2007 Saab 9-3 Aero: Sweden’s New Entry Level Luxury Car

It’s called a premium compact by some consumer advocacy publications and an entry level luxury sedan by other industry experts. By any name, the newly designed Saab 9-3 confidently joins an increasingly visible vehicle segment.

Matched primarily against the Acura TSX, Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series, the Saab showcases high-end features with unique Scandinavian styling and at a less-than-exorbitant price.

My weekly driver was the Aero, one of three 9-3 configurations (sedan, wagon, convertible) and six total available models. It featured a 2.8-liter, 24-valve turbocharged V6 with 250 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability.

With the exception of slight turbo lag, the Saab 9-3 performs well, accelerating strongly at all speed ranges (the manufacturer rates it at 6.6 seconds in the standard 0-60 mph test with its automatic transmission). It also has a taut suspension and a firm, poised ride.

But it’s the Saab’s exterior design and color (Fusion Blue Metallic) that prompted a good share of attention. Saab is owned by General Motors (since 2000) and the 9-3 shares its basic construction with the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6. The new owners have softened the Saab look, but it still has its signature – an appealing, but perhaps oxymoronic combination of refinement and ruggedness.

Saab has always featured interior designed uniqueness, the traditions of which the new 9-3 upholds well. Saab’s cabin, console and instrumentation cluster are inspired by aircraft design, and Saab liberally uses the theme with its marketing slogans “Born Form Jets” and Jet Into Spring.”

The ignition, for example, is between the seats, and car’s key is s plastic fob, with a pullout back-up key. Saab also features a cleanly designed hand brake mechanism. When the brake is engaged, it rises only slightly on the driver’s side of the console. When the brake is released, its fits flush into the console.

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With its comfortable but secure configuration, front-seat Saab occupants may feel like they’re sitting in an airplane, and the design of the instrumentation panel is reminiscent, as Saab slogans suggest, of an airplane cockpit.

The 9-3 includes a long and varied list of standard features, projector beam Xenon headlamps and front and rear flog lights and leather seats and steering wheel to the full spectrum of power functions – inside and outside windows and door locks.

The Saab 9-3 has a manual transmission as standard equipment and the automatic transmission ($1,350) is the starting point for several available, pricey additional charges and option packages.

Beyond the automatic transmission, additional charges include: the aforementioned fusion blue metallic paint ($550), front heated seat and headlamp washers ($695) and the Onstar emergency system ($695). The Touring Package ($1,195) includes the three-position memory positioning, remote opening front windows and mirrors, dimming interior lights, compass and integrated garage door opener, rear park assist warning system and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

The extra charges, option package and destination fee ($745) adds more than $5,000 to the base price, pushing the total to more than $37,000.

That doesn’t make the new Saab 9-3 a bargain. But considering the vehicle’s new styling and improved turbo-charged-infused performance, it could provide strong competition against the more well-known stalwarts offered by BMW and Audi in the entry level luxury car division.

The Weekly Driver: 2007 Saab 9-3 Aero

Safety Features – Driver and front-seat passenger dual front, torso side and side curtain airbags.

Fuel Mileage (estimates) – 17 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway).

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Warranty – Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Free Scheduled Maintenance, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/100,000 miles, Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited miles; Roadside (24-hour) assistance program, 4 years/50,000 miles.

Base Price – $32,625.00.