Image credits: © Saab. © Saab Automobile AB

2003 Saab 9-3 news, pictures, specifications, and information


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 §egmènt, 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 wîth 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, wîth 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 wîth 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 wîth 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 wîth Saab Sentronic manual selection and the option of §teering-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 wîth 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 wîth 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) wîth 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.

Úpdated five-speed (175 hp) and all-new six-speed (210 hp) Saab manual gearboxes are available. A new five-speed, adaptive automatic transmission wîth Saab Sentronic manual gear selection and optional §teering-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 wîth high lateral stiffness adds stability and grip; longitudinal compliance enhances ride comfort. Front suspension is MacPherson struts wîth 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 wîth 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 wîth attractive leather upholstery and anthracite trim. 'Arc' adds more luxury, wîth 16-inch alloy wheels and leather interior wîth poplar wood trim. 'Vector' adds a sporty flair, wîth 17-inch alloy wheels and a sports leather interior wîth 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 wîth 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, wîth a logical layout and a highly tactile feel to the controls. The §teering 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 wîth 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 wîth dual-stage front air bags, seat-mounted side air bags and new side roof- rail air bags.

Source - Saab
A Swedish automotive company located in Trollhattan, Saab has been in the business of producing cars since the late 1940s. Unique in its history, Saabs is unlike any other manufacturer with a tagline 'Born from Jets', the original Saab was built by sixteen aircraft engineers. The collaboration of these designers resulted into a precise and aerodynamically sound car similar to the design of a fighter jet.

Beginning in the '99 model year the car was badged as 93 at a time when Saab was revising their naming strategy of their small car to mimic that of the larger 95. Pronounced as 'nine three', Saab consistently advertises it as 9-3. The 9-3 is not to be confused with the Saab 93, produced from 1955 until 1960, this model was pronounced 'ninety three'.

Introduced in 1998 as basically a rebadged Saab 900 (94-98 model), the Saab Classic 9-3 only had a few slight updates, which distinguished it from its predecessor. A redesigned grille and the third 'high-level' brake light from the trunk ridge to the top of the rear screen were the main changes. This brake light made the car much safer since it improved the visibility for following cars. A compact executive car, the 9-3 shares its GM Epsilon platform with the Opel Vectra and the Cadillac BLS. The BLS was made on the same assembly line in Sweden up until 2009. Magna Steyr produced the convertible version of the 9-3 in Austria until 2010 when production was relocated to Trollhattan. Today the 9-3 is currently the entry-level model for Saab.

Claiming that 1,100 changes were made since the Saab 900, the first generation 9-3 was debuted in 98 with also a revised suspension in an effort to tighten up the handling features of its predecessor, the 900. The 9-3 showcased much smoother styling with even a few models featuring a black rear spoiler and the loss of Saab's trademark centrally mounted 'snow flap'. Enthusiasts could purchase the 9-3 as a three or five-door hatchback or as a two-door convertible.

This was also the final small Saab to utilize the company's H engine. Big updates since the last model included much improved ride and handling and majorly improved crash-worthiness with standard side impact airbags that came with head protection and active headrests. This first generation was produced until 2008 and along with the Saab 9-5 and the Volvo S70, the 9-3 was the first cars in the entire world to earn the maximum score in a side impact augmented by a pole test based on Euro NCAP testing. The 9-3 continued the Saab safety tradition of performing a Moose Test.

The Saab 9-3 was offered with a new variant of the B204 engine which was a low-pressure turbo (LPT) engine that was based on the B204L which was used in the last generation Saab 900. 9-3s were all turbocharged petrol engines for the US market with the 'full pressure turbo' as the standard option and a 'HOT' variant was featured in the SE models for the 1999 model year.

For 2000, the 9-3 went from SAAB's Trionic 5 to Trionic 7 engine management system. This first generation model was also the first Saab that was offered with a diesel engine, which was also found in the Opel Vectra, Astra G, Signum, Safira A. The innovative Night Panel was brought over from the Saab 900, which was a unique feature that permitted dousing of the instrument panel lighting, except for the important info so it caused less distraction when driving at night. 326,370 first generation 9-3s were produced.

The 'Viggen' or 'Thunderbolt' version was a high-powered version of the Saab 9-3 that got its name from the Saab 37 Viggen aircraft. Production lasted until 2002. The Viggen was rolled out with a turbocharged 2.3 L engine, giving 225 bhp, and eventually 230 bhp on 1.4 bar of boost from its Mitsubishi TD04-HL 15-5 turbocharger. With a top speed of 160 mph the fast Viggen could achieve 0-60mph in just 6.4 seconds. Numerous modifications were made to the Viggen to handle the performance and high power and included higher performance tuned ECU, higher capacity intercooler, heavy duty clutch and pressure plate, larger flow-through exhaust system, firmer dampers, stiffened and lowered springs and stronger CV joins and drive-shafts. The maximum torque was electronically limited to enable the front wheels to cope with the amount of torque available. 4600 Viggens were produced with only 500 units produced for the UK market.

The Viggen was the original 9-3 to utilize Saab's Trionic 7 engine management system in 1999, which processed 2 million calculations ever second. It analyzed combustion temperature, boost control, variable torque curves and numerous other critical engine processes. 2001 brought with it a Traction Control System (TCS) to the Saab Viggen. The car featured a unique rear wing, which increased the downforce by 50% that required the radio antenna being moved to a new spot. Besides featuring extra power and torque the Viggen had aerodynamically designed bumpers and side skirts reducing the drag coefficient by 8%. It also came with specially bolstered and colored leather seats available in four different colors: charcoal, deep blue, flame ochre and tan with tan inserts. Along with the festive seats the Viggen featured sportier suspensions, upgraded brakes, larger wheels and other upgraded parts.

Only offered with a five-speed manual transmission, the Viggen featured a CD player, power moonroof and original Viggen-specific motorized and heated leather seats that featured the Viggen delta logo embossed in the backrest. Eventually these seats were available in the Aero model but without the Viggen logo. From its debut until the middle of the '01 model year several colors featured carbon-fiber interior trim, when Saab substituted a cheaper printed gray pattern for the dash, and standard trim for everything else.

If you purchased a new Viggen you received the start treatment that included two days of advanced driving instructions to Road Atlanta as well as a dinner with Saab USE execs from Norcross, Georgia. This program was called Viggen Flight Academy, operated by Saab and Panoz and was eventually converted into the current SAAB Aero Academy.

Besides the diesel engines, the first generation Saab 9-3 engines were versions of the Saab H engine. The first generation 9-3 was the final (besides the Saab 9-5) to use the all Saab engine design. All variations of this engine featured a DOHC 16-valve design with Saab's Saab Direct Ignition. All of the turbocharged engines used Saab's Trionic engine management system, which worked directly with the Direct Ignition's IDM module. In the ten years that GM controlled Saab the subsequent two technologies were migrated into other GM products. Other than the low-pressure turbo and the normally aspirated version, all of the engines had high specific power outputs. The B205R produced 102.5 horsepower per liter, which surpassed the specific output of the 32-valve V8 engine in an Audi RS4, which produced 100 hp. Only 10 lb/ft of torque less than an E46 BMW M3, the B235R from the Viggen produced 252 lb/ft of torque. While producing first-rate fuel economy and low emissions the Saab's 'EcoPower' philosophy incorporated high power and torque output when it was needed.

The second generation Saab 9-3 was introduced in 2002 at the North American International Auto Show and ran until 2012. Continuing to be a front-wheel drive car, like all Saabs, the new 9-3 was offered as a four-door sedan, a wagon, and a two-door convertible. The biggest update this generation was the deletion of the hatchback. This newest generation came with a variety of new safety features that include d the innovative Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR II), which reduced whiplash, and ReAxs, a passive rear wheel steering design and passive toe-in, which helped reduce understeer under heavy braking.

The new generation featured a brand new 2.0L straight-4 engine Family II Ecotec engine from the GM for the gas-powered models instead of the EcoPower engine. The turbocharged I4 came in three different versions with the amount of turbo boost being determined by the power output. Standard in the non-US market Linear trim-level form was the 150 hp version alled 1.8t. The 2.0t 175 horsepower version was standard in the U.S. market Linera or non-U.S. market Vector form, joined with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed 'Sentronic', which is a traditional automatic. SAAB'S earlier 'Sensonic' was different from this and was a manual transmission that allowed for shifting without a clutch pedal. The B207R engine 201 hp 2.0T was offered in both the Vector and Art forms. The automatic transmission was available, though the Vector received paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. The manual transmission was a 6-speed in 2003 Arcs and Vectors.

The first to utilize the global GM Epsilon platform were both the Saab 9-3 and the Opel Vectra which were then lengthened to accommodate four new siblings; the Chevy Malibu, Malibu Maxx, Saturn Aura and the Pontiac G6. Some of the exclusive features of the Saab 9-3 included a fiber-optic electric/electronic system, the chance of AWD, and ReAxs.
The last forty-seven Saabs were built on February 22, 2012. All of them were 9-3 Independence Edition convertible models that were produced by one of Sweden's biggest car dealers, ANA, in Trollhattan. 26 of the cars were RHD ones while 21 were LHD cars. The final Saab was a Saab 9-3 Aero Independence Edition TTiD convertible.

For 2005 the U.S. Saab 9-3 convertibles were sold with 16-inch wheels that were standard, while the Aero model received 17-inch wheels. This was a difference from the previous 15-inch wheels found in the Linear version. 2005 This was the final year for the Linear and Arc version in the U.S.

At the LA Auto Show in January of 2006, a commemorative '20 Years Edition Aero Convertible' was debuted for the American market to celebrate 20 years since the introduction of the Saab 900 convertible. Two optional engines this year were a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder and an all-new 2.8 liter turbo 6-cylinder. The 4-cylinder engine option featured 12.3 psi maximum turbo boost pressure that turned out 210 hp. The 6-cylinder engine had 8.7 psi boost that turned out 250 hp. Marketed in the U.S. as the 2.0T, the 2.0-liter 16-valve turbo 4-cylinder model replaced the Linear and Arc models that were sold until the '05 model year. The U.S. 2.0T version was much like the 2005 Arc except for U.S. Linear wheels being used. In other countries the Linear and Arc continued being sold.

Halfway through the 2006 model year the U.S. cars lost the trunk release button on the driver's door to save money. The cars built at the beginning of the year kept the release mechanism mounted on the driver door. Once it was gone, the only way to open the truck what to use the key fob, or the emergency release button found inside the trunk.

For 2007 the dashboard was entirely redone with a return to the look of the classic Saab 900 dash and the Saab Info Display being relocated to the main instrument binnacle from its high mounted position. Saab's 9-5 climate control system replaced the button-heavy climate control system. For this year OnStar was re-introduced and required when Nav was ordered in North America. The corporate GM head unit was introduced and which allowed for satellite radio and MP3 CD capability. The cabin got much quieter this year and the suspension went from borderline harsh to firm. Exterior color choices switched from Steel Gray to Titan Gray. The 210 hp 2.0-liter 16-valve turbo engine and the 250 hp 2.8-liter V6 turbo were the only engine choices for the 2007 U.S. market. The 2.0 model manual transmission was updated from a 5-speed to a 6-speed.

Debuting at the Saab Festival in Trollhattan, Sweden in June 10th of 2007, the 2008 cars were reputed to have undergone over 2000 changes from the previous year. These updates included new frontal styling that was inspired by the Saab 9-2X, a new clamshell hood, all new door panels and frosted rear lamps. On the outside some modifications were made on the limited edition XWD 280 hp 9-3 Turbo X, which was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In March of 2008, Saab introduced an all-wheel-drive version of the Aero with the system named 'XWD'.

The limited edition Turbo X sedan and wagon were deleted from the lineup in 2009 while the 9-3 series expanded the trim levels. Now the 2.0T and Aero sedan and wagon models were available with Saab's all-wheel drive (XWD).

Due to limited under-body space the convertible range continued to lack the all-wheel-drive option for the necessary componentry because of added structural bracing that compensated for the severity that was lost when the hard roof was taken from the design of the car. The Saab 9-3 didn't change much for 2009. The 9-3X, a four-wheel-drive XUV version of the 9-3 SportCombi was introduced this year at the Geneva Auto show.

In 2011 for the '12 model year the Saab 9-3 underwent some updates that included changes in the engine range with a complete reduction in diesel and petrol engine fuel consumption of 12% and 7% respectively. Other changes included an extended all-wheel-drive choice that included the new entry level 163 hp 2.0-liter gas/BioPower engine. New this year with all new rear badging in line with the fresh Saab 9-5 sedan. Updates also included a new bumper design, new 'ice block' style headlights, minor interior update that included titanium metallic effect trim around the instrument panel, doors, gearshift and glove box. The Aero now received graphite fiber effect. The Saab classic three-spoke alloy wheel returned and the 16-inch design is part of an expanded 16 to 18-inch wheel option. To commemorate the first anniversary of the sale to Spyker Cars, a limited edition 'Independence Edition' convertible will be introduced with an estimated 366 units produced.

At the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show the Saab Turbo X was debuted. Produced to celebrate SAAB'S 30-year history of turbocharging. All of the Turbo X models were featured in metallic jet black with matte grey trim. SAAB's first production car with the XWD all-wheel drive system from eLSD and Haldex Traction the Turbo X is powered by a 2.8-liter V6 that produced 280 PS joined to a six-speed manual or auto gearbox. The car also featured larger brakes along with stiffer springs and shocks. Featuring a carbon fiber look was the dash, shift lever and door panels and the turbo gauge draws its design from the Saab 900.

Introduced at the 2010 Paris Auto Show was the Saab 9-3 ePower electric car, which became Saab's first electric vehicle. The concept car was based on the 9-3 SportCombi wagon and could achieve a top speed of 93 mph and has a 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an estimated driving range of 120 miles. By late 2011 Saab had organized to run a 2-year trial with 70 ePower demonstrators in Sweden. National Electric Vehicle Sweden, the new owner of the Saab family has announced that they intend to begin producing the all-electric 9-3 ePower to be introduced in China by the end of 2013 or early 2014.

In early 2011 Saab announced that a brand new version of the 9-3 would be introduced in 2012 as a '13 model. It would be based on the Saab Phoenix platform found in the Saab PhoeniX concept car. Standard on this new vehicle would the new Saab IQon infotainment system. This concept was designed by Jason Castriota and is intended as a combi coupe/hatchback, crossover and convertible.
Unfortunately since the Saab Company was facing bankruptcy the planned third generation has been put on the back burner for now. The new owner of Saab, National Electric Vehicle Sweden, has announced that they intend to behind producing an all-electric 9-3 ePower from 2013. Initial reports seem to hint that this new car will be based on the 2nd generation 9-3 instead of the Phoenix platform originally picked for the production.

Over the years the Saab 93-3 has won numerous awards. These include Top Safety Pick in the U.S. for Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for 2006. Auto Trader in Great Britain awarded the car Compact Executive Car of the Year. And Top Gear Magazine's New Car Buyer's Guide in the UK awarded the Saab 9-3 Top Small Executive Car. Hong Kong Car and Driver awarded the car as '10 best Cars of the Year'. In 1998 Fortune Magazine, USA named it among the Top Ten Cars of 1999.


By Jessica Donaldson
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