Press Release:
The all-new 2003 Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan is the first step in the biggest product development program in Saab’s history. It spearheads the arrival of an entirely new family of cars, each focused on meeting the particular requirements of a different niche in the market.
As Saab’s first contender in the premium compact sport sedan segment, the new 9-3 is dedicated to delivering a unique, fun-to-drive experience that promises to set new standards for the class.
Announcing the arrival of the new model, Saab Automobile President and CEO Peter Augustsson said, ‘This car offers a level of driver involvement and responsive performance never seen before from Saab. The integration of a fine-handling chassis with the new, refined powertrain delivers a true ‘fun-to-drive’ package.
‘It is a formula designed to appeal to young, premium-car buyers who place a priority on a rewarding driving experience, but who also want to express their individuality through choosing a distinctive, less commonplace brand.’
The coupe-like silhouette, with steeply raked windshield and rear window and short front and rear overhangs, communicates a strong, sporty stance, which is reinforced by negative wheel cambers. The overall look is designed to convey a sense of movement even when the car is stationary. The shape of the windows and the wedge-like profile also combine with the sleek integrated headlights and grille to give the car its distinctive Saab identity.
Excellent aerodynamics, including a highly competitive 0.28 drag coefficient resulting in low lift forces at the rear axle, improve high-speed stability and braking. Careful airflow management also benefits the driver by helping to prevent road grime building up on the side windows and taillights.
The new model comes with a choice of two new, 2.0L all-aluminum turbocharged engines, ranging in power from 175 to 210 hp. The front-wheel-drive transmissions include five- and six-speed manual gearboxes and a five-speed automatic with Saab Sentronic manual selection and the option of steering-wheel controls. There will be three ‘forms,’ or specification levels: Linear, Arc and Vector.
Compared to its predecessor, the new 9-3 offers more spacious accommodations, particularly for rear passengers, within the same overall length. Front and rear width is increased by 2.16 inches (55mm) and the wheelbase is 2.8 inches (71mm) longer.
It is price-positioned to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Volvo S60. Sales start in October 2002.
Refined performance
Saab is a ‘center of expertise’ within GM for the development of turbocharged gasoline engines. The 2003 Saab 9-3′s new powertrain adds enhanced refinement and driveability to Saab’s traditional strengths of high torque for strong, mid-range pulling power. It also delivers a level of sporty performance in keeping with the chassis dynamics, further reinforcing the new car’s driver focus.
Saab developed and tuned two versions of the new turbo engine for 175 hp (badged 2.0t) and 210 hp (badged 2.0T) with high torque for confident passing. All internal components are unique to Saab. High-strength balance shafts and dual-mass flywheel offer greater running refinement.
Precise, highly sensitive throttle control, adaptive torque delivery and smooth power- on/power-off characteristics are benefits of the new Trionic-8 engine-management system, the latest version of Saab’s own 32-bit in-house system.
Updated five-speed (175 hp) and all-new six-speed (210 hp) Saab manual gearboxes are available. A new five-speed, adaptive automatic transmission with Saab Sentronic manual gear selection and optional steering-wheel controls is available.
Driver involvement
The new 9-3 is the product of the most exhaustive development program in chassis dynamics undertaken by Saab. The handling of the car, its sensitivity to driver inputs and a high degree of feedback all combine to deliver a level of driving involvement and pleasure that challenges the class benchmark.
The kinetics of the rear suspension are tuned for a unique rear-wheel-steer response for optimum handling and stability. The four-link independent rear suspension with high lateral stiffness adds stability and grip; longitudinal compliance enhances ride comfort. Front suspension is MacPherson struts with lower A-arms mounted on a hydroformed, rubber-isolated sub-frame.
The chassis features Saab-tuned ‘user-friendly’ ESP (Electronic Stability Program), EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), CBC (Cornering Brake Control) and TCS (Traction Control System) as standard features. Front and rear brake discs are larger than the previous model’s, varying in size, depending on specification level.
Driver adaptability
In addition to its driver-focused chassis dynamics and powertrain performance, the new 9-3 is also designed to adapt to a wide range of driver needs, establishing a close interaction with the driver.
A wide range of functions can be pre-set according to personal preference, including: anti-theft alarm, parking assistance, rain-sensitive wipers and automatic climate control.
The new Saab 9-3 features the most complete automotive systems use of fiber optics. With a signal capacity 50 times greater than conventional wire circuitry, fiber optics provide a high-speed platform for advanced in-car ‘infotainment.’
‘Linear’ features an understated interior with attractive leather upholstery and anthracite trim. ‘Arc’ adds more luxury, with 16-inch alloy wheels and leather interior with poplar wood trim. ‘Vector’ adds a sporty flair, with 17-inch alloy wheels and a sports leather interior with matte chrome trim. An optional package will be offered for the Linear form that includes 16-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, in-dash six-CD player, upgraded stereo system, power sunroof and driver’s seat, and lower-body color match trim.
Built around the driver
Consistent with all Saab vehicles, the new 9-3 is built from ‘the driver outwards.’ That means the cabin ergonomics, the instrumentation, the controls and the seating position are all developed from the driver’s perspective. And, the advanced safety features benefit all who use the car.
The instrument panel arcs around the driver, with a logical layout and a highly tactile feel to the controls. The steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach, and green instrument illumination and the Night Panel function contribute to safe night driving.
The Saab Information Display (SID) is located on top of the fascia near the base of the windscreen, close to the driver’s natural field of vision. The screen shows radio settings and driver information.
Dozens of different crash configurations were carried out during development, utilizing Saab’s database of more than 6,000 real-life road accidents. Tests include truck-to-car side impacts, car-to-car frontal impacts with a closing speed of 74 mph and replica moose impacts.
Second-generation Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR), pioneered by Saab, help prevent neck injury for front-seat occupants in rear-end impacts. Integrated into the seat backs, this safety system is improved for even quicker responsive action. Restraint systems include seat belt pre-tensioning and load-limiting for all outer seating positions, combined with dual-stage front air bags, seat-mounted side air bags and new side roof- rail air bags.
Price this car:
MSRP: $25,995 – $39,995
Invoice: $24,524 – $37,395
Source: Saab Press Release

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