What's New For 2009? The 4-cylinder versions of the 2009 Saab 9-3 get the XWD all-wheel drive system from last year's 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X sport sedan and wagon as an option, while the Aero models have it standard. Saab 9-3 Convertibles soldier on with front-wheel drive only regardless of engine choice. The Saab 9-3 Turbo X model is dropped, but Aero model sedans and wagons get that car's 280-horsepower turbocharged V-6 engine, as well as its carbon-fiber-look interior trim.
Should I Buy This Car? No. The 2009 Saab 9-3 doesn't live up to its billing, or its price, as a sport sedan or convertible. Although we do like the Saab 9-3 SportCombi's wagon styling, even within GM's own stable there are better values to be found.
Why is the ignition between the seats? Originally the center-console ignition was an anti-theft device that forced the driver to put the car in reverse before removing the key. Today, however, the central ignition is retained as a contrived Saab "quirk."
What else should I consider? The Cadillac CTS offers more power, rear-seat room and style than a 9-3, for about the same money. There's also the Volvo S60, C70 convertible and V50 wagon, all of which are more satisfying to drive.
Quick Look: 2009 Saab 9-3
The 2009 Saab 9-3 is the entry-level Saab and the smallest car in the manufacturer's lineup. It is available in sedan, convertible and wagon body styles, the last referred to as the SportCombi. As a subsidiary of General Motors, the Saab 9-3 shares its platform with a number of vehicles, including the Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura. Two important features make the 9-3 models stand out from their GM brethren: unique turbocharged engines and available all-wheel drive in the sedan and SportCombi models.
The base engine in the 2009 Saab 9-3 sedan ($29,610), wagon ($31,040) and convertible ($41,380) is a 210-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, mated to a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission in front-drive models, and a six-speed automatic in all-wheel drive models. The optional engine is a 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 producing a respectable 280 horsepower available only with the six-speed manual or automatic.
While the 2009 Saab 9-3 has the goods on paper, overall it lacks in key areas. It's missing the power and precision we expect, although the all-wheel drive is a welcome addition and definitely a worthwhile upgrade in sedan and wagon models. The 2009 Saab 9-3 models also lack refinement. While many of the materials used inside are quite nice, the overall assembly isn't up to the level of the competition from Volvo, Cadillac, Audi. Unless you really love the 9-3's looks, you might want to keep shopping.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Saab