What is it?
The car you’re looking at is the new Saab 9-3 2.0 XWD. It combines Saab’s 207bhp turbocharged petrol engine with the variable four-wheel drive system previously only available in the V6 Turbo X and 1.9 TTiD models.
What’s it like?
The Saab 9-3 2.0 XWD offers all those commendable Saab qualities of understated image, a comfortable interior, good safety levels and, er, that’s about it.
The 2.0 XWD gets a much more comfortable ride than most other models in the Saab 9-3 range, with good damping and body control making for unruffled progress over most road surfaces, though the occasional deep break in the road can have the car jarring noisily.
And the four-wheel drive system works brilliantly. Even in the harshest of winter conditions the torque-sensing system works unobtrusively to keep the car moving forward.
A limited-slip differential is available as an option, and though it wasn’t fitted to our test car we know from experience with the Turbo X that it works well.
The four-wheel drive also makes the engine’s 221lb ft of torque much more usable than it is in the standard front-wheel drive car, but it’s still no precision tool.
The steering offers little feedback and, though the free-revving engine and XWD system make it a more enjoyable companion than the 1.9 diesel, it still doesn’t encourage spirited driving so much as it does smooth, swift and completely predictable progress.
But the really damning figures are found in the eco bracket – an area in which Saab claims to specialise.
The 2.0-litre engine tested here returns 32.3mpg on the combined cycle and emits 207g/km of CO2. A BMW 320i M Sport not only costs thousands less but will also return a combined figure of 46.3mpg and emit 146g/km of CO2, while offering almost identical performance.
Should I buy one?
We can only recommend the 9-3 XWD if you really have fallen for the Saab’s styling, as there’s little else that its rivals don’t do better. This is a likeable car and a relaxing way to cover distance; but the competition has moved on.