and 2012. For 2012, the Saab 9-3X Griffin gets a new version of the four-cylinder 2.0-liter engine from the 9-5 series. Available in both manual and automatic six-speed transmissions, the 2.0 direct-injection technology generates a rise in hp from 210 to 220, and a torque boost to 258 lb-ft (previously 221). The 9-3X Griffin can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds, with an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 20/30 mpg city/highway.

Up front, the face of the Saab 9-3X Griffin in a four-door SportCombi wagon received a minor overhaul, including a revamped grille, a new set of headlights, and standard fog lights across all 9-3 Griffin trims. New options were also intrduced for the alloy wheels, which now come in 16-, 17-, and 18-inch sizes.

On the inside, the 9-3X Griffin has also received a makeover to the dashboard, seat upholstery, and overall cabin decor, sporting graphite, metallic, or titanium finishes.

Base price MSRP for the Saab 9-3 Griffin begins at around $30,000, with the fully loaded 9-3X Griffin moving into the low $40,000 range.

Saab 9-3X Griffin Evolution

The Saab 9-3X Griffin itself is new to the market, but it shares a long and inspired lineage with the Saab 9-3 line. In 2000, just one year after the 9-3 made its debut, General Motors took over Saab’s operations, immediately adding four-cylinder turbocharged engines to the ranks with base models generating 185 hp, and the SE trim models generating 205 hp. The highest powered variation of this initial lineup was the Viggen thunderbolt. Named after the Saab 37 Viggen aircraft, this powerhouse’s 2.3-liter engine delivered 230 hp, a top speed of 155 mph, and a zero-to-60-mph time of just over 6 seconds.

Boasting one of the largest trunks in its class at the time, the Saab 9-3 convertible also offered a one-touch power top, an ample amount of side windshield glass for improved driver visibility, and the ability to open and close all four of its doors with the push of a single button.

After the hatchback model was discontinued in 2002, Saab brought the look back a few years later with the 9-3 SportCombi, which would later inspire the 9-3X Griffin. Offering the feel of a sports sedan, the SportCombi had 72 cubic feet of cargo space, with an additional 29 behind the seats.

Late in the company’s history, Saab, like many auto manufacturers, experimented with an electric car based off its SportCombi line called the 9-3e. With a top speed of 95 mph, the 9-3e’s lithium-ion battery pack had an estimated driving range of 125 miles at 184 hp.

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