Petit but turbo-charged, Saab Aero is little car with big thrills, finds Adrian Ion
This is the smallest Saab in the range of the iconic Swedish manufacturer and it competes with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C Class, as well as its cousin from the same country, the Volvo S40.
But the most exciting model of these is the Saab Aero which comes with a turbo V-6. Saab’s all-wheel-drive system, called XWD cross-wheel drive, is available on certain models and we tested the most powerful, the 2.8 litre and 280 Hp.
Available in three body styles - a four-door sedan, two-door convertible and four-door SportCombi - the Saab should fit every requirement in size and target client.
When equipped with front-wheel drive, the Aero comes with a turbocharged, 255-hp 2.8-litre V6 and six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive Aero XWD gets a higher-boost version, which delivers 280 hp. This is the driving enthusiast’s choice as the car offers a thrilling experience. The acceleration from 0-100 km/h is under six seconds is pretty impressive. Another option is the Turbo X limited edition of the Aero XWD, which features limited slip differentials, larger wheels, lowered and firmer suspension with self-leveling shock absorbers, larger brakes and sportier trim.
The road handling is one of the strong points of the Saab 9-3, with even the most powerful Aero version being set to a good combination between sportiness and comfort.
Inside, the distinctive Scandinavian ambience is present with the usual position of the ignition key between the two front seats and air vent controls that can be found in any Saab from the 1980s onwards.
The seats are comfy and come as standard in the Aero with a combination of leather and fabric.
Some of the plastics on the dash are not top quality and tend to rattle at speed bumps and potholes, but the overall impression is one of solid built quality. The climate controls are borrowed from GM’s Opel cousin and some of the engines fitted on the 9-3 come from the same source. But the overal interior feeling in terms of quality of materials is a bit disappointing compared to the German of Japanese competitors.
The navigation system from Kenwood looks more like an after market gadget than factory-fitted equipment. The sat-nav system is very efficient and, unlike other car producers, which developed their own navigation system for Romania - with less than satisfactory results - this uses a Garmin system with impressive results and updated points of interest shown on the map such as petrol stations, banks, restaurants and hotels.
On the safety side the 9-3 offers front and side airbags, curtain airbags on sedan and wagon models, stability control and antilock brakes with Brake Assist, have been awarded with a 5-star rating for safety from vehicle safety association Euro NCAP.
The price of the Saab 9-3 Aero XWD could be considered a bargain if one only takes into account the performance of the car, the four wheel drive system and standard equipment. The fuel consumption is acceptable for the amount of power and the acceleration this car will deliver and the highest mark reached in city traffic during the test drive is around 15 litres per 100 km.
“The acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h under six seconds is pretty impressive”
Saab 9-3 Aero sport sedan
■ Petrol engine choice: 1.8 and 122 hp; 1.8t and 150 hp; 2.0 turbo and 210 hp ; 2.0t and 175 hp; 2.8 V6 turbo and 255 hp; 2.8 V6 turbo LE and 280 hp; 1.8t Biopower and 175 hp; 2.0t Biopower and 200 hp
■ Diesel engine choice:1.9 and 150 hp; 1.9 and 180 hp
■ Prices start at 19,990 Euro + VAT for the 1.8 petrol Linear Sedan and up to 35,990 Euro + VAT for the 2.8 XWD Aero SportCombi.