2008 Saab 9-3 Convertible Review | Edmunds.com

2008 Saab 9-3 Convertible

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Saab 9-3 Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.8 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 255 hp @ 5500 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 16/26 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2008 Saab 9-3

  • A tasteful retouch makes the 2008 Saab 9-3 one of the most attractive entry-luxury cars on the road, but it can't disguise the car's advancing age and lack of refinement in the face of hugely competent German and Japanese rivals.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Quiet ride, accurate steering, responsive all-wheel-drive system, supportive front seats, available in three body styles.

  • Cons

    Subpar interior materials and build quality, too much body roll on Aero model, ride can be choppy over bumps.

  • What's New for 2008

    All 2008 Saab 9-3s benefit from an exterior refresh. Notably, all body trim is monochromatic this year. A more significant development is the January 2008 arrival of an optional all-wheel-drive system for 9-3 Aero sedans and wagons. These AWD 9-3s get a more potent, 280-horsepower version of the turbocharged V6. In addition, Saab will offer a limited-edition version of the AWD sedan and wagon called the Turbo X. Only 600 will come to the U.S. and they'll be identifiable by their black exterior paint, 18-inch wheels, lowered suspension, larger brakes and unique interior trim. The Turbo X sedan gains a rear spoiler. Other updates for 2008 include a 5-hp bump for front-drive Aeros and minor changes to the standard and optional equipment lists.

Full 2008 Saab 9-3 Review

What's New for 2008

All 2008 Saab 9-3s benefit from an exterior refresh. Notably, all body trim is monochromatic this year. A more significant development is the January 2008 arrival of an optional all-wheel-drive system for 9-3 Aero sedans and wagons. These AWD 9-3s get a more potent, 280-horsepower version of the turbocharged V6. In addition, Saab will offer a limited-edition version of the AWD sedan and wagon called the Turbo X. Only 600 will come to the U.S. and they'll be identifiable by their black exterior paint, 18-inch wheels, lowered suspension, larger brakes and unique interior trim. The Turbo X sedan gains a rear spoiler. Other updates for 2008 include a 5-hp bump for front-drive Aeros and minor changes to the standard and optional equipment lists.

Introduction

Though the 9-3 is the most mainstream car ever sold by Saab, it remains a niche choice among entry-level luxury sedans, wagons and convertibles. This works both to its benefit and detriment. On the upside, the Saab 9-3 has a distinct Scandinavian charm. Its styling looks as modern as any peer's, yet its design cues are a refreshing break from the mainline aesthetic. On the downside, its middle-of-the-road driving dynamics and interior furnishings are forgettable in a class that demands excellence. With a full redesign still a couple years off, Saab has attempted to extend the 9-3's shelf life by giving it an exterior makeover and an all-wheel-drive option for 2008.

A new grille, a more rounded hood and revised body-side moldings are the most noticeable components of the styling refresh. We suspect Saab fans will like how the grille's design pays homage to much-loved past Saabs like the 99 and 900. More interesting, however, is the all-wheel-drive system available on the 9-3 Aero sedan and wagon midway through the year. Saab calls its system "Cross Wheel Drive" and abbreviates it as XWD. At a steady cruising speed, XWD sends more than 90 percent of engine power to the front wheels. Under acceleration or in low-grip situations, the system's electronic brain sends torque rearward to enhance traction. Buyers also have the option of ordering a rear electronic limited-slip differential (known as eLSD) that further improves grip on slippery roads and tidies up the car's cornering line on dry pavement.

The sophisticated new XWD system is a bright spot, as it adds a level of driver involvement that has been absent from Saabs for years. Additionally, when equipped with XWD, the 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero picks up a higher-boost version of the turbocharged, 2.8-liter V6 rated at 280 hp. But even with its newfound grip and power, the 9-3 Aero XWD isn't hard-edged enough to be considered a true sport sedan or sport wagon. This could change with the Turbo X, which has the firmer suspension the 9-3 has always needed. We question Saab's decision to leave the 9-3's interior unchanged during this refresh. The cabin is attractive at a glance, particularly with the two-tone leather option, but closer inspection reveals low-quality plastics and inconsistent fit and finish.

These are critical weaknesses when you're up against meticulously executed cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS 250/IS 350 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Even slightly less expensive players such as the Acura TSX, Infiniti G35 and Volvo C70/S40/V50 edge past the 2008 Saab 9-3 in performance, ride dynamics and cabin quality. To be sure, the new all-wheel-drive system is capable and useful enough to make the 9-3 Aero XWD and Turbo X interesting dark horse candidates, particularly for buyers in wet-weather climates. But if you want an entry-luxury sedan, wagon or convertible that's buttoned down on every detail, we'd advise you to shop around a bit before buying a Saab 9-3.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2008 Saab 9-3 is a compact, entry-level luxury car available in sedan, wagon ("SportCombi") and convertible body styles -- all of which come in 2.0T and Aero trim levels. Front-wheel drive is standard on the 9-3, and later in the year, an all-wheel-drive system will be available on Aero sedans and wagons.

The 2.0T model offers 16-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, wood-grain interior trim, an eight-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and a seven-speaker CD stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. Sedans and SportCombi wagons have a split-folding rear seat, while convertibles come with a fully automatic power cloth top. In addition to a turbocharged V6 engine, the 9-3 Aero model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, front sport seats (with power adjustments for the passenger), metallic interior trim and an upgraded Bose stereo with an in-dash CD changer. Aero sedans and wagons have a sunroof.

Many of the Aero's features are available on the 2.0T via the options list. Options across both trims include a navigation system, rear parking sensors and seat heaters. Buyers who opt for a 9-3 Aero XWD can also get an electronic limited-slip rear differential.

Another alternative for buyers who want all-wheel drive is the limited-edition Saab 9-3 Turbo X sedan and wagon. It's equipped similarly to the regular 9-3 Aero XWD, but has 18-inch wheels; a lowered and firmer suspension with self-leveling rear shock absorbers; larger brakes; black leather seats and faux carbon-fiber interior trim.

Powertrains and Performance

Standard on Saab 9-3 2.0T models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder that makes 210 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel-drive 9-3 Aero models get a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 capable of 255 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive Aero sedans and wagons get a higher-boost version of the turbo-6 rated at 280 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all 9-3s. A five-speed automatic is optional on 2.0Ts, while Aeros are eligible for a six-speed automatic. Both automatics offer separate sport and manual modes.

Safety

Every 2008 Saab 9-3 features antilock disc brakes, stability control, OnStar telematics, active head restraints and front-seat side airbags. The sedan and SportCombi wagon come with full-length side curtain airbags, while convertibles get a rollover protection system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the Saab 9-3 sedan and wagon at four out of five stars for frontal-impact protection. In the side-impact category, the 9-3 received five stars for front-occupant safety and four stars for the rear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 9-3 "Top Safety Pick" honors based on its "Good" ratings (the highest possible) in the agency's frontal-offset crash, side-impact crash and head-restraint effectiveness tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Saab 9-3's cabin offers decent ergonomics and very comfortable front seats, but neither materials quality nor fit and finish are up to par for this class. The sedan and wagon are sufficiently roomy, but legroom is tight for adults seated in the back of the convertible. Given the choice, we'd go with a Turbo X sedan or wagon, as those models have more aggressively bolstered front seats and a softer-grip steering wheel.

The Saab 9-3 can carry more than most cars in its class; it offers 15 cubic feet of trunk space in the sedan and 12.4 cubes in the convertible. The wagon offers 29.7 cubic feet of storage space with the backseat up, and 72.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat.

Driving Impressions

Both the 2.0T and the 255-hp turbocharged V6 deliver a healthy pull throughout their power bands, but performance is nothing special for this class. The higher-boost version of the turbo V6 on 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero XWD models adds some excitement to the range, as it delivers noticeably sharper low-end response. The automatic transmissions can be reluctant with downshifts in "D," but they respond with reasonable haste in sport mode. The manual transmission is easy to shift, but the shifter's rubberiness through the gates detracts from a sporting feel.

The 9-3's ride is smooth and quiet over well-groomed pavement, but the suspension loses composure over bumps and ruts. Steering is light and accurate, but body roll around corners is excessive even on the more athletic Aero model. Enthusiasts would be wise to wait for a 9-3 Aero XWD or Turbo X, as the all-wheel-drive cars' exceptional grip makes for a more engaging driving experience.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews


4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Me and my aero

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero 2dr Convertible (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M)

Absolutely love this car. Had mine for two years now as a daily driver. I put 100 miles a day on the car and my drive is the best part of my day. Great performance out of the 2.8T 6 cyl, matched with the manual 6 speed. The car accelerates effortlessly. No slowing down in the corners, the car holds the road while the seats keep me steady and comfortable. This truly is a FUN car to drive. Gas mileage is better than expected.



4 of 4 people found this review helpful

My first saab

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero 2dr Convertible (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M)

After researching manufacturers such as Audi and BMW, I chose the Saab Aero Convertible. My criteria included 1) fun to drive, 2) performance, 3) curb appeal, 4) amenities, and 5) price. The 2008 Aero Convertible had it all. The 6-speed manual is fun to drive, and performs like a champ. It has a great look, small on the outside, but comfortable on the inside. I love the Xenon lights and the Bose Stereo. 2008 was the right price point. And this vehicle, steel gray with black top, had been meticulously maintained, with only minor wear noted. The key fob is also really cool. Although the interior materials may not be up to others, it is not worthy of the criticims.




Driving is fun again

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

My wife and I recently bought a still new 08 convertible for our fun car (at a very good price). The cars we drive for work are good but boring. Not so with the Saab. I'm having a blast driving it. I haven't had this much fun driving in many, many years. Always looking for an excuse to drive anywhere, especially with the top down. The car is nimble and has a nice throaty exhaust - so different from the Asian cars I've owned. Exterior styling is not as thrilling as other cars in its class but that's OK because its unique styling has a timelessness about it that should make it a pleasure to own for many years.




Love my saab

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

I've had this a week and our family loves our Saab. My 4 yr old always ask "Can we ride in the red car with the top down". The car gets pretty good gas mileage, it's quick and agile around town and on the highway. The 2.0T is more than enough power. The back seat is big enough to put our car seat in backwards, and our 4 yr old has plenty of room for many years. Adults can easily sit back there. The power roof works great. The stereo, A/C, and all the other instruments are easy to use.




Uncomfortable seats!

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

Maybe I just got a lemon. The seats on this otherwise wonderfully fine convertible are HORRIBLE. I really don't know what to do and I grimace every time I'm about to get into the car. Just for this reason, I recommend nobody consider this car.




Truly surprised

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

We weren't even going to stop at Saab - I'm so glad we did. Twenty years of luxury cars and convertibles, and I haven't had this much fun driving since my first Miata. Traded from a Mustang GT Convertible, and ride is 1000% smoother. Wish I'd bought one years ago.



Talk About The 2008 9-3

2008 Saab 9-3 Discussions See all Started By

rockylee
rockylee
05-10-2007
I thought it's critical to add this forum as this next 9-3 is going to lay the ground work for GM, to eith keep, sell, or kill, off Saab. I am one that wants to keep Saab, and I believe it could be a ...


craigp1
craigp1
08-30-2007
on the SAAB (4K), the Anniversary edition 9-3 is only about $1500 more than a basic 4-door GTI. I drove the SAAB and while nice, not as fun or refined as the GTI (especially the DSG type transmissio...


jchan2
jchan2
05-28-2007
the refresh of the 9-3 for 2008 will be important, I feel that the 9-4X crossover in the works is more critical for Saab, as luxury crossovers are rather popular with American buyers....



Read more about the 2008 Saab 9-3

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Gas Mileage

EPA-Rated MPG

  • 16
  • cty
/
  • 26
  • highway
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