Used 2008 Saab 9-3
- Quiet ride, accurate steering, responsive all-wheel-drive system, supportive front seats, available in three body styles.
- Subpar interior materials and build quality, too much body roll on Aero model, ride can be choppy over bumps.
Used 2008 Saab 9-3 for Sale
Edmunds' Expert Review
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.
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.
2008 Saab 9-3 configurations
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Everyone has that fun ex-girlfriend you keep going back to even though you know she's all wrong for you. Or that reality show you can't stop watching even though you know it's rotting your brain. You like them, but doing so doesn't make any rational sense.
Well, welcome to the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X Sport Combi, a really fun car with a really long name that makes as much rational sense as Jenny and America's Got Talent. It's a sport wagon with Mt. Denali high points and Death Valley low points. We walked away liking it, but knowing that we could only recommend it to a guy named Sven who has two kids and lives at the top of Latigo Canyon Road.
Of course, the 9-3 Turbo X is only going to be produced for 2008 in teeny-tiny numbers -- 600 sedans and Sport Combi wagons, to be precise -- which might make you wonder why we're even bothering to road test it in the first place. Well, for most folks, the sorta-mass-produced 9-3 Aero Sport Combi XWD will seem mostly identical to the Turbo X edition. The added bits and pieces between the two cars can really only be appreciated when tearing through a serpentine road. A firmer and lower suspension, self-leveling rear shocks, larger 18-inch alloy wheels and larger-diameter brakes all do a tremendous job of turning the 9-3 into a true sport sedan/wagon with superb handling potential. Of course, if you can't enjoy said potential, the Aero and its more comfortable ride should do you nicely, while still offering the same turbocharged V6, smart all-wheel-drive system and communicative steering.
So does that mean the Turbo X is the ex-girlfriend, while the Aero is the gal you should take down the aisle? Well, no. All of the Turbo X's major low points are actually shared with the Aero -- cramped backseat, disappointing fuel economy, chintzy interior and most of all, an absurdly high price. According to Edmunds True Market Value® pricing for August 2008, both the 9-3 Aero and Turbo X on average sell for $2,000 below invoice, but at about $41,000, that would still make our Turbo X test car too expensive given similarly priced competitors. The Aero is no different.
If we were to buy a 2008 Saab 9-3, there's no doubt that we'd track down one of the very few Turbo X Sport Combis. But that's a pretty unrealistic if. No amount of adept handling, wagon utility and Saab funkiness can make up for such huge drawbacks. We just couldn't marry Jenny.
Used 2008 Saab 9-3 Overview
The Used 2008 Saab 9-3 is offered in the following submodels: 9-3 Sedan, 9-3 Convertible, 9-3 Turbo X, 9-3 Wagon, 9-3 Turbo X SportCombi. Available styles include 2.0T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2.0T 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), Aero 4dr Sedan (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M), 2.0T SportCombi 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), Aero 2dr Convertible (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M), Turbo X 4dr Sedan AWD (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M), Aero SportCombi 4dr Wagon (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M), and Turbo X SportCombi 4dr Wagon AWD (2.8L 6cyl Turbo 6M).
What's a good price on a Used 2008 Saab 9-3?
Price comparisons for Used 2008 Saab 9-3 trim styles:
- The Used 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero is priced between $6,995 and$6,995 with odometer readings between 87493 and92299 miles.
- The Used 2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T is priced between $3,995 and$3,995 with odometer readings between 120918 and120918 miles.
- The Used 2008 Saab 9-3 2.0T SportCombi is priced between $3,500 and$3,500 with odometer readings between 207919 and207919 miles.
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Saab 9-3?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.