Saab 9-3


Nov 21st, 2019

Saab 9-3

The Saab 9-3 is a compact executive or D-Segment car produced from 1998 to 2014 in two generations. Set to succeed the Saab 900 (NG900), it was initially a heavily updated version of the NG900, branded as the 9-3. It had a transversely-mounted front-engine, front-wheel-drive, or four-wheel drive layout. Due to the financial problems Saab was suffering, the third generation never went into production, with only the concept car Saab PhoeniX remaining. To this day, Saab remains a name associated with performance, build quality, and especially safety. 

The First Generation (1998-2002/2003)

The first-generation 9-3, commonly known as the OG 9-3 (Old Generation), originated from the NG900 that received 1,100 changes. These changes included revised suspension, stronger door sills and frames, reinforced A-pillar, standard torso/head side-airbags, and black rear spoiler and removed Saab's trademark 'snow flap'. It came as three-door or five-door hatchbacks and as two-door convertibles. The total production number is 326,370 units. 

Named after the Saab 37 Viggen aeroplane, Saab 9-3 Viggen was marketed as a high-performance version, powered by a turbocharged 2.3L engine with an output of 168kW (225hp) further improved to 172kW (230hp). Other updated features came in the form of a higher capacity intercooler, performance-tuned ECU, upgraded clutch, pressure plate, firmer dampers, stronger CV joints, and driveshafts, flow-through muffler, and tip. The 2.3L engine teamed up with a five-speed manual gearbox exclusively. Today, it's somewhat of a classic, being both interesting as well as rare, with only 4600 produced.

The first generation used Saab-designed engines with 16-valve DOHC design and Saab Direct Ignition System, with the turbocharged versions featuring the tandem of Saab's Trionic engine management system and Direct Ignition System. This generation came in two variants of 2.2L diesel engine and several versions of 2.0L and 2.3L petrol engines. Australia received petrol variants only paired with four-speed automatic transmission or five-speed manual gearbox. The power output of the petrol engines ranged from 97kW (130hp) up to 168kW (225hp) at 5500rpm, while torque output ranged from 177Nm to 342Nm.

The Second Generation (2002-2014)

Taking its debut at the North American International Auto Show in 2002, the second generation rolled out as two-door convertibles, four-door sedans, and four-door station wagons, with front-wheel or four-wheel drive. One notable change was the discontinuation of the hatchback model. 

Basic equipment includes 3x3 point rear seatbelts, ABS, alarm, body-coloured bumpers, driver and passenger's airbag, electric mirrors, folding rear seats, front electric windows, heated mirrors, Isofix child seat anchor points, PAS, rear electric windows, remote locking, side airbags, steering wheel rake adjustment, steering wheel reach adjustment, and traction control. 

  • The standard trim level adds air conditioning, audio remote, CD, climate control, cloth seat trim, service indicator, space saver spare wheel, and steel wheels.
  • The linear trim level adds alloy wheels, audio remote, CD, and cloth seat trim.
  • The Aero trim level adds alloy wheels, audio remote, CD, climate control, cruise control, front fog lights, headlight washers, leather seat trim, service indicator, space saver spare wheel, and sports seats.
  • The Turbo Edition added alloy wheels, audio remote, CD, climate control, cruise control, front fog lights, heated seats, height-adjustable driver's seat, leather seat trim, lumbar support, parking sensors, service indicator, and space-saver spare wheel.
  • The Vector trim level added alloy wheels, audio remote, CD, cruise control, front fog lights, partial leather seat trim, and sports seats.

These trim levels came in several combinations, namely, Aero Anniversary, Aero Carlsson, Airflow, Arc, Linear SE, Linear Sport, Linear Sport Airflow, Linear Sport Anniversary, SE, Turbo X, Vector Airflow, Vector Sport, Vector Sport Airflow, and Vector Sport Anniversary. 

The dashboard received an update in 2007, with the climate control system changed to the Saab 9-5 system, and the Saab Information Display repositioned higher. The slightly softened suspension reduced cabin noise.

The facelift of 2008 brought numerous updates with Saab implementing over 2,000 changes. External changes include revised headlamps, new door panels, new clamshell bonnet, new rear bumper, and rear lamps. 

The second-generation 9-3 used General Motors Ecotec 2.0L inline-four engine for the petrol variants, with three different turbocharged versions. Diesel options had an extensive 1.9L range and a single 2.2L inline-four, while petrol engines came in a variety of 1.8L, 2.0L and 2.8L engines. Australian models sported a five-speed automatic, and later, six-speed automatic transmission. Engine options were limited to 1.9L diesel, 2.0L and 2.8L petrol engines. 

  • 1.8L inline-four 16-valve petrol engines, naturally-aspirated or turbocharged; power production ranged from 90kW (120hp) to 110kW (150hp) and torque from 167Nm to 240Nm 
  • 2.0L inline-four 16-valve petrol engines, turbocharged only, power production ranged from 129kW (173hp) to 150kW (210hp) and torque from 265Nm to 300Nm 
  • 2.8L V6 24-valve petrol engines, turbocharged only, power production ranged from 170kW (230hp) to 210kW (280hp) and torque from 330Nm to 400Nm 
  • 1.9L inline-four 8-valve or 16-valve diesel engines, turbocharged only, power production ranged from 88kW (120hp) to 130kW (180hp) and torque from 280Nm to 400Nm 

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 Author: Luka Kusic