2009 Saab 9-3 Review | Edmunds.com

2009 Saab 9-3

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Saab 9-3 Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.8 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 280 hp @ 5000 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 15/24 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2009 Saab 9-3

  • The 2009 Saab 9-3 is still an able, attractive entry-luxury car, but German and Japanese rivals possess newer designs, superior performance and better build quality.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Quiet cabin, precise steering, responsive all-wheel-drive system, supportive front seats, wide variety of body styles.

  • Cons

    Pricey, subpar interior materials and build quality, tight rear seat, too much body roll on Aero model, ride can be rough over bumps.

  • What's New for 2009

    For 2009, Saab has expanded the 9-3's trim levels, while the 2.0T is now available with all-wheel drive and some of the Aero trim's performance enhancements. Much of the equipment is the same as last year, although Bluetooth phone connectivity is now standard on all models. Last year's limited-edition Turbo X sedan and wagon have been dropped from the lineup.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

  Average Consumer Rating (78 total reviews)  |  Write a Review

What a fun car

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Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3

I purchased a used 9-3 sedan a few months ago with the base 2.0T engine. I've owned a few high performance cars and this one is the most fun. The only the thing the two BMWs I owned/own (a '95 540i and '08 535i respectively) have over this car is acceleration at 85+ MPH.

Earned respect

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3

I had never planned on buying a Saab and in fact all I could remember at the time was how ugly the older Saabs looked. A friend of mine had a 2005 Saab 9-3 and the first time I rode in it I was truly surprised. It was far from the hatchback design of the S900 and it was quick and had nice fit and finish. This began my passion for these cars. I have driven a 2005 9-3 2.0T a 2006 9-3 aero, and two different 2008 9-3 2.0T. All the cars I had were great although I did experience less than stellar performance in the Pirelli and Continental tires that they were putting on the cars until 2008 when the TMPS sensor option was included. I have been very pleased with the reliability of all the cars I owned and feel that the 2008 and up Model Years to have the best long term reliability. This is why I went ahead and purchased one after my lease on my first 08 9-3 ended. The overall fuel efficiency of this car is excellent and seems to beat many other makes for the power output that it gives. I worked for VW and Audi and have driven many of their cars and just don’t feel that their 2.0T has as much power as the 9-3. Even though the 2.0T for Audi and VW has been rated very high I know internally that there are still issues with oil consumption and slug in models that this engine has been used in, and that’s why I would never purchase anything containing their 2.0T. The new styling in 08 really for me was a winner. I had appreciated the older design, but wasn’t a fan of all the plastic rubbing strips and trim that was visible on the outside of the car. I was happy to see that the facelift was focused on the outside and left the interior relatively untouched. The only thing that I wish had been standard on the 2.0T is visible sports exhaust, and xenon option. I really enjoy the interior and the only thing I would have like to see is a little less plastic and more leather covered surfaces like on the door handles and the front panel that surrounds the radio and instrument cluster. The leather I’ve noticed stays in good condition if you maintain it, however if you don’t after about 100,000K the driver’s seat gets pretty rough looking. In older VW models that have leather it holds up much better probably due to several seemed portions on the seat bottoms rather than one large piece that tends to get stretched like in the 9-3.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Me and my aero

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Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Total drivers car

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Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3

I bought this car on day -1 and now 50K miles later I can say I'm glad I did. As a total package this car cannot be beat. Does it go 0-60 with an M3 - no of course not. As a total experience this car rocks - decent off the line performance, great handling, no bling-bling crap, and a decent back seat.

A fine car - overlooked

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3

I'm 5'9" / 160lbs, btw I owned a '99 SAAB 9-3 for 11 years and replaced w/ this car. Tho a SAAB owner, I wasn't very impressed with the prior 9-3...this one is better. Seats B: Prior 9-3 was an A+ perfect Handling B/A: I love the light steering touch, but the sport suspension is jouncy. Revised new rating with addition of Bilstein HD dampers & 3pt undercarriage brace. Interior A: Old school SAAB charm Exterior A: Outstanding Hauling B+: Good use of space for gear Mileage C: City - 17mpg / Hwy 26.4 (w/500lbs of occupants & luggage: 500mi journey on I5 in California; 60 degree weather, traveling 72mph on cruise) Brakes B: They work, but have GM spongy feel with pulsing ABS at work

First two years have been

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Saab 9-3

I've owned my 2T Sedan for 2+ years and its been great. Comfortable, even with two car seats in the back. Fully loaded for vacation there is plenty of room. The car gets ~24 mpg in the city (worse when my wife drives it) and ~34 mpg on the highway at a comfortable 65-70 mph. Leather interior is easy to clean when the kids spill food/drinks. So far reliability has been impeccable...knock on wood because servicing will be pricey on this car. Useful speed warning feature as you can pass 70+mph easily. We bought a 2nd Saab (2009 2T Sedan) when it looked like Saab was going under. Look forward to 2013 redesign although not in the market. Wish Saab would remove some features and sell for ~20K.

Full 2009 Saab 9-3 Review

What's New for 2009

For 2009, Saab has expanded the 9-3's trim levels, while the 2.0T is now available with all-wheel drive and some of the Aero trim's performance enhancements. Much of the equipment is the same as last year, although Bluetooth phone connectivity is now standard on all models. Last year's limited-edition Turbo X sedan and wagon have been dropped from the lineup.


Although the 9-3 is Saab's best-selling model, this entry-level luxury car still mainly appeals to a small niche group of buyers. This could be a good thing for those looking for a unique alternative to the German and Japanese choices that seem to be common on the road. The Saab, though aging, still appears somewhat modern, and it's one of the few choices in this segment to be offered as a sedan, wagon or convertible. Unfortunately, mediocre driving dynamics and interior furnishings make the 9-3 a compromised competitor in a class that is increasingly offering more features and better quality with each model year.

While mostly unchanged for 2009, the Saab 9-3 gets new intermediate trim levels between the base and the sporty, more powerful Aero models. Those trim levels make many of the Aero's handling and performance upgrades available on the 2.0T, including all-wheel drive. All 9-3s get standard Bluetooth phone connectivity this year, which is a welcome addition as more states impose hands-free cell phone laws.

Still, the 2009 Saab 9-3 is up against some stiff competition, including the newly redesigned Acura TL and Audi A4, the always impressive BMW 3 Series and the well-regarded Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Even the slightly less expensive Infiniti G35 edges out the Saab in terms of performance, ride dynamics and cabin quality. The 9-3's best performers -- especially in wet or snowy climates -- are the Aero XWD models, which use the Saab AWD system introduced in the middle of the previous model year. But those looking for a precise driving experience and a luxurious cabin are advised to shop around a bit before buying a Saab 9-3.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2009 Saab 9-3 is a compact entry-level luxury car available as a sedan, wagon (dubbed "SportCombi") or convertible. It comes in a copious number of trim levels -- five each on the sedan and SportCombi and four on the convertible.

The base sedan and SportCombi (1SA) includes 16-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, faux wood interior trim, cruise control, an eight-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 60/40-split rear seat, Bluetooth and a seven-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack. The next trim level up (1SB) comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels and adds a sunroof, heated front seats, power express-up windows and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass.

Step up to the 1SC trim level and Saab adds roof rails, a rear integrated antenna and genuine wood interior trim. In addition, the sedan gets self-leveling rear shock absorbers; the SportCombi gets a lowered, sport-tuned chassis and Saab's XWD AWD system. The even-more-feature-packed 1SD trim level doesn't have the special shocks or XWD, but the sedan at this trim level also gets the lowered sport-tuned chassis, xenon adaptive headlights, foglights, rear park assist, an 11-speaker Bose surround-sound system with six-CD changer, sport seats and an eight-way power passenger seat. The top-of-the-line Aero trim level includes all of the 1SC's handling features and 1SD's luxury features, plus a limited-slip differential.

On the convertible, there are a few notable equipment differences: The 60/40-split rear seat is not available on any trim, and a fully automatic cloth top replaces the roof. (A sunroof, not surprisingly, is not available.) Also, the intermediate 1SC trim is not available in a soft-top version. All other trim levels are largely comparable to their hardtop counterparts. A navigation system is also available on all trims except the base in each body style.

Powertrains and Performance

Standard on all trim levels except Aero models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder that makes 210 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Saab 9-3 Aero models get a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 capable of 280 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox comes standard on the base Saab 9-3, and a five-speed automatic is optional. All other 9-3s come with either the five-speed automatic (1SB and 1SD) or a six-speed automatic (1SC and Aero) as standard. You can also order a manual transmission on these sportier trims as an option. The Aero and the 1SC send their power through an AWD system; all other 9-3s are front-drive only.

Fuel economy ranges from a low of 15 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined for the automatic Aero sedan or SportCombi to 19/29/23 mpg for a manual 2.0T sedan.


Every 2009 Saab 9-3 comes standard with 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 rear-occupant protection. 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 comfortable front seats and good ergonomics, but the quality of the interior materials can't measure up to competitors in the class. Fit and finish also leave something to be desired. The sedan and wagon are sufficiently roomy, but rear legroom is limited in the convertible. On the upside, stereo and climate controls are a model of simplicity (a welcome departure from past Saabs) and are located up high and readily at hand. There are also plenty of kooky Saab features, like the console-mounted ignition and the "Night Panel" function that dims most instrument lighting (except most of the speedometer) for nighttime driving.

Also on the bright side, the Saab 9-3 can carry more cargo than many 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 an impressive 72.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat.

Driving Impressions

Both the 2.0T and the turbocharged V6 deliver adequate power, but performance is nothing special for this class. Models with Saab's XWD system are more capable -- especially with the additional power coming from the Aero's V6 engine. But even with the additional grip and power, the 9-3 Aero isn't hard-edged enough to be considered a true sport sedan or wagon.

The 9-3's ride is smooth and quiet over smooth surfaces, but the suspension loses composure on bumpy pavement. Steering is light and quite accurate, but body roll around corners is excessive, even on the trim levels with the lowered, sport-tuned chassis. Enthusiasts considering the 2009 Saab 9-3 would be wise to skip the base and intermediate trim levels and go straight to the Aero XWD.

Talk About The 2009 9-3

Gas Mileage


  • 15
  • cty
  • 24
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs