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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

FULL Review: Saab 9-3S

FULL REVIEW: Saab 9-3S 1999 to 2002

In this blog entry, I'm covering SAAB 9-3S. It's a very rare in Malaysia. Hong Leong Auto Concessionaires brought in few units between 1997 to 2000 (1997 to 98 was called Saab 900s), 1999 onwards were called 9-3s. Then there's changes in 2001, "Auto Eurokars" owned by Dato' Mokhzani Mahathir took over the distributorship. They imported in few units from 2001 to 2003 before being replaced by 2nd generation Saab 9-3s.

As usual, I don’t have a car to test/brag about as this Saab’s Freaking RARE. The resale value depends on buyer as this car's too RARE to gauge the Resale Values. Spotted a 2001 model for sale @ RM55,000 and a newer (next generation) 2004(!) model for RM78,000. All is not lost, I dished out a FULL REVIEW from GoAuto Australia (1), Owners’ review (Worldwide) with both Positive and Negative ones from Carsurvey (2). ENJOY!

MSN Auto US Average Rating
(Updated every 3 hours)

Overall Rating 8.2

Styling 9.0

Performance 8.6

Interior 8.5

Quality 7.6

Recommendation 7.8

START OF GoAuto Australia's review


SAAB's move to all-turbo engines for its 9-3 in late 1998 spiced up an ageing model range. With the improved dynamics of a reworked suspension and the upgraded safety and comfort levels introduced with the 9-3 a few months earlier, the turbo engine added to an already appealing package. It offers a bigger boot than practically anyone, but rear seat passengers are not so well treated and general dynamics are not class leading.

Previous Model

Saab 900
March 1994-June 1998

Saab's first GM-based car came with teething problems that persisted until the 9-3 model in June 1998. The front-drive 900 was however relatively spacious with a huge boot. Four-cylinder 2.0-litre normally aspirated and turbo engines were offered, along with a 2.3-litre and a 2.5-litre V6.

The Car

SAAB was on a minimum budget when refining the 900 model to create the 9-3. The car builds on the basic strengths of the 900 and adds more authority with a bolder grille, while bringing the rear end into line with the bigger 9-5 model by relocating the licence plate between the tail lights and reprofiling the panel above the (also reshaped) bumper.

Did you know?
More than 1200 technical changes over the 900 were made to create the 9-3

The Car - Seat Plan

THE 9-3 seats five passengers. Lap-sash belts are provided in all seating positions. The Saab's hatchback design is an uncommon feature in the prestige segment.

The Car - Seats

THE 9-3'S front seats are basically the same as the bigger 9-5. The driver's seat offers adjustment for height and lumbar support. Both front seats have in-built heating. The reclining mechanism is wheel-adjusted. From 2001, leather upholstery is standard (pictured).

Did you know?
Saab began as an aeronautical company

The Car - Dash

THERE'S a lot to like about the thinking that goes into Saab dashboard design. Simple, clean and a servant of the driver rather than a distraction. Examples? The speedometer scales that compresses above 120km/h so more space is allocated to the lower speeds where we spend most of our driving lives and the "Night Panel" which at the flick of a switch lights only the basic instruments. Other neat touches include a lockable full-size glovebox and dual vanity mirror on the sunvisors.

The Car - Controls

THE steering wheel is adjustable for height only. The ignition key is located on the centre console. The ignition key can only be removed if the lever is in reverse in manual versions, or park in automatics. The pull-up handbrake is centrally located. Cruise control switches are located on the left-hand steering column stalk. The 9-3 uses a basic trip computer displaying ambient temperature, fuel average, distance to empty. Exterior mirror controls are located on the driver's door. The boot lid can be unlocked via a switch on the driver's door.

The Car - Wheels/tyres

THE 9-3 S comes standard with steel wheels, but alloy wheels, such as the one pictured above, are an option. The standard wheel size is 15 x 6-inch. The 9-3 comes standard fitted with Pirelli 9000 tyres and uses wider 195/60 x 15 tyres than the 900 it replaces.

Did you know?
The 9-3's four-cylinder engine and gearbox are basically the only major components that are all Saab

The Car - Luggage

THE 9-3 offers a particularly large luggage capacity for its size. The 9-3 has a split-fold rear seat to assist flexibility. The rear seat design incorporates a lap-sash belt for the centre passenger. The 9-3 external hatch lock automatically activates so the car cannot inadvertently be left unlocked. A light on the instrument panel illuminates if the rear hatch is not properly shut. The rear seats double-fold to maximise loading capacity.

Did you know?

Saab's "active" head restraint design won the 1997 Windscreens O'Brien safety award when introduced on the 9-5 model

The Car - What's changed

THE 9-3 is all about refinement rather than wholesale changes. The outer skin, as detailed above, has some changes, and there are mechanical refinements as well. Nothing, however, that elevates the car beyond the mainstream of a very competitive class.

The Car - Stand out features

THE 9-3 distinguishes itself in the thoughtful detail. Headlight washers are a standard feature; the redesigned tailgate features an exterior opening handle and a repositioned high-level brake light; the rear seat backrest incorporates a full-width beam that locates the centre lap-sash seatbelt and provides extra lateral rigidity; "Active" front seat head restraints protect against whiplash injuries; "Night panel" instrumentation illuminates dials on a need to know basis.

Did you know?
The Saab 9-3 comes in three-door, five-door and convertible forms

The Car - Climate control

THE 9-3'S standard heating/air conditioning system is manually operated and incorporates a pollen filter. The 9-3 uses rotary switches for temperature, air direction and fan speed. A separate button is provided to recirculate the air inside the car. The airflow capacity of the system was improved with the introduction of the 9-3. Headlights can be adjusted from the instrument panel. Rear-view mirrors are heated for better winter vision. The 9-3's air-conditioning compressor has better performance than that of the 900, particularly at low speed and when the engine is idling.

The Car - Sound system

THE 9-3 is equipped with a four-speaker sound system. The system is powered by a 120 Watt amplifier. A single-disc CD player is incorporated into the fascia. The sound system changes volume according to road speed. Up to six AM stations can be preselected. The radio offers two FM bands, enabling storage of 12 separate stations. The audio system can be operated by controls mounted on the steering wheel.

The Car - Security

THE 9-3 incorporates an electronic immobiliser. An anti-theft alarm system is activated when the car is locked. The 9-3's central locking system is operated by remote control.

Positive +ve: Smooth turbo power, massive boot, safety features
Negative -ve: Tight rear compartment, below-par handling

Mechanical - Plan views

SAAB'S 9-3 is based on an old GM platform which was used for such mundane transportation as the Vauxhall Cavalier. So, no surprises about the mundane nature of the drivetrain then, which comprises a transverse-mounted engine driving the front wheels. What does get interesting is when a fair amount of torque and kilowatts is channelled to those front wheels. Torque steer aplenty can be the result.

Mechanical - Engine

THE 9-3's four-cylinder engine is a Saab design and uses a cast-iron block with an alloy, twin camshaft, 16-valve cylinder head. Its standout features are the separate coils used for each cylinder and its low-pressure intercooled turbocharger. The engine is different to the new low-friction version used in the 9-5 and in Aero versions of the 9-3.

Mechanical - Suspension

WHEN the 900 became the 9-3, Saab did a lot of work ironing out many of the problems that beset the earlier car. More front suspension travel, a faster steering ratio and numerous changes including new steering gear mountings made the 9-3 a better riding, better handling car. Wider standard tyres also helped.

Did you know?
The 9-3 uses independent MacPherson strut front suspension. Rear suspension is a torsion beam design using an anti-sway bar

Mechanical - Transmission

THE 9-3 is available with a five-speed manual tranmssion, or with an Aisin Warner four-speed, electronically controlled automatic. The manual benefitted signficantly with the adoption of a hydraulically operated clutch in the switch from 900 to 9-3. The automatic offers two modes of operation and is able to "learn" individual driving styles.

Mechanical - Brakes

THE 9-3's braking system uses all the latest technology to maximise effectiveness. Backing the anti-lock is electronic brake force distribution that regulates the pressure going to the brakes according to various factors, including weight distribution. The Saab's front brakes were increased in size over early 900s that were found to have difficulty coping with repeated heavy use.

Did you know?
The 9-3 uses a four-wheel disc braking system and the front discs are ventilated to assist cooling

Mechanical - Steering

SAAB took a load of criticism over the steering characteristics of the first new generation 900s and for the 9-3 answered a lot of this with a faster ratio and some re-engineering of the mechanism's mounting points. The result is a better feel than the 900 and less reluctance to turn into a corner. More power assistance helped cancel out the effects of the faster steering ratio, although the 9-3 still asks for a bit of effort at the wheel.

Did you know?

The 9-3 uses power-assisted rack and pinion steering. The wheel goes from lock to lock in three turns. Turning circle is a tight 10.5 metres


THE front airbags are inflated by a "soft" charge, making them less aggressive to occupants seated well forward. Two-stage head-thorax side airbags protect the occupants' rib cage and head in side impacts. The body structure is designed to distribute the impact forces over as large an area as possible in an accident. The 9-3 incorporates Saab's "active" head restraints that protect against whiplash injuries.


* Two years/unlimited km
* Service intervals: 10,000km


* 1.985 litre, electronic fuel-injection, double overhead cam, 16-valve, four cylinder
* Power: 113kW at 5500rpm
* Torque: 219Nm at 3600rpm
* Bore/stroke: 90mm/78mm
* Compression ratio: 9.2:1


* Five-speed manual, four-speed automatic

The 9-3 uses a four-wheel disc braking system and the front discs are ventilated to assist cooling


* Front: MacPherson struts with direct-acting gas shock absorbers and anti-roll bar.
* Rear: H-formed twist-beam rear axle with inner and outer anti-roll bars. Coil springs and gas shock absorbers


* Power-assisted rack and pinion


* Length: 4629mm
* Width: 1711mm
* Height: 1428mm
* Wheelbase: 2605mm
* Track, front: 1452mm
* Track, rear: 1442mm
* Kerb weight: 1347kg

Top speed: 225km/h
0-100km/h: 9.3 secs (Auto) / Manual gearbox not available in Malaysia.

FUEL CONSUMPTION: See Owner's review.


* Air-conditioning
* Remote central locking
* Power windows
* Anti-lock brakes
* Front and side airbags
* Heated seats
* Active head restraint system
* Power steering
* CD player
* Steering wheel-mounted audio controls

ONE MORE Owner's review from AUTOS.MSN.COM (3)

"Born from jets?? More like born from garbage"
2000 Saab 9-3 5-Door
By: Stevo from St. Louis
Owned: 3 years
Review ID: #487092

The handling and comfort of ride are top quality.

The reliability of this vehicle is downright aweful. I bought it with 43,000 miles and got rid of it at 98,000 miles and had it less than two years. Some of the problems we encountered were a broken knob on the vent direction switch, the display for the radio/computer burnt out, the night driving mode on the dashboard went out so when you drove at night, only 0-80mph were visible and to top it all off... The engine siezed at 98,000 miles due to oil sludge. Saab knows of this problem and has extended the warranty but when it comes time to pay for a new engine, "oh we're sorry, our adjuster says that you didn't change the oil frequently." This is all in spite of the car being serviced at the S

Overall Review:
Stay away from this General Motors piece of garbage that has nothing more than a Quad 4 direct ignition engine that you see in just about every other GM car. Their slogan nowadays is "Born from jets" ... Well I'm sorry to say this but there's no way I'd buy a Saab again much less want to take a Saab fighter into combat.



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    Saab Service Adelaide

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