2000 Saab 9-3 Review

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Bob Storck Bob Storck Editor
July 17, 2000

Saab is known for durability, performance and above all quirkiness: features that made Saab famous on speedways, highways, and skyways, and some places in between (Road Atlanta, Georgia, and Pikes Peak, Colorado).

Saab Scania makes a wonderful airplane known as the Viggen, a multi-role delta winged fighter-bomber. With an emphasis on maneuverability and capable of operating from small, unprepared locations, Viggen can both defend the skies of Sweden as well as deliver a substantial ordnance load.

The same kind of versatility went into the design of Saab's 9-3 Viggen coupes and convertibles. The result is a lightweight 230 hp 'fighter' of a car with an impressive cargo and passenger capacity. The name—Swedish for "thunderbolt"—is an appropriate link to the Saab 37 Viggen jet fighter.

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Always different

When most cars were rear wheel drive, Saab was front-wheel drive. They were the only major producer of two-cycle engines to sell their cars in the U.S.. If that wasn't enough, the cars looked funny. Saab aficionados have been worried that GM will undermine their toy, but the designers have kept the key in the console to reaffirm their uniqueness.

When Saab finally went to four-cycle engines in the 70's, they were among the first to adapt turbo-charging to passenger cars. Saab racers could outperform anything in their class. The combination of a powerful engine, a stiff frame, and generous tires and brakes often placed it in the winner's circle in competition with foreign and domestic sports cars.

The styling is distinctively Saab, and shares ideas from both the 9-3 and 9-5 designs. The 9-3 has a new grille with a wing-shaped center profile. While strengthening the family tie with the Saab 9-5, the new grille also emphasizes Saab's origins as an aircraft manufacturer. The platform has been well proven, as it is the same as the Opel Calibra/Vectra from GM Europe.

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