Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Saab 9-3 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Saab 9-3 Overview

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Saab's new 9-3 sedan has done exactly what the company hoped it would do: Compete head-on with Audi, BMW and Lexus and come out a winner. The new 9-3 is a better car in every way. A new platform provides the type of rigidity that had been lacking in previous models and the price, fuel economy and power output are competitive with rival sedans.

The 9-3 still looks like a Saab should look; it has a sweeping beltline that rises up at the rear C-pillar, a tapered front end with the trademark Saab grille and a high rear end punctuated by two large, wrap-around tail lamps. But this new 9-3 also has a sleeker look, a bit meaner and more aggressive than the old 9-3, with less vertical appearance. For 2004, the 9-3 lineup consists of three trim levels. The entry level Linear provides all the basic goodies driving enthusiast demand without a lot of bells and whistles. The Linear is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo charged engine that pumps out 175 horsepower and is mated to a smooth-shifting five-speed manual; for those who prefer not to shift their own gears, Saab offers the option of five-speed automatic.

The next trim is the Arc, which includes more standard features, a more luxurious interior and more powerful 210-horsepower engine. The Arc also includes 16-inch alloy wheels, wood trim and a 300-watt "Infortainment" AM/FM/CD stereo. Finally, there is the high-end performance machine, the Aero. Powered by the same 210-horsepower engine as the Arc, the Aero adds 17-inch wheels, a six-speed manual transmission, sport suspension and seats and exterior body kit that includes front and rear spoilers. If you've ever driven an older Saab 9-3, especially the more potent models, you'll understand why attaining a stiffer body structure was so important to the engineers of the new 9-3. Gone is the flexing body and shaking gearshift lever that lurched about whenever the slightest torque passed through its base. The new 9-3 is solid as a rock, stable at all speeds and sporting a newfound sense of athleticism. Though still pulled by its front wheels, the new 9-3 exhibits none of the torque steer its predecessor suffered. Thanks to a dynamic new rear suspension and the use of electronic stability control, you can push the 9-3 pretty far before the traction control module reduces power or you reach the point where the car begins to plow. The driving dynamics are not as good as those found on rear-drive cars like the BMW 3-series, but they are not far off. You'll find the 9-3's steering to be heavily weighted, with good on-center feel and very little play. You'll also find the 9-3's ability to come to a quick stop is most impressive.

No mater which model you choose, you'll enjoy brisk acceleration with only the slightest hint of turbo lag in the low rpm range. Passing power is also excellent for a four-cylinder engine and the 9-3 can easily have you well into illegal speed ranges before you know it. You'll also enjoy one of the best manual transmissions ever to be fitted to a Saab. The shifts on both the five and six-speed are crisp and smooth, with the gearshift sliding effortlessly into each slot; a far cry from the previous 9-3 manual.

Inside the 9-3, you'll find the signature Saab oval dash has been neatly integrated to suit the new car's more angular appearance. If you like seats that you sit in and not on, you'll love the 9-3's front buckets; they have a nice feel with solid side and lower leg bolsters and a specially designed head restraint designed to reduce the incidence of whiplash should you get bumped from behind. The 9-3 Linear features loads of standard goodies, including power windows, power door locks, air conditioning, heated power outside mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, leather seats, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with touch controls for audio, cruise control, traction control and 15-inch alloy wheels.

Aero models are pretty well loaded, but do offer some options such as a sunroof, rear park assist, OnStar, a sport package and an optional five-speed Sentronic automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted controls for shifting.

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