Owner Review – Saab 9-3 XWD

There’s been a heck of a lot of focus on the Saab 9-5 for the last few months. That’s OK, and quite natural. It’s not the only car in Saab’s stable, though, and as 100% Saab is so fond of reminding us in comments, the Saab 9-3 is a cracker of a car and he likes his Saab 9-3 just fine.

This isn’t 100% Saab writing the following, however, it’s a guy known in comments here on site as Spikeieos. He was one of the 397 people who took ownership of a new Saab in the US in November and as you’ll see in his review, below, he’s got a lot of good things to say about it.

——

Greetings Mr. Wade,

I know there has been quite a bit of new generation 9-5 luvin going on, but I would like to share my adoration for the good old 9-3 and what a great car it is. I was enthralled at first with the new 9-5, however its size and trying to find a manual at a nearby dealer led me towards the more nimble and less expensive 9-3. There may have been some murmurings about the age of the 9-3 platform, but with the updates its received through the years its still quite the action packed car IMHO.

This manual TX edition 9-3 XWD in glacier silver metallic kept turning my head, so I took a test drive and the rest is history with me and my new car.

Wow, what a car. Kudos to the dealer who ordered this great combination of contrasting colors that make the car stand out. People notice me going down the road, and I really like that. Not many other manufacturers allow anyone to order such a bold looking color combination . When friends look at the car with dark wheels, blue-green silver, and ice block tail lights I feel like they are looking at my classic 900: its a love it or hate it kind of feeling about the car, definitely a Saab.

Its easy to feel and see the pride these cars are now made with. I was surprised how solid the doors feel and how quiet the car now is compared to earlier model years. The quirk in this car is the unusual whistle when first turning the engine over from the returned secondary air intake from MY 2003 for the 2.0t engine. After that the engine goes silent and not felt until you provoke it like the 9-5.

What puts this car above the others in its class is the handling, its the reason I got the car. The combination of XWD and the 18″ rims with Pirelli P Zero Neros make this car stick to the road unbelievably well. There is rarely snow where I live to prove its bad weather traction, only endless dry roads and long stretches of blue sky 360 days a year in the desert. Only the adventurous now dare to ride with me, as everyone else dislikes holding on to the oh **** handles the whole time as I dart around town. I’m still waiting to learn how to make the tires squeal, the car seems pretty unflappable.

There is no longer a need to brake when going around corners, just give it some gas coming out of the corner and the eLSD kicks in whipping you around (just watch out for the police who may think you are driving recklessly because their car cannot do that). I also like the improved handling and upgraded dampers, the lack of a V6 seems to help the weight balance and there is little body roll when trying to make the eLSD do its job in the corners. Very few 4 door sedans can claim to be this much fun in the discounted price range of the 9-3.

My faults with the car are limited to basic things like the radio and horsepower. When a friend who owns a Chevy Cobalt exclaims: “hey, its got the same radio as my car!”, I fall silent. And just like the old Wendy’s commercial, I keep wondering about the Bose sound system: “Where’s the bass?”. As Swade has previously mentioned, unfortunately the engine does not have the power it should at 210hp, so a software upgrade is a very welcome boost for an Aero model, which from the factory has a 0-100kph time of merely 8.6 seconds. I am still waiting for my free Hirsch upgrade SaabUSA 🙂

I agree the platform is now aging, but that point is mute with the build quality, handling and technology available. Top Gear reviewed one of the new generations of the BMW 5 series a while back. Jeremy’s opening remark on the review stuck with me: BMW has gone and come up with a new 5 series, but he was not sure why because the outgoing model was an excellent car in its own right. I hope in the future we can look back at this 9-3 which has been developed and refined through such tumultuous times and feel the same way.

Best Regards, David

Jagannatha
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

9-3 XWD with 2.0 L engine is not so fast 🙁 XWD system “eats” a lot of horses because of drivetrain loss. So Hirsch upgrade is a good idea.
Anyway it’s a perfect car. I hope you have a chance to test it on snow surface 🙂
Good luck!

Smithy
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Marvelous car and extraordinarily beautiful landscapes, David!
Are those surroundings a frequently visited destination of yours?

spikeieos
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Smithy, those landscapes are right behind my house actually!

Nathan 9⁵
Guest
Nathan 9⁵
5 years 8 months ago

Looks very similar to El Paso scenery.

Phoenix
Guest
Phoenix
5 years 8 months ago

Nice combo you got yourself David! Very nice. And the 9-3 really stands the time I must say. Thanks for sharing!

OddJob
Guest
OddJob
5 years 8 months ago

Awesome report and very nice pics. Congrats to your choice of car. The XWD really makes a diifference and we have seen similar accolades for the driving experience of the 9-3X and TurboX. You can easily forget that the 9-3 has been around for a while once you’re in thedriver’s seat. I think it still stands up very good to the competition in terms of exterior design – I’ll gladly choose it over an A4, 3-series or S40/S60.

elbobo
Guest
5 years 8 months ago
First of all thanks for taking the time to write about your car. I want to also respond to a point you make about the Bose sound system in your car. I really wish Saab would stop including Bose products in their cars. I feel that Bose is the antithesis of what Saab stands for and make inferior products. I would much rather that Saab continues its relationship with H/K and maybe foster some new ones maybe with some of the excellent Danish and other Northern European Audio companies that make superior products. I feel that Saab fans tend to… Read more »
Me
Guest
Me
5 years 8 months ago

Elbobo,
Bose is located about 70 km north of Opel, enough said?? 😉

Bravada from GMI
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Bang & Olufsen anybody? It’s a horrible shame Audi was first 🙁

Ying
Guest
Ying
5 years 8 months ago

Congratulations David!

If I guess correctly, that scenary is Mount Whitney? Highway 395/ Lone Pine area?

What a beautiful part of the world you live in! I had some fantastic driving experience in my (then) 06′ 9-3 in 2009. Loved every moment of it.

Best wishes.

spikeieos
Guest
spikeieos
5 years 8 months ago

Actually they are the Sandia mountains in Albuquerque!

Ying
Guest
Ying
5 years 8 months ago

Oh man, I sware I have a photo of the Whitney looks almost exactly like that LOL!

It’s a shame I never had the chance to visit New Mexico. Maybe when I retire I will ravel to all the national parks/ states in USA.

Enjoy your new ride!

Tomas TL1000R
Guest
Tomas TL1000R
5 years 8 months ago
I was out driving my own 9-3 SS today in winter condition, anyway the car in front of me was actually a truck and getting really to slow. I did the normal stuff, you know getting out to the middle and tock a lock and saw that it was a Skoda (silver) infront of the truck and when the right monent appeared ….pass and keep on rolling out there till a met another Skoda (silver -that two) and slow. What the hell did´nt I pass that one allready I thought. Not far even another F….ing slow Skoda in silver uppeared… Read more »
Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 8 months ago

Tomas, the Skoda drivers probably thought you were driving like a maniac.

It would be interesting to know how many of those Skodas were purchased during summer. No sane person would buy such a vehicle, at least not in the winter after a test drive.

Dmain
Guest
Dmain
5 years 8 months ago
Great review, and great call regarding the 9-3 XWD. Those wheels look like the Turbo X wheels. I’ve been booting around in a 2009 Aero XWD for exactly a year now and can’t figure out why on one hand almost all of the fair automotive reviews are very positive on the car (with the exception of the UK ones), but on the other, there seems to be no place for a 9-3 XWD in the regular A4, 3 series, G35, or Lexus 250 comparison reviews. After one year, my only compliant is the hard plastic dash and fixtures which don’t… Read more »
No.9
Guest
No.9
5 years 8 months ago

Bose is such a crop of ****. Never again will I waist my hard earned money on these overrated, overpriced «MIT derivated» products. At least with Apple (and SAB for that matter), it was worthwhile bucking the trend. With Bose, it just turned out to be APITA.

Jim
Guest
Jim
5 years 8 months ago

Over on saabcentral, myself and a few others have detailed aftermarket upgrades for the 9-3. At least speaking for 2003-2006 cars, full speaker replacement and amplification are possible. Without changing anything visible, these cars can pack good sound, serious honest good sound. The replacement parts are inexpensive. What is costly is one’s own labor and the effort to wire the system.

Magnus Olert
Guest
Magnus Olert
5 years 8 months ago

I took a brief look at the site but didn’t find anything about sound systems. I have a 9-3 SS -03 that really needs an audio system upgrade. Do you have a link please!

Vigg
Guest
Vigg
5 years 8 months ago
Kudos, David! Gary Small Saab in Portland OR has an identical ’10 TX 9-3 for sale– I nearly fell over when I saw how cool that color combination is with the TX wheels. It’s one hot car! I debated long and hard before picking up a used Turbo X instead last week, which I adore. So much of what you say applies to the Turbo X, as well– including the line about the radio! I’ve got a female friend with a Chevy HHR and her first line was “look, it’s my radio!” Ugh. Nevertheless, the Turbo X rumble is intoxicating,… Read more »
Nate 9-3
Guest
Nate 9-3
5 years 8 months ago

Congrats on the Turbo X! It’s a total blast!

Nate 9-3
Guest
Nate 9-3
5 years 8 months ago

David,

Your write-up was fantastic! I second what Vigg said in his comments. I recently purchased a used Turbo X SportCombi. I bought the car for the power and the XWD. What I did not realize that I was buying was an incredibly stiff chasis. I love it! There is no roll when taking a corner – and that’s in my wagon. I imagine you have an even stiffer setup with the sedan.

Show that thing off to anyone that will listen!

E-LK
Guest
E-LK
5 years 8 months ago

Hi live in Albuquerque and love the Sandia mountains! I also saw my first 9-3X today! This is the gratest place to drive a Saab. The roads and curves are placed just right. It’s a driving paradise. Make Saabs, drive Saabs, buy Saabs; that’s how it goes.

Jim
Guest
Jim
5 years 8 months ago

Great looking car. But this is the 9th model year for the car. It needs substantial reengineering. Ideally what Saab would have done in 2008 would have been a much stronger reengineering of suspension (noise), interior fitment quality, and the direct injection motor. These were all possibilities in 2008. GM simply didn’t do it. These *are* fun cars but they could be made fully competitive. Instead, Saab will do a clean sheet. That’s fine. Hope it gets here soon.

No.9
Guest
No.9
5 years 8 months ago

Indeed. I remember my dealer’s reaction to the superficial facelift. He wasn’t a happy camper. But that’s the past & there’s so much to look forward to now. The new SAAB holds many exciting promises.

Carl-Henrik
Guest
Carl-Henrik
5 years 8 months ago

David – thank you for sharing your story. And I do love your photos. The first one is just amazing. I would even dare to say that I have never before seen such a beautiful photo of the 9-3. I does not even look like other 9-3’s out there. Such an amazing photo could be used in an advertisement with the text saying something “You do not have to drive in snowy weather to appreciate a Saab” (or something like that). Splendid color and rim combination!

Bravada from GMI
Guest
5 years 8 months ago
Oh yes, thanks a lot! This clearly shows the 9-3 still has a lot going on for it, despite all the manure being thrown at it. The vehicle has been almost entirely renewed since 2007 and once you get past the notion that it’s a “8 year old car aaaa”, you will find out it is still cunningly competitive and worth the money. Things like the handling, the driving comfort and the ideal controls are what is really worth the premium. Not to mention the likes of Mercedes C-Klasse are hardly better on any of the accounts. I must also… Read more »
No.9
Guest
No.9
5 years 8 months ago

For sure, for what it’s selling for in the US of A, it’s a real steel! I wonder if we can even buy a Honda civic for 20 grand in Canada! Not to mention Europe!

Bravada
Guest
5 years 8 months ago
CAD 20K? Who sells the 9-3 for that price? I am ordering three! I do believe it is good value even at the retail price. The Audi and BMW might have more appealing dashboard fascia (I wouldn’t say that of the plasticky and awfully ugly Mercedes C), but what about the real-life performance, handling, user-friendliness (BMW user interface designers think “ergonomy” is some sort of global conspiracy against BMW and Audi is down with buttonitis, while Volvo fired all their designers and outsourced the design work to RR Donnely apparently) and simple common sense. Not to mention the 9-3 is… Read more »
No.9
Guest
No.9
5 years 8 months ago
Troels, Denmark
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Fantastic price for a fantastic and very well-looking car!! 🙂
But God bless me (them) how ugly and absolutely non-saabish some of those american web-sites are (not) designed! :-O

Troels, Denmark
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

A better designed, less messed and more exclusive website would much better underline how much car one actually gets for the money….. – and therefore sell more cars…

dmk
Guest
dmk
5 years 8 months ago

No. 9,

They also have 2 brand new black 09′ 9-3 SS Aero XWD for $28,900! What a steal.

Arild
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Congratulations with the new car!
I always loved my old 9-3 and when I ordered the new 9-5 I wasn’t sure I had made a wise decision. That’s how much I loved the 9-3!

Per
Guest
Per
5 years 8 months ago

What a beauty !

Martin
Guest
Martin
5 years 8 months ago
Not much to add from my point. I do know the 9.3 is a great car. And for the sound system: Im my mind, the Soundsystem 150 (as called in Germany) makes quite a good job. Okay, it’s not a HiFi studio, it’s a car… with all the sound drawbacks (even more if it is a convertible and the top is down). But seeing the result (i.e. the sound) in relation to the Euros you have to spend (only 300 Euros for the upgrade from the standard Soundsystem 70 to 150), it is really okay. I think none of the… Read more »
E-LK
Guest
E-LK
5 years 8 months ago

Oh my goodness! That’s an amazing agree price! Candace should sell 327 cars there alone by the end of the year

E-LK
Guest
E-LK
5 years 8 months ago

*aggressive

100%Saab
Guest
100%Saab
5 years 8 months ago
Next time may I suggest laser red. My wife drives the 9-3XWD. She likes the heavier feel to the car and the safety of the XWD. One never knows when one will have to stop suddenly for a Texas Tech student crossing the street on campus. Sweden has moose. We have coeds. My wife does let me put gas in her car about once every 2 weeks (half tank). Otherwise, I don’t drive her car. But, let me put a plug in for the “plain” 9-3SS for those of you who like a light and nimble feel to your car… Read more »
dmk
Guest
dmk
5 years 8 months ago
I don’t agree at all that the 9-3 is aged. We all seem to forget that when this car came out it was one the most advanced cars on the market. Completely new design and engine. Saab (GM) had also just spent over $500 million upgrading the plant. I just bought my 3rd 9-3 in less than 7 years a few months ago. Had on 03′ SS Linear that was loaded then a wonderful 06′ SC Aero which I just traded in September for a brand new 09′ SS Aero XWD (there were no SC Aero’s available unfortunately at the… Read more »
Peter, Sweden
Guest
Peter, Sweden
5 years 8 months ago
Congratulations on your new Saab! I’m still in love with my ’06 Aero which, regardless of the heavy and un-Saaby V6-engine, still surprises me day after day with how unbelievably fun and aggressive, yet stable and controlled, it is. I think the pre-lift Aero still to this day feels competitive, which would mean that a new 9-3 shouldn’t have any problems at all catching new customers, be it for a cheaper prize or not. It’s about always wanting to take the extra long road home, and having a blast while doing it — in that aspect the 9-3 does an… Read more »
Munick
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Congrats on the new car, I absolutely love my 9-3. I thought I’d share my all time favorite 9-3 video. It realy proves thir born from jets… I think you’ll like it too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpgFxCxPfOA

No.9
Guest
No.9
5 years 8 months ago

A while back, there was a TV add here on the dangers of speed. A couple of kids were filming their friends doing the exact same thing. I guess their Acura was’nt born from anything aeronautical… they all died.

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