Remaining loyal to Saab has been challenging for owners of the iconic Swedish brand. During recent years, Saabophiles have seen their beloved marque purchased by General Motors, resulting in new models that amount to little more than re-badged Chevrolets and Subarus. To those who lust after quirky and unique transportation, a glorified Chevy just ain't gonna cut it. Adding insult to injury was the demise of the 9-3 hatchback - a vehicle that set Saab apart and was especially appealing to the brand's die-hard fans.
But, with the debut of the 2006 Saab 9-3 Sportwagon, a possible turnaround is underway. This five-door wagon is the first recently introduced Saab that is based on an actual Saab model and is not simply a product of badge engineering.
Introduced at the 2005 Geneva Auto Show, the 2006 Saab 9-3 Sportwagon (dubbed the SportCombi in European markets) features the same Epsilon platform that serves as the backbone to the Saab 9-3 sedan and convertible models. From the grille to the A-pillar, there really is no distinguishing between the different models, but in the rear the 9-3 Sportwagon stands alone with large vertical taillights, a curved spoiler sitting atop a large rear window, and the obvious expansion of cargo space. The rear floor can be removed to access a deeper secondary storage area. With up to five passengers seated inside, there are about 15 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row seats; drop the rear seats, and that figure climbs to almost 45 cubic feet which, oddly, is about 15 cubic feet shy of the total cargo space in the smaller Saab 9-2X.Call us crazy, but we'd expect at least comparable dimensions between these two vehicles.
In charge of carrying the 2006 Saab 9-3 Sportwagon's extra cargo is an all-new engine. Borrowed from GM's Australian Holden unit is a 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 that should put out about 250 horsepower, making it the most powerful engine offered in a 9-3 model. Of course, that kind of performance will be reserved for the premium Aero model; other versions will likely sport the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder motors currently offered in the 9-3 sedan and convertible.Other aspects of the 2006 Saab 9-3 Sportwagon will likely be carried over from the current 9-3 models, including stability and traction control systems, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, and a front MacPherson strut/rear multi-link suspension system. Inside, expect the same leather seats, premium sound system, and standard side curtain airbags that are found in modern Saabs.
Due to arrive at dealers' lots by November 2005, the 2006 Saab 9-3 Sportwagon is expected to start at about $30,000.
Saab is a company that has lost its way and, subsequently, shoppers have been left with only a few stale choices that hardly make a trip to the showroom worthwhile. Disappointing sales figures bear the results. Combining unique styling, versatility, and turbo power was once the foundation of Saab's success, and it's a formula that designers have re-introduced with the 9-2X and the latest addition to the 9-3 family. Indeed, for a company in desperate need of a turnaround, the 2006 Saab 9-3 Sportwagon just may be its saving grace.
Photos courtesy of Saab