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2006 Saab 9-3 SportCombi Aero

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Swedish Hauler: Saab gets sporty with 9-3 SportCombi

Roger Hart
Published Date: 8/8/05

http://autoweek.com/article.cms?articleId=102880

2006 SAAB 9-3 SPORTCOMBI AERO
ON SALE: November
BASE PRICE: $32,900
POWERTRAIN: 2.8-liter, 250-hp, 258-lb-ft turbocharged V6; fwd, six-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3718 lbs
0 TO 62 MPH: 6.9 seconds (mfr.)

Minivans and sport/utes might have been the death knell for station wagons in the United States, but the European manufacturers are thankfully keeping the wagon alive. While many baby boomers recoil at the thought of spending time in a wagon—visions of their parents’ fake wood-clad behemoths of the ’60s and ’70s forever seared into their brains—these Euro versions barely resemble what we remember wagons looking and acting like.

Sporty wagons are being churned out by nearly every automaker on the continent from Audi to Volvo, and now Saab has a fun-to-drive wagon entry, too. And the Swedes—along with the Americans who help manage Saab from Detroit—hope the 9-3 SportCombi will work to change a few Americans’ attitudes about the sportwagon.

The 9-3 SportCombi that debuted at this year’s Geneva show (March 7) is a five-door version of the 9-3 sedan, with the same track and wheelbase. Where you’d expect to find the trunk you instead find the expanded cargo area and a tailgate. Saab designers succeeded in giving the car a sporty look, due in part to a steeply raked windshield, short overhangs, small windows behind the C-pillars, and no roof rails. A lowered suspension adds to the aggressive look. The aluminum tailgate with integrated spoiler is also steeply raked, lowering the car’s roofline. The interior is identical to the 9-3 sedan.

With its sleek, aerodynamic shape, Saab engineers say the 9-3 SportCombi, which has a Cd of 0.33, experiences zero lift front and rear at high speeds. While we didn’t really get to do much high-speed driving while testing the car in Sweden, we can say at speeds greater than would be legal on U.S. freeways, the car felt stable and fast.

That speed was due to a new aluminum 2.8-liter turbo V6 that makes 250 hp and 258 lb-ft. Available in the top-of-the-line Aero model, the engine is based on the same displacement powerplant first seen in the 2005 Cadillac CTS; it comes from GM’s European Powertrain unit. With Saab’s experience turbocharging, the Swedes had considerable input into developing the engine. Built by Holden in Australia, it will see duty in a variety of GM vehicles.

There are plenty of hi-po parts in the engine, including a forged crank and connecting rods and piston-cooling oil squirters. GM has been cranking out great engines lately, from the 2.0-liter Ecotec found in the Cobalt to the 6.0-liter V8 in the new Vette, and this Saab motor joins that list.

Despite being a wagon, there is enough sport coming from the engine coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox to keep the driver’s attention. The twin-scroll, water-cooled Mitsubishi turbo with intercooling helps alleviate any sort of power lag. It uses two separate inlets, one for each cylinder bank, to improve efficiency and reduce energy loss. Another plus: There is nary a wiggle of torque steer.

The wide powerband, near peak from 2000 to 4500 rpm, makes passing old Volvos on a two-lane road in the Swedish countryside a piece of cake. For long stretches of time we left the car in third or fourth gear, passing other cars at will.

The SportCombi is equipped with a four-channel ABS system and mechanical brake assist. Four-wheel discs are standard, with 11.88-inch ventilated rotors in front, 10.9-inch in the rear. Traction control and electronic stability control are also standard.

Saab expects to bring only about 2500 SportCombis to the United States beginning this fall. While European buyers can choose among eight different engines—six gas and two diesel—just two engine choices will be available here: the above-mentioned 2.8-liter V6 in the Aero ($32,900), and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo making 210 hp and 221 lb-ft in the 2.0T that stickers for $26,900. Saab officials say the car’s main competitor in the States is the Audi A4 Avant, and with the 3.2 FSI quattro model stickering at $36,400 and the 2.0 turbo at $30,450, the SportCombi is priced thousands of dollars less than comparable Audis. Another direct competitor, the Volvo V50 T5 with a 2.5-liter 218-hp turbo, lists for $28,535.

Wagons might never replace minivans and SUVs in American garages, but they can be a lot more fun to drive. Especially with 250 hp.
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The SportCombi (odd name) looks great, but several automotive magazines state that the ice look tail lamps are not coming to the U.S. If they light up red, what is the problem? They really look nice!
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The SportCombi (odd name) looks great, but several automotive magazines state that the ice look tail lamps are not coming to the U.S. If they light up red, what is the problem? They really look nice!

[post="262"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Yep, the "iced" taillamps will not be featured on North American SportCombi models. Unfortunately, I can't help but think it'll lose some character: Saab.com | 9-3 SportCombi
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This is one wagon I'd love to drive! (Well maybe there are a few more) It's a really dynamic looking car, and the taillights, while disappointing that they had to change, still look good even in red. I just love the sporty look of it all.
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This is one wagon I'd love to drive! (Well maybe there are a few more) It's a really dynamic looking car, and the taillights, while disappointing that they had to change, still look good even in red. I just love the sporty look of it all.

[post="475"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



I kinda like it.... ther's still a decent sized white section

Posted Image


more pictures here: http://genuinesaab.com/gallery/soc05burnsside42?page=2 Edited by TurboRush
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The red taillights look less boy racer, more upscale sporty wagon. The white makes the car look like it's trying too hard.
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I find the little bit of white like in the picture up there blends well wth the aluminum bar across the gate...
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Its good to see a solid new model like this coming out from Saab. The one thing that I noticed is the steering wheel on the US version isnt the new one that we saw in the model at the debut with the extended grip resembling an airplane steering wheel. Did anyone else notice that? Its a decent enough steering wheel but I'm just wondering why they are almost dumming it down over here (tail lights, etc.). But I am far from complaining, this thing is perfect and renews some of Saab's street cred (well, more like suburban boulevard cred).
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P.S.- Another missing component is the front fascia that debuted on the concept but never made it to production. Again, not big enough deal to break this thing and probably saved them some dough to loose but was nifty and made it more than just the 9-3 wagon.
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The red is okay... it's still semi-iced. Overall I like the SportCombi... it's Scandinavian-cool.
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