The all-new 2003 Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan was the first step in the biggest product development program in Saab's history. It spearheaded the arrival of an entirely new family of cars, each focused on meeting the particular requirements of a different niche in the market.
As Saab's first contender in the premium, compact sport sedan segment, the focus for the new 9-3 is dedicated to delivering a unique, fun-to-drive experience that promises to set new standards for the class.
The coupé-like silhouette, with steeply raked windshield and rear window and short front and rear overhangs, communicates a strong, sporty stance, which is reinforced by negative wheel cambers. The overall look is designed to convey a sense of movement even when the car is stationary. The shape of the windows and the wedge-like profile also combine with the sleek integrated headlights and grille to give the car its distinctive Saab identity.
Excellent aerodynamics including a highly competitive 0.28 drag coefficient, resulting in low lift forces at the rear axle, improving high speed stability and braking. Careful airflow management also benefits the driver by helping to prevent road grime building up on the side windows and taillights.
The new model comes with a choice of two new, 2.0-liter, all-aluminum turbocharged engines, ranging in power from 175 to 210 hp. The front-wheel-drive transmissions include five- and six-speed manual gearboxes and a five-speed automatic with Saab Sentronic manual selection and the option of steering wheel controls. There will be three "Forms," or specification levels: Linear, Arc, and Vector.
Compared to its predecessor, the new 9-3 offers more spacious accommodations, particularly for rear passengers, within the same overall length. Front and rear width is increased by 2.16 in. (55 mm) and the wheelbase is 2.8 in. (71 mm) longer.
The main features of the new 9-3 contribute to an enriched, sporty driving experience in four key areas: driver involvement, refined performance, driver adaptability and driver-centered design. Driver Involvement
The new 9-3 is the product of the most exhaustive development program in chassis dynamics undertaken by Saab. The handling of the car, its sensitivity to driver inputs and a high degree of feedback all combine to deliver a level of driving involvement and pleasure that challenges the class benchmark. The main highlights include:
- "ReAxs" passive rear-wheel-steer characteristic. The kinetics of the rear suspension are tuned for a unique rear-wheel-steer response designed to improve handling and stability.
- Four-link independent rear suspension. High lateral stiffness adds stability and grip; longitudinal compliance enhances ride comfort.
- Low mounted steering rack gives excellent feel and precision with progressive power assistance and fast response.
- Front suspension is MacPherson struts with lower A-arms mounted on a hydroformed, rubber-isolated sub-frame. High lateral bushing stiffness improves steering response and precision; high longitudinal compliance contributes to ride comfort.
- Advanced chassis electronic systems. Chassis features Saab-tuned "user-friendly" ESP (Electronic Stability Program), EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), CBC (Cornering Brake Control) and TCS (Traction Control System).
- Optimized braking power. Front and rear brake discs are larger than previous model; varying in size, depending on specification level.
- Minimized unsprung weight for better ride quality. Hub carriers and toe and lower rear suspension links are aluminum, while anti-roll bars are hollow section steel.
- "Shear" bushing at top of rear shock absorber mountings adds to the compliant ride quality and effective vibration suppression.
Saab is a center of expertise within General Motors for the development of turbocharged gasoline engines. The 2003 Saab 9-3's new powertrain adds enhanced refinement and driveability to Saab's traditional strengths of high torque for strong, mid-range pulling power. It also delivers a level of sporty performance in keeping with the chassis dynamics, further reinforcing the new car's driver focus. The main highlights include:
- New all-aluminum 2.0-liter turbo engine. Saab developed and tuned two versions of the new engine for 175 hp (badged 2.0t) and 210 hp (badged 2.0T) with high torque for confident passing. All internal components are unique to Saab. Balance shafts and dual-mass flywheel offer greater running refinement.
- Sophisticated powertrain performance. Highly sensitive and precise throttle control, adaptive torque delivery and smooth power on/power off characteristics are benefits of the new Trionic-8 engine management, the latest version of Saab's own 32-bit in-house system.
- More transmission choices. Updated five-speed (175 hp) and all-new six-speed (210 hp) Saab manual gearboxes are available. A new five-speed, adaptive automatic transmission with Saab Sentronic manual gear selection and optional steering wheel controls is available.
- Unique "pendulum" engine mounting. Engine noise and vibration is reduced by installation of rods at the base of the engine for optimal torque control.
In addition to its driver-focused chassis dynamics and powertrain performance, the new 9-3 is also designed to adapt to a wide range of driver needs, establishing a close interaction with its owner. Main highlights include:
Built Around the Driver
- "Profiler" customization. A wide range of functions can be pre-set according to personal preference, including: anti-theft alarm, parking assistance, rain sensitive wipers, and automatic climate control.
- Advanced electronics. The new Saab 9-3 features the most complete automotive systems use of fiber optics. With a signal capacity 50 times greater than conventional wire circuitry, fiber optics provide a high-speed platform for advanced in-car "infotainment."
- Dual zone air conditioning with automatic balance control. The system senses changes in sunlight or shade outside the car and automatically adjusts airflow to keep interior temperature constant.
- Three specification levels. "Linear" features an understated interior with attractive leather upholstery and anthracite trim. "Arc" adds more luxury, with 16-inch alloy wheels and leather interior with poplar wood trim. "Vector" adds a sporty flair, with 17-inch alloy wheels and a sports leather interior with matte chrome trim.
- Inaugural Linear Launch Package. An optional package will be offered for the Linear form that includes 16" 10-spoke alloy wheels, in-dash 6-CD player, upgraded stereo system, power sunroof and driver's seat, and lower body color match trim.
- Additional load-carrying potential. A standard 60/40 split folding rear seat with ski hatch provides additional utility to carry extra cargo.
- Lower running costs. Longer service intervals and reduced maintenance times minimize inconvenience for the owner. Vehicles are covered under the Saab No Charge Scheduled Maintenance Program for 3 years or 36.000 miles, whichever comes first, for factory-recommended scheduled maintenance performed at an authorized Saab dealer in the United States. On-board algorithm adapts oil change cycle to how car is used.
- Host of comfort features. Designed to make living with the new 9-3 as convenient as possible, these include: a remote window and sunroof operation, "halo" perimeter lighting at night, automatic dimming interior mirror, and integrated garage door remote.
Consistent with all Saab vehicles, the new 9-3 is built from "the driver outwards." That means the cabin ergonomics, the instrumentation, the controls, and the seating position are all developed from the driver's perspective. Its advanced safety features benefit all who use the car. Highlights include:
- Cockpit feel. The instrument panel arcs around the driver, with a logical layout and tactile feel to controls. Steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach. Green instrument illumination and Night Panel function contribute to safe night driving.
- High position display. Saab Information Display (SID) is located on top of the fascia near the base of the windscreen, close the driver's natural field of vision. Screen shows radio settings and driver information.
- Structural strength. With added torsional rigidity, the body is more than twice as stiff as its predecessor"s. This contributes to outstanding ride and refinement, handling and safety properties.
- Designed for Real-life Safety. Many dozens of different crash configurations were carried out during development, utilizing Saab's database of more than 6,000 real-life road accidents. Tests include truck-to-car side impacts, car-to-car frontal impacts with a closing speed of 74 mph and replica moose impacts.
- Second generation Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR). Pioneered by Saab, SAHR helps prevent neck injury for front seat occupants in rear-end impacts. Integrated into the seat backs, this safety system is improved for even quicker action.
- Integrated safety features. Restraint systems include seat belt pre-tensioning and load limiting for front seating positions, combined with dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and new side curtain airbags.
Announcing the arrival of the new model, Saab Automobile President and CEO Peter Augustsson, commented, "This car offers a level of driver involvement and responsive performance never seen before from Saab. The integration of a fine-handling chassis with the new, refined powertrain delivers a true "fun-to-drive" package.
"It is a formula designed to appeal to young, premium-car buyers who place a priority on a rewarding driving experience, but who also want to express their individuality through choosing a distinctive, less commonplace brand."