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.
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.
Overall a really good car. Personally, I feel that the 2.0T is the best deal vs. the 2.8. I opted for all options except nav and auto transmission. The premium leather gives the sport seats that aren't otherwise available on the 2.0T. This feature alone nearly makes it worth the extra $$$. The leather quality is very nice (especially the French stitching!!). The manual transmission is notchy but nonetheless fun to drive. I must admit that I never really liked Saabs before, however this redesign really makes the car look wonderful. The taillight surrounds take getting used to but otherwise a really good car. FYI: upgraded sound system is simply average so I assume the base sound is terrible.
I have owned 5 SAABs - a 1983 900, 1989 900 S, 1990 900 S convertible and 1997 900 S convertible. The 2008 has zero remaining interior parts from its original designs, aside from the headlight and windshield washer logos printed on the corresponding controls. The 2008 thus far has had zero issues or electrical problems that were found in previous models. The quirkiness is thankfully still part of SAAB's design; its ignition, is located in the middle console, similar to the original floor concept. The Swedish flavor is still present, as is its outstanding and unusual exterior design. I would recommend SAAB redesign the rear to = original SAAB concept, versus its current generic square format.
I love this car Steering is light and accurate. Acceleration is more than sufficient Radio and Climate controls and logical with non of the touchscreen crap. The airconditioning is very strong, and quickly cools the car on hot days. With careful but not slow driving I am able to average 25 mpg going around town, and 36 mpg on highways.