To bring you this inclusive review on the 2009 Saab 9-3, editors scoured the Web for input and insight from reviewers and combined them with their own firsthand driving impressions, so you can feel confident that you have all the information.
The Saab 9-3 is a roomy compact model that borders on mid-size, despite the fact that it's now the smallest model in Saab's lineup. The 9-3 comes in sedan and versatile wagon (SportCombi) body styles, as well as a convertible.
The 2009 Saab 9-3 comes in two models: base and Aero. A 210-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine propels the base model, while the high-performance Aero model gets a 280-hp, 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 engine (the figures represent a new boost in horsepower for 2009). At the top of the range is the Turbo X model, which brings a stronger, 280-hp version of the turbo V-6 and an all-wheel-drive system. Both models come with a six-speed manual transmission, with an automatic transmission optional on each: five-speed for the base, six-speed for the Aero. For 2009, Saab's XWD all-wheel-drive system is optional on 2.0T models.
Saab's electronic limited-slip differential manages power from side to side to help maintain grip and poise in very enthusiastic on-the-road driving. For 2009, it's standard on the Aero V-6 XWD, as well as the Turbo X.
A lowered sport-tuned suspension is added to the 2009 Saab 9-3 Aero models to take advantage of the added power, and the Turbo X gets an even more aggressive setup, along with upgraded brakes, Y-rated tires, and rear body leveling. Inside, it also garners carbon-fiber trim and a different steering-wheel design, and it's available in only Jet Black Metallic.
Handling is a strong suit; the 9-3 has better steering than most front-wheel-drive sport sedans, with good road feel, and the 9-3 feels more agile and tossable than most cars its size. The base model of the 2009 Saab 9-3 has a firm ride that's absorbent enough for driving on rough, urban highways, but the Aero models have a stiffer tuning that's less comfortable and transmits some coarser surfaces as road noise.
Inside, the 2009 Saab 9-3 models have Saab's traditionally stark appearance, which was spiced up a bit with an interior redesign for 2007. Nice, well-bolstered seats bring an upright driving position with a good view outward, but the backseat is very cramped and lacks the legroom necessary for adults. The trunk, however, is quite spacious.
In the 9-3 SportCombi wagon, the 60/40-split backseats fold forward to create a large, continuous space for cargo. A hidden, underfloor storage area provides added room for valuables.
The often-overlooked 2009 Saab 9-3 Convertible has an especially roomy trunk, yet it can stow away its soft top in just 20 seconds. The 9-3 Convertible remains one of TheCarConnection.com's favorite convertibles for practical everyday driving and cruising.
The 9-3 achieves only middle-of-the-road four-star results for frontal and side impact in the federal government's tests. It is, however, rated "good" in all of the insurance-affiliated IIHS tests. Electronic stability control is standard on all 2009 Saab 9-3 models, as are active head restraints, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags for outboard passengers.
The options list on the 2009 Saab 9-3 is quite short but includes a navigation system and a Cold Weather Package of headlamp washers and heated seats. The options list is brief in part because the standard features list is long; even base 9-3 models come equipped as luxury cars, with most commonly expected conveniences standard. Aero models add upgraded leather sport seats, xenon cornering headlamps, a moonroof, fog lamps, and a Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system. New for 2009 is upgraded OnStar 8.0, which includes turn-by-turn navigation and Bluetooth.
The Bottom Line:
Despite rather conservative styling, the 2009 Saab 9-3 is one of the boldest performers in its class.