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TurboRush

9-3 Hatch review

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http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0...1868180,00.html

key point:

But the winner here, the least cockish car that money can buy, is actually the Saab 9-3 estate you see above. If you put a Hummer H2 or a Dodge pick-up truck at one end of the scale, then this is at the other. It’s not a Hawaiian Day-Glo tank. It’s a special forces sniper.




Quiet. Unassuming. And invisible. Until you pull the trigger.

Saab was actually the third car maker to start using turbocharging but no other has persevered for quite so long. There have been some mistakes along the way. In the Eighties, for instance, your Saab would get from 40 to 70 faster than a Ferrari Testarossa, but so bad was the torque steer when that mountain of torque hit the front wheels, you had no real say where you’d be when 70 was achieved. Oh, and if you put your foot down in the wrong gear, the lag was so bad, you wouldn’t move at all.

That’s all ancient history now, though. The car I drove had a brand new Australian-built 2.8 litre V6 engine that will one day find its way into various Vauxhalls, Opels and even the next generation of Alfa Romeos. In the Saab, of course, it’s turbocharged to give monstrous potency in the mid ranges, but now all the drawbacks are gone. Now you can put your foot down wherever and whenever the mood takes you, and whoomph, everyone within range will be left wondering why the car they never noticed in the first place has just disappeared.

It’s good this. I really did fear when Saab was bought by the huge pensions and healthcare company called General Motors that some of the turbo individuality would be lost. And I was really scared when I found they were putting the 9-3 on a Vauxhall Vectra platform, but I’m happy to report that silent forced-induction kick in the back is still there. And some.

Speed, however, is only part of the Saab’s appeal. Style’s another and I have to say this is a good-looking car, in the same way that Benicio Del Toro is a good-looking man. It’s an especially nice place to sit. The seats are stunning, the dash works like a dream, especially if you know your way around the cockpit of an F-15, and the steering wheel’s half silver. The only real drawback is the most dim-witted, slothful and complicated sat nav system I’ve ever lost my temper with.

You should have seen the route it selected from Notting Hill to London City airport. An ant with ink on its feet could have come up with a better solution. And more quickly too. And it was a £1,200 option.

But this, really, is my only complaint. The boot’s vast and comes with another load space under a flap in the floor that is just about big enough for badly behaved children.

The handling’s pretty good, too, considering that under the floor it’s a Vauxhall Vectra. But the best thing is the price. The range starts at less than £18,000. And even the 2.8 litre Aero model I tested, which comes with pretty well all the toys, is less than £29,000. You’d struggle to put a similarly sized, similarly fast German car on the road for less.

And what if you succeeded? What if you did end up with a BMW or an Audi estate car? You’d be constantly aware that no cockometer was fitted because if it was it’d be constantly hovering around Defcon 1. It’d be constantly reminding you that you’d been a sheep.

The Saab has no cockometer because it doesn’t need one. You’ve deliberately gone your own way, deliberately bought something that isn’t a BMW or a Merc or an Audi. And in the process you’ve ended up with something that’s not only a little bit different, but also rather good.

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There are lots of people who want a 3-series-sized sports sedan without the cliche-ness of a BMW. For years, the 9-3 has never worked as an alternative, because free of snobbery it may be, it lacked the substance of its ostentatious and commonplace German rivals. The new SportCombi makes more sense, though, because it brings something unique to the market: a large cargo area and a fairly low price. I'm sure the 2.8T is a good engine, but the 2.0T makes more sense, because by buying a 9-3, you're going to sacrifice that BMW-drive anyway. Why not save some money?
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do you have any figures for fuel economy between the 2?

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According to the EPA...

22/31 - 2.0T, both auto and manual
18/28 - 2.8T, manual
17/28 - 2.8T, automatic

17 MPG is totally unacceptable for a relatively light car.
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My dad gets 35-45 MPG with his 2003 9-3 arc, automatic. (arc being the 210HP variant) he can maintain those figures when he's driving decently sensible..... but still has fun ! Edited by TurboRush
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