What is it?
Four years into its life the Saab 9-3 has been given a heavy make over. Saab claims that there have been over 2000 changes made to the car, the most obvious of which is the completely re-panelled front-end.
The door skins have been changed too, and the 9-3 gets new door handles and the rubbing strips have been removed. The interior hasn’t had much work as a revised dashboard was fitted last year.
Under the skin, there’s the option of a new 180bhp twin-turbo diesel engine and a new 2.0t engine that will deliver 200bhp when filled with E85 ethanol. The top-line 2.8 V6 turbo now comes in both 255bhp and 280bhp forms.
Efforts have been made to improve overall refinement and the gearbox gets a much-needed new linkage between it and the lever. The autobox has also gets a switchable sport mode.
What’s it like?
Better. It feels more of a piece, and somewhat better screwed together. As ever, the 2.0t version was satisfyingly brisk on the sweeping Swedish motorways, where it was happy to lope along at speed, but with enough in reserve for snappy overtaking manoeuvres.
It’s still a car that appeals to drivers who favour unruffled progress and appreciates the unmatched comfort of Saab seats. The 9-3, like its forebears, is not intended as a car for hardcore drivers.
But that could all change next spring when Saab introduces the 9-3 XWD (Cross Wheel Drive) as the ultimate expression of a facelifted range.
The XWD transmission is based around the new, fourth-generation, Haldex clutch, mounted ahead of the rear differential.
The really good news is that the unit is now ‘predictive’ so you don't have to wait for front wheel slip before torque is fed rearwards.
But Saab engineers have fitted another Haldex clutch – dubbed the eLSD - to the output side of the differential so torque can also be divided between the rear wheels.