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2011 Saab 9-3 Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2010
Highlights:
  • Refreshed for the 2011 model year
  • New wheel design
  • New front fascia
  • Two new trim choices: Vector Griffin and Griffin Aero
  • New direct-injected 2.0-liter engines
  • Replacement due in 2012
Introduction
The Saab 9-3 succeeded the Saab 900 for the 1999 model year. Touted as the "new-generation" model, the automaker claimed more than one thousand changes had been made for the new 9-3. Compared to the outgoing 900, the first-generation 9-3 featured a new suspension and sleek, upgraded styling, but it continued to offer the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine from its predecessor.

The second-generation model debuted for the 2003 model year. It gave up its prominent 5-door hatchback design in favor of a more traditional 4-door sedan configuration. The engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, was sourced from General Motors (Saab's parent company). Saab added a convertible 9-3 model in 2003 and followed up with a "SportCombi" (station wagon) in 2005.

In an effort to return it to the retro-classic appearance of the Saab 900 dashboard, the automaker updated the 9-3's cockpit in 2007 and made changes to improve the model's suspension and interior sound quality. In 2008, the 9-3 received a significant facelift. The styling was updated, the hood and doors were changed, and new engines debuted.

On the heels of an all-new, third-generation Saab 9-3 (expected for the 2012 model year), Saab has made several enhancements to the model for 2011. In addition to a minor facelift, small interior improvements, and new wheels, the engines are upgraded with direct injection (although they continue with a 2.0-liter displacement).

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Overview
Saab offers the 2011-model 9-3 in four different body styles: Sedan, Convertible, SportCombi and 9-3X. The sedan is a traditional 4-door model, while the convertible is a 2-door featuring a power-operated, retractable cloth hardtop. The SportCombi is a 5-door station wagon, and the 9-3X is an all-wheel-drive derivative of the SportCombi with a rugged body kit. Two new trim choices, Vector Griffin and Griffin Aero, have been added for 2011.

The standard engine is a direct-injected 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 163 horsepower. The upgraded engine, featuring forced induction, is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 220 horsepower. The turbocharged engine is standard on the convertible, SportCombi and 9-3X. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, while a 5-speed "Sentronic" automatic transmission with a manual shift mode is optional. Most models are front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive optional on the sedan and standard on the 9-3X.

Suspension on all models remains MacPherson struts up front, with an independent 4-link system at the rear. There are disc brakes on all four corners with standard anti-lock (ABS) control. Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion. The standard wheels are 17-inch aluminum alloy.

Technology
The 2011 Saab 9-3 is offered with the "Saab Night Panel" as standard equipment. Originally introduced as the "Saab Black Panel," the innovation was developed in 1993 following the lead of the aeronautics industry. Considering that an extensive array of bright dash lights may be irritating to the driver, a single button instantly turns off all dashboard illumination-with the exception of the speedometer. This allows the driver to retain their focus outside the vehicle, says Saab. "This reduces the risk of distraction while driving at night. All the systems still work in the background and the appropriate gauge or lamp will light up when the driver's attention is required," adds the automaker.

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