2006 SAAB 9-3 2.0T 2.0L turbo from North America

Summary:

Safe and fun car to drive

Faults:

Before 1,000 miles, there were two incidents of engine almost stalling for 1 or 2 seconds while waiting at traffic lights. Nothing happened, and it never happened again. Possibly due to the run-in period.

At ~1,500 miles, one headlight seemed to have malfunctioned for a split second, and SID (Saab Information Display) informed me about it. Never happened again.

The alarm sporadically sounds off when I unlock only the trunk (and nothing else) and open the trunk lid. I have to unlock door(s) in order to turn it off. Later the SID would show me about that, which I already knew. I brought my car into the dealer twice (when I had oil changes at 10,000 and 20,000 miles services) to try to get this fixed, but the dealer failed to help and fix this problem.

The automatic door locks do not behave the way I preferred, and I requested help from dealer during my oil change appointments, but the issue still exists. I am not sure if this is by design (hopefully not), but it seems like the in-car computer (BCU?) is really hard to configure. I want the remote control to unlock driver's side door after pressing once on the unlock key and all doors after pressing the unlock key twice. (This used to work fine.) I also want to have all doors locked after I start driving the car, and when the car reaches a certain speed, and this has been configured as preferred (although it seems like the locking is triggered by RPM more than speed). In addition, I would like all doors to be unlocked when I turn off the engine and remove the key. This caused me to leave my car with the dealer for three days (one day to diagnose if the BCU (?) is malfunctioning and sending unlock signal to only driver's side of door, and two days to replace the BCU and reconfiguration). Now it works fine, but the unlock door remote control key does not work the way I want. It opens all doors now.

As mentioned by the survey "Multi-cultural Swedish performance", there is a very minor rattle noise at driver's side happening once in a while. I think it might be caused by the airbag (inflatable curtain).

General Comments:

I fell in love with Saab since 1995 when I first drove a 1988 Saab 900 Turbo in winter time. Driving on snow with it is like driving on regular pavement. I test drove a 2003 or 2004 Saab 93 convertible and loved the powertrain, so I started paying attention to it until I finally can afford it in 2006.

After I finally had it in 2006, I was having some difficult time getting used to it at first. The sudden power supply when passing in heavy traffic almost gave me an accident because I didn't realize it is so fast without realizing the turbo lag on this car is not obvious.

This is a very potent car for commuting. My routes to work involves uphills and downhills, and it handles with absolute ease. No sign of struggle at all.

The braking system is one of the best about this car. It brakes so smoothly, quietly and rapidly that you will tend not to hit the brakes until the last moment. Although the front rotors are much larger than the rear ones, there are much more braking dust in the rear than in the front. I asked about this of the dealer, and they just told me this car is designed this way. Unless the material is used differently for the front and rear brakes, I don't understand how this is done. I would be really interested in knowing the philosophy of this design.

I did not give "comfort" a full score because the suspension is a little bit too tight for speed bumps (that keep people driving slowly) even when driving slowly. The suspension holds road pretty well at turns (although I am no extreme driver) with a confident feel.

Although the rear seats look like having short leg room, they do have ample hip room to compensate rear seat passengers' comfort assuming they sit with proper posture.

Safety is the first reason I chose this car. Besides my objective feeling towards the handling of this car, IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has given Saab 93 the top safety pick award in consecutive years for its class. This is a feature more important than anything else to me, and that is why I always recommend this car to everyone I know.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 8th March, 2008

29th Aug 2008, 10:27

I have had none of the problems you have mentioned except for the rear wheels becoming caked with brake pad dust while the fronts remain clean. I have assumed that the different deposition rate is due to the location of the wheels. Perhaps the air flow is better around the front wheels thus "cleaning" them. I, also, will consider a Saab for my next car.

29th Jul 2009, 10:10

The alarm going off when the trunk is open is because the doors on the car are locked. The Saab 9-3 security was designed with one circuit, not two. In other words, if the circuit is closed on the doors (the doors are locked), the alarm is activated. When you open the trunk, if there is enough vibration it sets the alarm off since the trunk is not wired into the alarm system.

Unfortunately, this is a "bad" although intentional design by the Saab engineers, and has to be attributed to one of the "quirks" of the brand. I don't like it either, but I just unlock a door before opening the trunk - and the alarm does not go off at all anymore.

This explanation is available in the Saab maintenance book, any Saab dealer with a good repair staff should be able to tell you this.

2006 SAAB 9-3 2.0T 210hp turbo 4 cylinder from North America

Summary:

Multi-cultural Swedish performance

Faults:

CD-player quit one cold day at about ~12000 - replaced in two hours.

Pinch-guard on moon-roof malfunctioned ~13000 - two hour fix.

Auto-up on front passenger window malfunctioned ~13000 - two hour fix.

Indicator stalk sporadically worked (would not stay on when moved upward/downward slightly) ~5000 - replaced in two hours.

Rear-speakers quit suddenly ~14000 - loose wire connecting "Infotainment Plus" with amplifier two hour fix.

(note: all this comprised of three "unscheduled" dealer visits)

General Comments:

Well, I find this car quite satisfying and despite its minor faults within the first 15K miles, I am still happy with this machine. All the problems were promptly addressed by my dealer (upon notification). And all were covered by its 50K service warranty. I don't pay for oil-changes either.

A few things that are disappointing:

The steering wheel hands-free doesn't work (in N. America), and no-one at Saab USA let alone the dealer can give me a real reason (their response is "I don't know why"). That response is unacceptable from any manufacturer. Just today I got this answer again when enquiring about the 2008 model. Hondas and Hyundais can offer hands-free steering wheel controls via bluetooth. An obvious marketing failure by Saab/GM.

The CD-player does not play MP3 CDs. (not so on new models?)

No satellite radio (although this has been changed on newer models)

A bit of a rattle or noise in the driver door. (really not a problem)

The buzzing noise at initial start-up in wintertime.

I have the "Infotainment Plus" which is 170 watts. But performs like a system that has 50 watts, so poor factory speakers.

Otherwise a fine motor car: very fun to drive, nice seats, fast, great looks, good size/utility, good fuel economy, I really like the waffle air-vents (so does Cadillac as they 'adopted' them), safe, I like all the buttons on the dash - which ended with the 06 edition (it gives the cock-pit feeling, good marketing if you are still trying to connect the Svenska Aeroplan Aktie-Bolaget with cars), good handling and response et al.

The quality issues are that of a European car really and appear only minor assembly issues. Audi, Mercedes and BMW are the same, and Saab addresses them the same way, with their service warranty. I am strongly considering another, as this service warranty negates any quality concerns I have. My opinion and many reviews suggest Saab quality appears improving with the years.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 6th March, 2008

29th Jul 2009, 10:06

The "hands free" does not work in the USA because it is a European system that is not available in the United States (and no, it is not GSM which is offered by AT&T). Saab did not bother to build a second system for the USA since its sales volumes did not justify it.

Perhaps their sales will increase enough in a couple of years with the new 9-5, new 9-4, and new 9-3 if the economy turns around. Then they can support hands free in the US.