Is this really an all-new Saab 9-3?
It’s as new as new Saab 9-3s get, until the real new 9-3 arrives in 2010. The Swedish company has once more given its ageing 9-3 a new lease of life with this heavily revised new version – topped of by a rapid 300bhp twin-turbo performance version. Due to arrive here in September, the 9-3’s new styling will also be adopted by the cabriolet and estate versions. There’s no word on pricing yet, but expect a small increase to the familiar line-up of Airflow, Linear SE, Vector Sport and Aero models, with prices starting at around £18,000 for the entry-level 1.8-litre model. The 9-3’s out-my-way looks draw design inspiration from the Aero-X concept car shown at the Paris Motor Show last year. Check out the deep shield-shaped grille emblazoned with the Saab name, the similarly aggressive flanking nostrils, the welcome return of the clamshell bonnet and boldly flared front wheelarches.
Fine, I now know what it will look like looming in my rear-view mirror. What does the rest of it look like?
Hard to tell I’m afraid. These will be the only pictures Saab will release of its new baby until September. We know the cabin is, bar a few minor modifications, carried over in its entirety from the outgoing model, while the rear of both hatch and cabrio get the opaque ‘ice-cube’ tail-lights of the estate. The doors are reskinned, in keeping with the rest of the sheetmetal changes Those of you who ever had the misfortune to drive the wayward Viggen – a car that sits beneath the entry for torque steer in the Oxford Concise Dictionary - will be glad to hear that Saab has installed a simple but effective Haldex type all-wheel-drive system to tame all that power. The 2.8-litre biturbo unit – borrowed from the outgoing Aero model – gets a raft of mechanical and electronic upgrades to boost power to 300bhp, with an anticipated 300lb ft of torque for searing in-gear go. Expect a 6.0sec dash to 60mph and an electronically controlled 155mph top speed. And no Viggen badge.
Any other changes?
Saab will also tap into GM’s diesel parts bin and use its all-new twin turbo 1.9-litre CDTi engine. Using a small and responsive unit at lower revs and then a bigger more forceful blower as he revs rise, the biturbo unit is expected to serve up around 180bhp and at least 300lb ft of twist action. Which means once it up and running, the four-wheel derver shouldn't lag too far behind the petrol flagship. The existing petrol, diesel and bio-ethanol engines are carried over wholesale. Although Saab remains tightlipped about further 9-3 spin-offs, the arrival of the all-wheel-drive layout means a jacked-up Audi Allroad style estate is also on the cards. Expect the lifestyle-oriented sports cross to arrive early next year, with a debut at the Geneva Motor Show.