The Saab 9-3 button dashboard – do we miss it?

My thanks to Rogan for preparing a page for the 2003+ Saab 9-3 range in the car pages here at Trollhattan Saab. Reading through that page prompted the following entry.

Regular visitors to this site will probably know that I love interiors. To me, the styling and layout of the interior is more important than the exterior appearance of a car. It’s where you spend all your time, where you engage with the car as you drive. The seats, the dash, the controls and switchgear – all of it have to combine to provide the right experience, the right level of control.
When I went to the 2003 Saab 9-3 premiere here in Tasmania a number of years ago, one of the first things I fell in love with was the dashboard. It was very much how I pictured a modern Saab dashboard should be: no nonsense, very functional, simple looking and very modern.
And that was before I saw it at night!
At night, any Saab 9-3 or 9-5 dashboard is a masterpiece to look at. You want to talk about jet heritage? All it feels like you’re missing is the wings.
Here it is:

And in a darker light, the real night-time view:

This view is a big part of it for me. My 9-3 Viggen had more of a 9-5 style dash layout but it still lit up like this at night and driving with this display on was a beautiful experience. Every function you wanted to perform had a button there for the purpose, meaning one-touch instead of a range of adjustments as on a dial. If you wanted to change the heating vent from windscreen to floor, you press the floor button rather than progressing through a number of settings via a dial.
Ergonomists will probably be able to tell you which one is better, but I always found the buttons easy to use once you got used to them.
It was to my personal chagrin, then, that Saab ditched the button dash in MY2007 in favour of a more generic dial setup, whose hardware could be shared between various models in the GM family. The heating controls turned to a simple 3-dial system and the radio was a common stock GM bowtie unit (albeit one that gave comparatively better sound than the original button dash unit in the 2003-2006 Saab 9-3).
The new (current) dash:

Notably, the new dashboard also lost the dashtop Saab Information Display (SID), which was a firm favourite amongst 9-3 owners. The SID moved to a small display in with the gauge cluster.
If I’m going to be honest here (and I should) then the newer dash layout is less cluttered and the dials are probably a little friendlier to most people.
But geez I miss that button dash. The ambience of the green lighting was fantastic and that old dash made the Night Panel button a major source of amusement and wonder. It really was a classic setup that was quite sophisticated and one that definitely elicited an emotional reaction – for this Saab blogger at least.
So what say you? I think I’ve made my own bias fairly clear, but I know mine may not be the consensus opinion.
Comments are open.