It has often been said that the next 9-3 is crucial model for Saabs future. And that is right. It’s Saab’s bread and butter model and it has to sell most of the maybe 100k cars needed for break even earn most of the money to get the business viable again. That’s a big burdon it has to carry even before it has been released. Lots of expectations are there – these are mine.
For me the 9-3 has always been the car of choice. Over the last ten years I’ve had a 9-3 hatch, a SportSedan, a SportCombi, a 9-3x and now I’m on a SportSedan again. While I enjoy driving a 9-5 now and then I have to admit that due to its size and driving charactaristics the 9-3 is my absolute favourite. Some say that the current 9-3 is an old car but I still think it is on par with the competitors when it comes to the core thing: driving experience.
I’ve had the, err, pleasure to drive a S60 loaner car recently. Not only that it really annoyed me because all those assistance systems were blinking and beeping whenever I came near to a line on the road or someone was driving besides me but the main point about it was the handling, if not to say the lack of. It’s not fair to compare it to my SportSedan because it’s already upgraded suspension-wise so I’ll take our 9-3x as a reference. The 9-3x has a much more precise steering whilst in the Volvo it always was a woolly feeling. And in quick bends the 9-3x was still stable while the S60 already heavily consulted electronics. I’d happily give up some of those gadgets to get safe handling on a standard model.
This is just another experience in a competitor’s car that leads my to a list of my personal demands on a future 9-3. It’s quite personal and it refers to the way I am driving and where I’m driving. The most important thing to me is handling and I’d expect Saab to take care about that like they did before.
Right now my car is a SportSedan and I still think it is an extremely beautiful design. But I’d most likely go for a hatch for practical reasons – or a convertible because my daughter always wants me to get one. So those who have kids can maybe make an educated guess what I will end up with. I’d be happy with either one anyway.
No doubt that the engine would be a 2-litre-turbo, in my opinion the most Saaby engine you can have. I’ve driven the 9-3 Griffin hirsched to 260 hp and it was an absolute blast. Most likely combined with a six-peed manual and XWD. Not too sure if I would choose eXWD though I think it’s one of the major improvements and generally a great feature. Honestly I might even end up with FWD because to me torque steer is not a bad thing and can be pretty much fun.
I bought my current car off the dealer lot and different from most cars I had before it only has basic features. But that can’t really bother me. Presumably I’d end up with a Vector or Aero so some features like fog lights will already be there. What I’d surely choose for a new car order is the biggest stereo which is likely to come with SatNav. If not – I’ve got my iPhone and it does the job quite well. Cruise control and heated sports seats are a must and (if it’s not a convertible) a moonroof. A feature I got to like on the 9-5 is the HUD. Whilst other manufacturers offer a color HUD I’m pretty fine with the green one. It shows me the most important information while driving and is not too distracting. So add this one for me. Blind spot indication, lane departure warning – not for me. Too much blink and bleep.
That’s simple. Shopping cart: add all. Thank you (no big surprise, right?).
So that’s my take on this. Less gadgets, more driving experience. To me, this could be a market segment where Saab could position the 9-3. Not too much blah about premium, make it a true drivers car. Safe, sporty and with responsible performance. No need to go for extreme hp numbers like M3 or the RS models, that does not fit the brand philosophy. But 220 hp will be enough to generate a big initial fun factor.
How about you? I’m curious to hear your opinion. Keep in mind that Saab can’t please everyone, even more with the limited financial ressources that are at hand. But in the end, no brand can.