2001 SAAB 9-3 SE Convertible 2.0 turbo from UK and Ireland


Not bad... but not good either


I've had this car a year and so far:

- A front wheel bearing has had to be replaced.

- Engine management light came on. Apparently the catalytic converter is running below its optimum efficiency.

General Comments:

This car is nice, but not so nice at the same time. It's got a full cream leather interior, which is lovely and all the creature comforts like climate control, cruise control etc, but to put it bluntly, the dashboard and controls look like they've come straight out of an early 90's Saab 9000, and been just shoved in my car.

The dashboard is dull and clumsy, the buttons for the electric windows (front and back) are all in the centre console between the handbrake and gear stick, and everything feels a bit cheap.

There are also certain things you'd expect to have, like a height adjustable steering wheel, which simply isn't there.

To drive the car is nice. The engine is really quiet, and it cruises nicely on motorways as well as winding country roads. The suspension is quite firm, and it handles roads well, but there's just nothing exciting about the car.

Mine's the convertible, and if you want my advice and can afford to have the choice, go for an Audi or BMW if you're looking for a mid sized soft-top car.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 26th December, 2010

28th Jun 2011, 16:25

Reading your review, I have to ask... why the hell did you even buy the car if you're so negative about it? Did you test drive it before buying it?

3rd Jan 2012, 08:45

I'll call it a moment of madness. I was blinded by the fact that I wanted a convertible for the summer.

Anyway, I've since sold the car and gone back to Audi. Much better.

2001 SAAB 9-3 SE 2.0 turbo from North America


I am extremely upset by the infamous sludge crisis


Automatic climate control screen pixels died at 65,000.

Oil sludge and rod knock at 83,000.

General Comments:

This car was a beauty when it ran. Extremely fuel efficient, the interior is quirky yet very comfortable. I was surprised to find that for its fuel efficiency, this baby has some get up and go when the sport mode is activated. I'm not a big fan of the turbo lag, but it's to be expected...

What wasn't to be expected was that even though I changed the oil using Mobil 1 every 3,000 miles, and performed every recommended maintenance procedure from checking tire pressure to all fluid levels, to even sending out the automatic climate control screen to Sweden to have a few pixels repaired, out of nowhere my oil light begins to flicker before staying on, within 30 seconds the light comes on. I was no more than 5 minutes away from my home, so I continued driving, as I approached my driveway I noticed a ticking noise... long story short, the car currently has a rod knock.

As far as customer service goes, I contacted 2 dealers concerning the common oil sludge issue, but neither had any idea what I was talking about, and were concerned only with attempting to quickly set up an appointment to have it looked at. I even asked that they simply look at the paperwork if I fax it to them (5 page letter to Saab owners from "Saab Cars USA, inc."), but both refused when I could not give them an exact policy number. The letters state only that it is called the "special policy".

After contacting Saab directly using the 1-800 number on the letter, I was informed that the "special policy" coverage expired on Nov 11th of 2008; 8 years after my car was first put into service. Saab feels that they have no responsibility in fixing this err due to my Saab being outside of the time frame, and therefore my spontaneous rod knock could have come from a number of issues completely unrelated to faulty design.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 18th January, 2010

21st Jan 2010, 07:40

Out of warranty, don't know prior records, looking for a free engine, maybe this is why Saab needs a buyer.

21st Jan 2010, 12:39

I came across your story looking for news of the Saab sale/demise Jan 2010. I come from a "Saab family" and have followed the company since the '80's. Otherwise I have no connection to Saab or any other car company.

I'm sorry that your Saab 9-3 has the sludge issue. Had you been paying attention, you would have known that there were many service bulletins for your vehicle to fix it before the motor was ruined. Or, you could have inspected the motor directly to see if sludge is present (remove cam cover, remove oil pan). For added protection and peace of mind, there are even aftermarket parts out there, like a modified oil pan, that keep the motor safe (or safer) even when sludge is present.

Many modern autos have the sludge issue. Why? It is a huge challenge for automakers to design an efficient, powerful, low-emissions motor that is still cost-effective and reliable. Sometimes they don't work out so well. For instance, in its previous iterations, the Saab 4-cylinder turbocharged engines (especially the B235 variant) were considered indestructible! But they weren't especially fuel efficient or clean running. When your version (1999 to 2003, 9-3 and 9-5's) of the motor was conceived, a certain part of the recipe was lost and the sludge issue cropped up.

For the record, the current version in the 'new' 9-3 Sport Sedan and Sport Combi has seemed to find the right mix of power, smoothness, reliability, emissions, etc. No reason to dis this motor.

And finally, you wrote that you drove the car for 5+ miles with the Oil Pressure Warning Light ON? You killed a repairable motor with that move. And you are still asking Saab to fix your car?

21st Jan 2010, 14:07

If you drop the oil pan and inspect the bearings, you will be able to determine the extent of the damage. I have salvaged cranks that other people would have condemned. Using ultrafine sandpaper, you can clean up moderately scored journals and install new bearings. Clean the oil screen and change the oil using 5w-30 fully synthetic oil. If you remove the valve cover and the valve springs are caked in sludge, then look for another car. Spending several hundred dollars is a fraction of what a new car will cost.