The quickest runs came by brake-torquing the engine to 2,000 rpm. This got the 9-3's turbo spinning and resulted in a much stronger launch, shaving nearly three-tenths off the zero-to-60 time. Leaving the automatic in "Drive" resulted in positive upshifts at 6,000 rpm while manually shifting the 9-3 at redline (6,300 rpm) only slowed it down. The one issue we noticed when using the manual shift mode was a re-occurring reluctance to upshift, often requiring a second push on the shifter.
Consistency was the 9-3's forte when braking. Three runs, one after the other, netted less than a one-foot variance. Obviously, brake fade isn't an issue with this car. Pedal modulation was also excellent with only minimal ABS kickback and very little "pedal sink" under maximum braking. The car remained straight and nose dive was modest, but we did notice very quick bursts of rear-wheel lockup. However, the consistently low numbers speak for themselves. This thing stops!
Easily the most rewarding Saab we've had in the slalom. Very nimble and stable, plus plenty of torque when powering out of the final few cones. It was actually a bit tough to place in the slalom because the car felt smaller than it was, resulting in several dropped cones. Steering was responsive with adequate feedback and weighting. Worth noting is that this car had the 17-inch wheels and tires, but did NOT have the actual sport suspension that production models will have. It's reasonable to assume that a 9-3 sedan with the full sport-tuned suspension will perform even better. As front-drive entry-luxury sedans go, this one seems as capable as anything in the class. Karl Brauer