Had it not been for one man, Robert Sinclair, then president of Saab-Scania of America, the Saab convertible might not have happened until some time later – or not at all. Sinclair envisioned the car when Saab headquarters in Sweden tried to push the low-end 900 coupe into the American market. He knew the car would never sell in the states and took it upon himself to convert the coupe into a convertible using the American Sunroof Corporation. The first Saab 900 convertible was shown as a concept at the 1983 Frankfurt Auto Show and response was overwhelmingly positive. By 1986, the first 900 convertibles for America went on sale and sold out immediately – the 1987 U.S. allotment then sold out before production even began, and Saab even had orders for the 1988 and 1989 models while deliveries of the first batch were being made. The 900 convertible was an important and defining car for the Swedish automaker and is responsible for helping to improve the status of today’s Saab brand.
Saab has had twenty years to fine-tune the convertible, and to celebrate this milestone it has introduced a limited edition 9-3 convertible. Only 400 examples of the unique Aero 20 Years Edition will be built, each one painted Electric Blue with subtle color-matched leather inserts for the interior. Saab also opted to keep the anniversary edition discreet, so you won’t find any badges attached to the bodywork identifying it as such. Instead, Saab chose to have each car wear a subtle etching in the rear quarter glass window. Other telltale signs of the anniversary model are the unique paint color, and the special dual five-spoke alloy wheels. Saab keeps track of each commemorative edition, but each car is not individually numbered outside of the engraving on the rear quarter glass.
The big news for the 9-3 this year, besides the introduction of the anniversary model, is a new 250-horsepower V6 with 258 lb.-ft. of torque under the hood. This new engine is a perfect fit for the convertible. The power from the turbocharged motor is smooth and pulls the car effortlessly through each gear. Saab gives buyers the option of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, further enhancing the 9-3’s appeal. Whether you’re an enthusiast opting for the manual or a commuter choosing the automatic, any driver will appreciate the smooth shifts and instant response from the engine. The new V6 delivers 258 lb.-ft. of torque at just 2,000 rpm and delivers 90 percent of that torque at 1,500 rpm. The turbo spools seamlessly and instantaneously, and power comes on before you have enough time to contemplate your next move. Engineers have also done away with torque steer and have engineered a delightful compromise between ride and handling that produces both comfort and performance.
Unfortunately for Saab, some still view its cars based on an image of the past. The challenge for Saab is to dispel that reputation by getting people behind the wheel. Based on our test drive, those that drive the new Saab 9-3 Aero are sure to walk away with a totally new outlook and admiration of Saab cars and will appreciate what twenty years of engineering and design can do for a car and company.