2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 15:44
Saab has given the 9-3 a thorough overhaul. The bestseller in the Swedish model range was also equipped with new engines. Our test shows what the 1.9 TTiD can do.
By Frank Mertens
One thing is clear: the Saab brand is a luxury for the parent company GM. In the past year, the Swedish carmaker was able to sell just over 133,000 vehicles of its two series, the 9-5 and 9-3. This corresponds to an increase in sales of over eleven percent compared to the previous year, but it is a long way from other premium manufacturers such as Audi (905,000 cars in 2006). In Germany, for example, Saab had to be satisfied with almost 5300 vehicles sold last year.
The Swedish carmaker can obviously live well with its outsider role. Those responsible at the company headquarters in Trollhättan are aware that growth cannot be achieved with just two series and BioPower models. That is why Saab boss Jan Ake Jonsson has already announced the construction of an SUV in an interview with Autogazette, but without specifying a date. However, a market launch in 2009 seems likely.
But first, the Saab managers concentrate on the here and now - and that is the refresh of the 9-3er. It was not only given a visually new and clearly more appealing appearance, but it was also equipped with new engines. In addition to the 2.8 V6 turbo petrol engine with 206 kW / 280 PS, which has increased by 30 PS, this also includes the two-stage turbocharged 1.9 liter turbo diesel with 132 kW / 180 PS that we tested in the SportCombi. The unit designated by Saab TTiD is offered for all three body variants.
And the new engine made an extremely agile impression during the test drives on the west coast of Sweden, impressed with its spontaneous and powerful response. The front-wheel drive car brings its power to the road with ease. The steering provides direct feedback. The turbodiesel has a maximum torque of 400 Nm, which it makes available between 1850 and 2750 revolutions per minute. The 1.9 TTiD unfolds its power in an extremely calm manner - and above all quietly. You can hardly hear that you are traveling in a diesel.
The manual six-speed gearbox does a good job and its characteristics are much better suited to the 9-3 SportCombi than the six-speed automatic gearbox (surcharge 2200 euros). The automatic has a sport mode that is operated via a switch on the center console, but the response is still not close to that of the manual transmission. A look at the acceleration values underlines this: the Saab manually sprints from 0 to 100 km / h in 9.1 seconds, with the automatic it is 0.4 seconds longer. The top speed is 220 km / h.
The reduction in fuel consumption of 0.7 liters is also an argument in favor of the manual transmission. The 1.9 TTiD consumes just 6.4 liters per 100 kilometers, an impressive figure for a vehicle in this performance class. At the same time, the CO2 emissions of 173 grams per kilometer are also lower than with the automatic (192 g / km).
The 9-3 series will be further upgraded at the beginning of next year. Then the Swedes bring out a four-wheel drive, which they call Cross-Whell-Drive (XWD). Four-wheel drive is initially only offered for the aero versions of the sedan and station wagon in conjunction with the 280 hp 2.8 V6 turbo engine. The torque distribution is normally around 90 percent on the front and ten percent on the rear axle.
As Saab spokesman Patrick Munsch said, XWD has two innovations in transmission technology. On the one hand, there is the pre-activation of the rear wheels to increase traction when moving off, which prevents the front wheels from spinning. On the other hand, XWD has, among other things, an optionally available active limited-slip differential for variable torque distribution between the rear wheels.
Good impression of the all-wheel drive system
The system made a brilliant impression on the first test drives in a 9-3 SportCombi. Even fast cornering on gravel roads did not pose any major difficulties for the all-wheel drive system. It is surprisingly easy to keep the Saab on track with a few small steering interventions. It's just a shame that XWD is initially only offered for the top model. Saab has not yet provided any information on the price of the all-wheel drive system.
But back to the 9-3 SportCombi we tested. The good overall impression of the new engine in conjunction with the chassis is unfortunately clouded by a few small details in the interior. On the one hand, there are the seats: they are quite comfortable, but the side bolsters could have been higher to increase lateral support when cornering quickly. It is also slightly annoying that the silver trim on the dashboard can be seen in the windshield depending on the position of the sun. These are small things, but you can expect different things from a premium brand. Finally, Saab calls for the entry-level SportCombi 1.9 TTiD at 32,450 euros.