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2006 Saab 9-3

Index of Other Reviews

2002 SAAB 9-3 SE

2006 SAAB 9-3 2.0t

2006 SAAB 9-3

We just brought home our new 2006 SAAB, which sits across from our SL500 which sits next to our E430.

MSRP $28,520 as brought home.

Steel Gray Metallic (279)


DOHC 4-valve 4 cylinder Turbo, 2.0L, 210 HP.


Front Wheel Drive. ESP Stability Control.

5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

Normal and phoney manual modes. No Winter or Sport modes like the 2002 9-3.

Tires: P215/55R16.


146 MPH (240 kph)


4 wheel discs, ABS, electronic brake force distribution.


22/31. This little hottie of a car gets great fuel economy.


Two in dashboard, two in the front seats and two more along the top of each side of the cabin. Each of these top bags runs from front to rear to protect the heads of rear seat passengers, too.

Annoying design flaw: there is always a bright yellow light on your dash telling you the passenger airbag is on (one light) or off (an identical light next to it). Bright yellow lights on a dashboard mean WARNING and they constantly disturb our driving making us think we have some sort of problem. A good car like my Mercedes doesn't need these stupid and distracting and therefore unsafe lights because the passenger airbag deactivation system is good enough not to make mistakes or need a light.

SAAB Information Display (SID) Navigation Computer

The computer is a pain to use compared to the previous model. The circuitry behind the knob is poorly designed and does not respond uniformly or quickly, so you must take your life-saving attention away from your driving. You have to stare at the computer as you jiggle the knob hoping for the right mode .Unlike our 2002 SAAB, you can't drive the computer by feel with your eyes on the road.

The LCDs are green, not orange as the previous 9-3. They look tacky, with heavily aliased fonts. The on/off contrast ratio isn't very good, either. This makes the black background look more gray at times.

I much prefer the computer in our 2002 SAAB 9-3.


No sunroof.


Almost all vinyl. There are some small leather spots here and there, which mostly match the color of the vinyl. We chose this SAAB over our other choices because we were told it had leather seats standard. Baloney, it has vinyl seats with a few leather "appointments."

It's easy to feel the difference between the leather and vinyl. Your fingers slide over the leather, but stick more across the vinyl. Push your finger straight down: the vinyl gives like rubber while the few leather pieces don't stretch. The only leather pieces are the pad directly under your butt and the small of your back. The side bolsters, headrests, sides and everything else are vinyl.


It drives very well. It feels light and nimble. It shifts fast and never lacks power. It's fun to zip around in, much more so than other front wheel drive cars.

It feels like a plastic GM rental car when you stop. The wood is all fake, and most of what's not plastic is vinyl. The headliner is nice fabric. The dinky trunk lid feels like a Chevy Cavalier, with a handle. All you see in the cockpit is plastic, and not particularly good plastic. The plastic has a dull finish which easily takes smudges and gets glossy.

The trunk lid is light, and perfectly weighted to close with a light touch, so long as you're on level ground.

There is no torque steer, the first front wheel drive car I've ever driven without it. I suspect this is a huge benefit of the ESP system. This is very special and makes the 2006 SAAB 9-3 an outstanding front wheel car to drive.

The engine is only a four, and I'm used to at least eight cylinders. While driving it sounds a bit like a tractor engine at idle. You can hear it as you drive, except at highway speeds. You can feel it a bit, too. Forgive me if I'm harsh, for all I know this is the smoothest four on the planet. I'm used to a Mercedes SL500 V8 with variable valve timing. That V8 runs so smoothly at idle that only the tach lets you know it's running. It also costs four times what the SAAB does, so we could get sixteen SAAB cylinders for the same price as my Mercedes V8.

The SAAB is zippy. It downshifts eagerly and goes fast. We only have 3800 miles on it so we're still breaking it in gently.

It has a dual idle speed. it idles at 900 RPM, but if you sit still for a few moments, it drops to 700 ROM. That's weird. It sounds like your engine is dying. it does this to save gas while stopped. If you take your foot off the brake and let it creep ahead at idle, it will go back up to 900 RPM as it gains speed. it idles at 900 RPM while driving and moving, and drops to 700 in an obvious step while stopped for any length of time. Our 2002 9-3 always has a stable idle.

Headlights are great halogen projectors for low beams, and the high beams are also halogen. I've never driven a car with better high beams.


See the comparison between our 2002 and 2006 here for all the details.

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