Good-looking estate gets a premium feel from its extra two cylinders, but it can't match the BMW 3-series for driver appeal.

Our Verdict

Saab 9-3 Sportwagon

Minor tweaks both simplify and improve the 9-3. Likeable, but lagging behind

3 December 2005

What’s new? Saab’s flagship engine hits the UK –oddly, though, not in its flagship model. The turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 is shared with the Vauxhall Vectra VXR, though in the Saab it’s 5bhp down and drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual or Sentronic automatic gearbox. What’s it like? Not as electrifying off-the-line as Saab claims, particularly if you opt for the dim-witted auto which slows the 0-60mph dash by nearly a second. But in the middle ratios performance is huge; with 258lb ft of torque available from 2000-5000rpm it demolishes even the Fiat-sourced turbodiesel. Factor-in the comfortable cabin and it makes for a devastating motorway weapon. Away from the blue signs it’s rather less convincing: the sports-suspended chassis is capable, but the steering is light and inert. Should I buy one? There’s not much of logic to it, particularly for company car users who will be crippled by CO2 emissions of 250g/km putting it in the 35 per cent tax bracket, eight per cent higher than the 2.0-litre Aero. But in isolation it’s an appealing car, and the V6’s cultured sound and instant torque endow the 9-3 with a premium feel that somehow eludes the four-pot versions. Alastair Clements

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