Flash Drive: 2009 Saab 9-3 Turbo X SportCombi
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2012.
By Staff of MSN Autos
Saabs have long had an almost cultlike following. They're idiosyncratic with the ignition key in the center console, and I remember the days when they were supposedly all driven by architects and all at really high speeds. So it was disappointing when the Saab 9-2X came out; it was just a rebodied Subaru Impreza wagon and had lost all of the Scandinavian charm and character. Thankfully, the Saab 9-3 Turbo X SportCombi is a true Saab (not a Subaru) and it's wonderful. It has a great interior, with one of the best dashboards I can remember. The trunk, especially in this wagon, is spacious and well-trimmed and still dirt-resistant. The engine is gutsy, and the handling is entertaining and lets you confidently enter a corner with enthusiasm and adjust your line with the brakes as well as the gas or steering. After just a few hours in the SportCombi, I consider myself a new member of the cult of Saab, in spite of the lower-than-expected fuel economy. -Paul Hagger
The Saab 9-3 Turbo X SportCombi was a bit disappointing on my first drive. It looks as if it should offer extreme performance: It's painted black with smoke alloy wheels, clear-lens taillights and integrated dual exhaust. Inside, the black leather trim and 6-speed manual shifter seem to echo these expectations. But step on the gas from a stoplight and it just doesn't seem to jump off the line as quickly as you'd expect, especially with a powerful turbocharged engine under the hood. Once you get moving, however, the character of this car changes. Torque really comes alive around 2,800 rpm, so keeping the tachometer around three grand provides impressive acceleration. With full-time all-wheel drive, not only has the torque-steer been kept to a minimum, handling is quite impressive. However, with a cramped rear seat and a lofty price tag, there may not be enough performance to win over buyers in the tiny market for sport wagons. -Perry Stern
Saab does a commendable job of ladling their funkiness over the Opel products that General Motors hands them these days. I've owned half a dozen of Trollhattan's finest, and there are plenty of Saab touchstones in this most enthusiastic of 9-3s. From the nicely bolstered and highly adjustable seats, to the iconic shading of the turbo boost gauge, to the between-the-seats ignition switch, there's plenty to make you think you're still in a Saab. Even so, it's obvious that the Opel days are in full swing — the price Saab has paid for survival. There's an annoying lean spot just past throttle tip-in, but the turbocharged V6 is both strong and smooth everywhere else, and the new all-wheel drive setup is impressively transparent while doing a phenomenal job of keeping power to the wheels that can use it. This is arguably the most athletic and all-weather-capable Saab ever, and the only downside seems to be a window sticker that's about $10K optimistic. -Paul Seredynski