2007 Saab 3-Sep Review

2007 Saab 3-Sep - Takes its own road.


The Swedish Saab always has been for someone who wants something, safe, solid and a little different.

Saabs have become more mainstream in recent years. They've long been proficiently designed because they come from a company that makes airplanes.

General Motors owns the entire Saab operation, having bought half of it in 1990 and the rest in 2000. It has left Saab cars pretty much alone because it recognizes that distinctive autos are part of Saab's appeal.

The smoothly styled 9-3 is the top-selling Saab. Its list prices range from $26,250 to $43,100. The base model is the 2.0T turbocharged four-cylinder 210-horsepower sedan, which I tested. The 2.0T also comes as a station wagon and convertible. Other 9-3 models are the higher-performance Aero sedan, wagon and convertible, which is the most costly 9-3. Aeros have a turbocharged 250-horsepower V-6.

Engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox and five- or six-speed automatic transmissions. My test 2.0T sedan had the manual, which shifted crisply and worked with a light but long-throw clutch.

Estimated fuel economy with the 210-horsepower engine is 22 mpg in the city and 30 on highways with the manual transmission and 21 and 30 with a five-speed automatic. The figures are 18 and 28 with the V-6 and manual and 17 and 28 with that engine and six-speed automatic. Premium fuel is recommended.

Saab began building small, aircraft-inspired cars in the late 1940s following years of being a respected airplane producer. Saab cockpits thus always have been no-nonsense affairs, and the 2007 9-3 has a redesigned interior with new automatic climate controls, larger instrument cluster and new trim.

The white-on-black gauges can be read quickly, and it's easy to reach and work controls. Front seats provide good side support in curves, although the split-folding rear seat has a hard center area best occupied by a fold-down armrest. All 9-3s have Saab's traditional console-mounted ignition switch, which might seem odd to some but is easily gotten used to.

Attention to detail is shown by the windshield washers. There are three of them with dual nozzles that shoot six high-powered streams of washer fluid.

All doors have storage pockets, although the center console bin is small, and a plastic cupholder that pops out of the dashboard for the front passenger seems rather flimsy.

Saabs always have had front-wheel drive and lots of safety features. The 9-3 features an electronic stability control system, along with anti-lock disc brakes. Other safety items include front seat active head restraints to prevent whiplash injury, front side air bags and side curtain side air bags.

Even my base 9-3 test car was decently equipped with comfort and convenience equipment. Standard are air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls, leather upholstery, AM/FM/ CD player, tilt/telescopic wheel, power driver seat, cruise control, tire-pressure monitor and power heated windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry.

The 9-3 provides plenty of comfortable space for four tall adults, although knee room gets a little tight for a rear occupant if a tall driver shoves his seat back a lot. The back windows roll all the way down, although rear roof pillars hinder rear visibility a little.

The trunk is long and deep, and rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to increase the cargo area. The large pass-through opening between the trunk and rear seat area can accommodate bulky cargo. Seatback controls are in the trunk to prevent access in the rear-seat area by thieves. (Many cars have seatback releases in the back-seat area.)

The 9-3 is not a sports sedan such as a BMW. But steering is quick, handling is sure and the brakes are strong, with good pedal feel.

My test car's supple ride was comfortable, although the sharper-handling Aero models have a stiffer ride with their sport suspension and wider tires.

The hood moves up smoothly via a hydraulic strut, and fluid filler areas can be easily reached.

Many owners of older Saabs were individualists not out to impress anyone. The new models are more mainstream but bought mostly by folks who appreciate their virtues -- and still want something a little different. 

PRICE: $26,250-$43,100 

LIKES: Fast. Comfortable. Sophisticated. Redesigned interior. Safety features.

DISLIKES: Slight turbocharger lag. Thick rear roof pillars hinder visibility.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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