Author Topic: Review your Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon / SportCombi / Convertibe (M03 on)  (Read 16324 times)

Tech II

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Thanks to Chris (Zaphod) for the suggestion.  This topic is for owners to review their Saab in their own words for the benefit of other contributors to STT who may be interested in buying or just reading your views.

We look forward to reading your reviews!

chris aka zaphod

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2003 - SAAB 9-3 Aero - a personal review - Chris aka Zaphod

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I have owned three 9000's - 2.3CSE FBT, 3.0CSE V6, and, currently a 2.3t Anniversary, two GM900's - 2.0 Turbo Convertible, and XS (which my daughter now has), currently, and forever, a 96, and the vehicle reviewed here. I have also driven various other 9000's, classic 900's, 9-5's, although not the current one, and classic 9-3's.

INTRODUCTION

The 9-3 Aero reviewed was purchased through the trade, in January 2011, one private owner since new, and having covered 78,000 miles. The car has a full service history, all handbooks and the accompanying wallet, two key fobs, plus a huge file of paperwork. The previous owner was obviously fastidious. This review reflects the personal views and opinions of the author after 6 weeks of ownership.

FA sense of well-being.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS


Sitting for the first time in the driver’s seat of the 9-3, you are left no doubt that you are at the wheel of a Saab, even if the Saab Aero decals on the sills and the badge on the steering wheel give the game away. Missing are the familiar instrument binnacle, dashboard and readouts that lightly evolved from the 900, through to the early 9-5’s. This is a modern Saab. The 9-3’s instruments are very clearly laid out, and as with all Saabs, switchgear live in familiar locations. Sensible, ergonomic, and sound. So Saab. There is a large feeling of space in sitting in the cockpit, and a huge sense of well-being, too. This car has something special.

Inviting seats.


SEATING

The front seats are very comfortable, and supportive - possibly the most comfortable in a Saab I have owned - and are trimmed in half leather. The central part of the cushions and backs of the seats are covered with a very strong, ivory-coloured fabric, contrasting grey leather elsewhere. This makes sense when you consider wear and tear, and eliminates the need for heated seats – available as an option. The driver sits directly in front of the steering wheel and pedals – not to one side. The steering wheel has good fore and aft adjustment, too. Head and leg room is excellent in both the front and rear. There are also small pockets to the front of both passenger and driver seats – very useful – and much larger at the rear. Lumbar, in and out, and height adjustment – via a pumped handle, cf. the GM900 - means that drivers of all shapes and sizes ought to be able to find a comfortable driving position. In this example, this is manually achieved. Electrically operated and memory seats were also an option.


REFINEMENTS, COMFORTS AND TOYS

The Aero is equipped with ESP (Electronic Stability Control), ABS, EBD, air-bags all round, active headrests, and three-point seatbelts that are pre-tensioned. It also has a 5 star NCAP safety rating.
Easy entry to the Aero is gained via an electronic key/fob hybrid, purely by remote control. The fob has the usual buttons for (deadlock) doors lock, doors unlock, boot release, and a fourth, to activate the interior lighting and sidelights – handy if you have used a dark car park. The ignition barrel is again sited in the Centre Console, behind the gear lever, which does not need to be placed in Reverse to remove the key.

Mention has been made of inferior plastics used by some articles. They are perfectly OK, functional, clean and hard wearing, and, most importantly, easy to maintain, and keep clean.

Better headlight, rear and foglight control

Some switchgear have been moved to more sensible positions. The switch for headlights and sidelights has been moved to a lower position to the right of the dashboard, and operates anti-clockwise. Small switches for the Rear and Front Fog lights are now placed to the top of this and are no longer hidden by the steering wheel. Overall buttons for the electric windows have been moved from the Centre Console to the driver’s door, the other doors have their own buttons, and, door lock/unlock switches. There is the usual boot flip switch, but a switch for remote filler cap operation has been lost.

Stylised handbrake.

The Centre Console itself has had a clever makeover. It is dominated, for the most part, by a stylised handbrake lever, the button for operation works using the index and third finger. The passenger has a cup holder, and they will be amused as it performs its choreography, when operated from the dashboard.

To the rear of the Centre Console is a small, covered storage box, inside which, lives a retractable cup holder for the driver. Behind this, is a larger storage box below an arm rest, having a 12 volt output, and a blanking socket for MP3 plug-ins – again an option. To the front of the gear lever is a further storage area for sunglass-cased sized objects. This lives below an ashtray that slides forward for use. The Central Console is trimmed in brushed aluminium, looking very attractive. Both front and rear passengers have the dome lighting, plus individually operated reading lights. There is a large drop-down glove box, which has the option to be refrigerated.

Rear seat passengers have headrests, and the usual retractable armrest, which incorporates a ski hatch, ashtray and cigar lighter and a retractable twin cup holder, housed in the bottom on the rear seats. The rear seats can be folded down, to increase boot space further from its capable 425 litre capacity.

Indicator/Main Beam/Cruise Control stalk.

The indicator/main beams stalk to the left of the steering column, also has the cruise control fitted and its operation is far more positive, and easier to use, than those on previous Saabs. The wash wipe stalk to the right has 2 speeds, plus intermediate, and the windscreen wash also operated from here has a powerful 3x twin spray, whilst the headlights themselves are also power-washed. Rain-sensitive wipers are an option.


DASHBOARD



The SID readout.

The SID readout has been moved to atop of the dashboard, and is far more comprehensive than that found in the GM900 and 9-3. There are many categories to customise – Air Conditioning, Alarms, Speed Alarms, and more. This new location is not intrusive. All readouts are in clearly described in green. There is a separate digital clock to the left, while the top line of the SID shows the read-out for the many computer functions – here the outside temperature. The bottom line indicates either the Radio or CD displays. The display is not a distraction while on the road.

Radio, Heater and 6CD

The controls for the radio are found below the central air vents, are large, and easily described. The 6-CD changer is integral to the unit, and sits beneath the heater controls.
All heater controls are simple and easy to use, and less ambiguous than that found with the 9000 with ACC. They can either be set to individual tastes, or revert to the factory option, which works well, and quickly, on cold mornings. Heating is split, so that passenger and driver can enjoy different temperature environments.

Instrument Binnacle

There are plenty of warning lights in the instrument binnacle, in addition to information gained via the SID. The rev-counter sits to the left, and is sympathetically smaller to the speedometer, which sits large and bold in the middle. Fuel, temperature and turbo gauges sit to the right. The displays are clear, easy to read, and well illuminated, without reflections, as are all the switchgear, in a soft green.

The steering wheel has incorporated controls for volume, preset radio stations, and CD/track operation, which are illuminated, as well as Bluetooth controls, should a phone be required - but only a Saab phone.

Behind the wheel


BEHIND THE WHEEL

The 9-3 Aero is, without question, a very easy, reassuring and simple car to drive. On starting, there is a slight delay, as the electronic steering wheel lock deactivates, and systems fire up, but once turned over, the car idles almost imperceptibly. The engine is a shorter stroke of the 2.2 Ecotec, found typically in the Omega, Vectra and VX220, and aluminium in structure. Engine management, however, is pure Saab.

The clutch is very light and has a good, not excessive, travel. Gear changes are said by some to be notchy. I would say it is more a positive throw.

This is a six-speed model, and the close gear ratios are ideally appointed, happy to cruise around town in 4th gear at 30mph at c.1500 rpm. 70mph on motorways in 6th shows just over 2000, and care needs to be taken not to exceed the legal limit. Outstandingly stable at speed, the Aero remains quiet, except for some tyre roar. Such is the power and torque available at any speed, the car would be usually driven with care, and a feather-light touch. This is very pleasant and comforting, knowing that there is so much more power and torque in reserve. Motorway travelling easily troubles 40mpg, and to date, the worst returned in solid city work is very slightly less than 30. At present, with trips to work, over 35mpg is registered by SID.


9000 anniversary and the 9 3 Aero.

ON THE ROAD

Progress is swift, without drama or fuss. On country roads, overtaking is achieved with ease, if need be, but the Aero is quite happy to potter along, when there is no alternative. Ample torque is always there, already reported for duty, again thanks to the ratios making good use of peak output. The Aero is a free-revving lump, and its high performance can embarrass others on the road. Without its Aero body kit, this would be an ideal Q car.

The electrically operated, variable-assist steering is light at slow speeds, and provides enough feedback to the driver. This is little changed at speed, where assistance is reduced. The Aero has a stability system that slightly ‘steers’ the rear wheels, and undoubtedly helps the handling further. The Aero will corner flat at surprising speeds, and the contoured seats restrain sideways movement. The assisted brakes are powerful, and require little effort.

The car sits on 17 inch ALU50, five-spoke, twin Aero low profile alloys. As a consequence of this, and the spring set up – the Aero sits 10mm lower than the rest of the range - the ride is harsh. It could be argued that this is a symptom of the state of our roads at this time. It is not so intrusive, and if driving style is adapted to compensate, then this is something that one can easily become accustomed to. The low profile tyres originally fiited were sensitive to poor road surfaces, and would tram-line, if caught off-guard, on the worst. The Falken tyres now fitted all around have illiminated this.

Xenon Headlights

When night falls, the Xenon headlights work powerfully - the main beams even moreso - and for me, are a revelation. The dashboard and readouts are illuminated very well and clearly with no glare; this adjustable, together with Saab’s Night Panel switch - the speedometer can also be lit to show miles or kilometres per hour. All switchgear on the console, dashboard and doors do not reflect in screens or windows.



TALE OF THE TAPE

0-60 mph: 7.3 seconds
Top speed: 146mph
BHP: 210@6000rpm
Torque: 221@2500rpm
Length (cm): 462.9
Width (cm): 201.1 - includes door mirrors
Weight (Kgs): 1465

Wheelbase: 267.5 cm
Fuel Tank: 58 litres
Turning Circle: 10 metres
Unbraked/braked towing weights: 750Kgs. /1600Kgs.
« Last Edit: 23 August 2011, 04:02:38 PM by chris aka zaphod »

Kev_Mc

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Excellent review  8) Far better than mine  :-[ (I must try harder!)

Max Headroom

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Wow! Thanks for that - must have taken a month of Sundays to write all that!   :o

chris aka zaphod

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Yep. Four evenings, TBH.  :)
« Last Edit: 14 July 2011, 11:08:04 AM by chris aka zaphod »

v6ragtop

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this is a great review !!

chris aka zaphod

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Re: Review your Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon / SportCombi / Convertibe (M03 on)
« Reply #6 on: 25 September 2012, 08:04:30 PM »
Update on the review.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

MY OWN EXPERIENCES

The car is very easy to work on.

Expect to replace the front tyres every 13,000 miles, regardless of how heavy/light your right foot is. Also make sure that the tyres have the correct load rating. I will try to get Uniroyals next time.

Rear Brake Pads will also need regular replacement due to the assisted rear steer system. They wear slightly quicker than would otherwise be expected. WARNING - to remove pads you will need to screw in and out the callipers in the opposite way from the rest of the world. You will also need a special tool. Do not buy the one fit tool that says it fits Saabs like the below - it does not fit all of them



I bought the whole kit - a very wise investment from Screwfix, for the fleet, and the family. Recommended.






The SAI valve will need to be regularly checked, and cleaned if getting very dirty– a very simple job. If it blocks completely over time, then you will need to replace the secondary air pump, in addition to the valve.

The Saab 9-3 has two washer pumps – one for the headlights, one for the windscreen. Due to their location deep in the nearside front wing, away from any heat source, they can freeze in winter, and you will burn out the motor if used. So a good strength anti-freezing screen wash is adviseable.

The integrated remote/key fob can fall apart, but replacements are available.

Stability control issue – a rogue failure warning may show on SID, especially after reversing around a corner. Many examples do this. Just clear it and move on. It is over sensitive.

Plenty of spare parts easily available either secondhand or new. A new Saab Parts company, a separate concern from SAAB/NEVS, is up and running, and guaranteed, in its remit, to be around for years to come. Following the car being the victim of a hit and run in a Supermarket car park, a rear door was secured in matching paint code, complete for just £50. Replacement took all of 15 minutes!

IT IS SAID

Alternators may fail.

Front springs may fail – widely known, but no worse than any other car. Issue blown out of proportion.

The five speed is preferable over the six, for strength and drivability. Well, only if you change gears like a power-lifter, I would suggest, and this only applies to the most earliest of cars, but I can see what is got at.

Check that all the electrical toys work, as you would with any other car. There have been no failures, to date.

The head unit can be upgraded to another, superior Saab unit, but will need a Tech II to marry it. While you're doing that, you may be thinking of additional speakers, possibly replacing the stock ones, too, and slipping in an amplifier.

Recalls affecting US cars, IIRC.
2005 – leak from fuel pump
2005 – front seat belt issue
2006 – rear hub
2006 – check of braking performance
2007 - handbrake

THE FUTURE

To replace the speakers and install additions.
« Last Edit: 19 October 2012, 08:18:30 AM by chris aka zaphod »

chris aka zaphod

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Re: Review your Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon / SportCombi / Convertibe (M03 on)
« Reply #7 on: 16 October 2012, 12:37:06 PM »
Plumped, again for another pair of Falkens for the front  this morning - £155 the two including balancing, etc..
So the previous front pair did, indeed, last 13,700 miles, sensible driving, quite a high percentage of motorway and A road trips.
The rears look good for considerably further.
« Last Edit: 16 October 2012, 12:40:01 PM by chris aka zaphod »

steve.pocock

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Re: Review your Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon / SportCombi / Convertibe (M03 on)
« Reply #8 on: 21 January 2015, 10:42:58 PM »
I bought my 56 1.9 Tid 150bhp saloon in Oct 2013 with just 50k miles and in excellent condition. It all looked very good and a good deal. My daughter had one and we were impressed with that. However, with just an extra 13k miles on it since then, these have gone wrong:

Alternator replaced (on Day 2 of ownership after total breakdown)
Injector No. 3 wiring fault - replaced with used part from later (better design?)
Cambelt replaced as no evidence of having been done - to be safe, water pump, aux belt and EGR valve done at the time
Rear parking sensors don't work in the rain
Swirl flap mechanism repaired as 2 links were broken/fallen off
Front drop links replaced to cure knocking noise - garage repair needed as old ones had seized bolts
Awful radio reception
Engine interference through radio - whining, buzzing with engine speed
2 rear tyres - Ok that's to be expected, but fronts are nearly gone now
Drivers window motor packed up - another used part repaired it
Hesitation intermitently despite using only BP standard fuel
Electrical boxes under the seats won't fix to brackets
Seat height adjustment is wierd - tips up when you expect it to go down so getting a comfortable setting is near impossible.

In short, really disappointing - I bought this to get a reliable, low mileage car , good mpg that went well enough that would last me a few years. Instead its unreliable, unfixable without spending the value of the car again. My impression is that the sophisticated diesel engine is too highly stressed to get the performance and mpg that attracted me - that makes it too fragile. 63k miles is nothing these days, but I have lost confidence in the thing. Real shame as it could be a cracking car, but do I want to spend every spare minute and £££££s getting it just to work properly? One has to admit defeat at a certain point and cut your losses.

I'm looking for a 120d BMW.........

Audax

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Re: Review your Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon / SportCombi / Convertibe (M03 on)
« Reply #9 on: 24 January 2015, 10:07:41 AM »
I'm looking for a 120d BMW.........

If I wanted something reliable with a diesel engine it certainly wouldn't be of European origin...

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Re: Review your Saab 9-3 Sport Saloon / SportCombi / Convertibe (M03 on)
« Reply #10 on: 18 April 2015, 10:37:02 PM »
Well not too much to say. Bought on the saturday. Cambelt done on Wednesday then a surprise trip 450 miles to Scotland.
The car drove faultless and averaged 55-70mpg even with the cruise on. 530 miles on 3/4 of a tank so far can't be bad.