A Swedish siren
Adrian Foster is given a sneak preview of the stunning new Saab 9-3 courtesy of North City Saab
SAAB is back with a brand new 9-3 line-up that shows it really means business. And what's more, the Swedish manufacturer is confident that it can take on Germany's four 'tough guys' without having sand kicked in its face, according to Chigwell-based North City Saab.
The signs are promising: the distinctive appearance of the new 9-3 Saloon and the stylish Convertible are intended to position them as products that could only come from Saab.
Indeed, the styling strategy brings together contemporary and classic Saab design themes in a progression of the brand's distinctive character. At the front, the familiar Saab grille becomes bolder and more aggressive, adopting a theme first seen on the Aero X concept car. This is complemented by more dramatic headlight units that incorporate a thin 'eyebrow' lighting zone designed as a brand-specific 'signature' feature.
The radiator grille's central wing motif is retained as a reference to Saab's aircraft heritage and the swept-back frontal lines are complemented by a front bumper and splitter assembly with a deep, trapezoidal air intake. This is flanked by deep black vents that are framed, like the grille, in a matt chrome finish.Inside, the 9-3 remains as quirky as ever and the aeroplane-inspired driving position harks back to Saab's much-vaunted aerospace heritage. In common with all Saab models, the 9-3 Saloon and SportWagon (Estate) are designed 'from the driver outwards', which means that the cabin ergonomics, instrumentation, controls and the seating position are all developed from the driver's perspective. Indeed, Saab aficionados will be reassured by the steep, aircraft-like dashboard and its sense of enclosure will already be familiar to 9-3 owners. The SportWagon adds a large cargo deck for the intended sports and leisure pursuits of owners and buyers have a choice of four aeronautical-inspired trim levels. Inside, there are improvements but it's under the bonnet where the most significant changes occur. The existing engine range has been carried over, with an entry-level 1.8-litre petrol and three turbo-charged petrol engines, a new high-powered 1.9TTiD diesel unit with twin-stage turbocharging and two BioPower models that run on environmentally friendly E85 bioethanol fuel.The Saab 9-3 Saloon and SportWagon remain fun-to-drive and in EuroNCAP crash tests, the new 9-3 Saloon and 9-3 Convertible have achieved a maximum five-star rating. Surely a real winner.