Okay, the most important thing about a Saab is the location of the ignition key. Saab fans need not worry, as it's still located down on the center console behind the gearshift between the front seats. Those who have not experienced this unique placement of the ignition key don't know what they are missing. It is really sensible as it avoids the irritating jingle from the dangling mass of keys so many of us has on our key chains. It's also safer as it prevents the possibility of getting keys jammed in ones knees in a severe accident. Thankfully, Saab no longer requires the manual transmission be in reverse before the key can be removed.
Saab has taken a refreshing approach to the headliner in its new convertible, replacing the traditional black fabric with a light tan. The intent is to boost the perceived interior space, especially the front seat headroom, which in fact gives up almost a full inch to the top's mechanicals. The deception succeeds, as there's not the claustrophobic feel so common in convertibles when their tops are raised.
Beyond that, the Saab 9-3 interior is pretty much what one would expect in a near-luxury convertible, although certain Saab styling cues remain. The instruments are arrayed in an easy-to-view layout with a big speedometer in a sweeping instrument panel that blends into the center console. It's still a relatively high dashboard compared to that in most other cars, but it's long been a signature styling cue of Saab cars so it's nice to see it retained. The buttons and switches are smaller than in many cars. Nonetheless they are all well placed for the driver to reach while driving.
An extra set of warning gauges is mounted on top of the dashboard in the center in a small pod, locating them more directly in the driver's line of sight. Radio settings are also displayed here.
The glovebox is one of the largest we have seen in a long time.
At first blush it's easy to miss the parking brake. It's located on the center console, but it has a unique arced shape that mirrors the grab handle on the passenger side of the console so that it looks as though it is a sculptured design feature. Once you know it's there it operates just like any other hand parking brake; take care, though, when releasing it, as inattention can result in a thumb pinched between the tip of the handle and its resting place in the console. The matching grip on the passenger side contains a slot useful for temporarily storing a CD or parking lot ticket, which is a clever piece of design.
The front seats are firm but comfortable, with side bolsters that restrain during spirited motoring without restricting while climbing in and out. The optional, more aggressive Sport seats are better suited to bodies tending toward the slim end of the scale, however.
Overall quality of the interior appears to be very good. The convertible leaves most of the wood trim to the sedan (it appears only on the Arc convertible's steering wheel, accenting the leather wrap), going with a matte-black finish throughout. Door handles and the center console gearshift surround are trimmed in brushed chrome. The Aero steering wheel is fully wrapped in leather with brushed chrome trim on the spokes.
Rear-seat passengers in the convertible do not fare as well as those in the sedan. The convertible gives up nearly 10 inches of hip room and nearly 3 inches of legroom. A center console can be folded down between the rear seats that contains cup holders and a map storage area.
The sedan offers an impressive 14.8 cubic feet and it's very usable space. The sedan uses goose-neck hinges for the trunk, but they are hidden in a cover so they do not crush luggage when the trunk lid is closed. A small pass-through opening is provided for carrying skis and other long items. The 60/40/ split rear seats can be folded for versatility when carrying one rear-seat passenger and cargo. Trunk space drops to 12.4 cubic feet in the convertible with just 8.3 cubic feet available with the top down. The convertible uses multi-link, gas-pressurized struts in the trunk. Saab claims two golf bags will fit into the convertible's trunk provided they are the soft-sided type. A pull-down grip molded into the trunk lid's inner lining spares dirtying the fingers when closing the trunk.
The convertible top is fully automatic, just as Saab promises. To operate it, the car must be running and the parking brake must be engaged. There's no latch to release, no tonneau cover to remove or replace. Simply press a button on the dash and down goes the top. Buyers should be mindful of the seal around the rear edge of the top. It's maintained by leverage exerted by the top's mechanicals; there's no latch or other mechanical connection with the car's body. To ensure it a long (and quiet and dry) life, it should be carefully and regularly treated and conditioned.
In addition to dual-stage front airbags, dual-stage side impact airbags protecting both torso and head come standard, as does Saab's Active Head Restraint system that automatically cradles the head to minimize whiplash in a rear-impact collision. Active safety is augmented by ABS (anti-lock brakes), electronic traction control (TCS), an electronic stability program (ESP), EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), CBC (cornering brake control) and MBA (mechanical brake assist), all designed to help the driver maintain control.