ⓘ Saab 9-3

Saab 9-3

ⓘ Saab 9-3

The Saab 9-3 is a compact executive car that was originally developed and manufactured by the Swedish automaker Saab.

The 9-3 was first based on the GM2900 platform and subsequently changed to the GM Epsilon platform. Other vehicles using this platform included the Opel Vectra and Cadillac BLS. Saabs last owners, National Electric Vehicle Sweden NEVS were assembling the 9-3 sedan saloon as Saabs only model.


1. Overview

The car was badged as 9 3 starting in the 1998 model year, when Saab revised the naming strategy of their small car to match that of the larger 9 5. The model was advertised as 9-3, pronounced as "nine three". The Saab 9-3 was launched in 1997 for the 1998 model year essentially as a rebadged 2nd Generation Saab 900 1994–1997 model, and succeeded by a redesigned 9-3 for the 2003 model year. It is not to be confused with the Saab 93, pronounced "ninety three", which was a car produced by Saab from 1955 to 1960.


2. First generation 1998–2002/3

The first generation 9-3, an updated Saab 900 NG was launched in 1998 for the 1999 model year. It was known to enthusiasts as the OG 9-3 old generation and internally as body style 9400. It continued as a full line through the 2002 model year. In 2003, Saab produced only the convertible model of this line – other models were replaced by the second generation 9-3. Saab claimed that 1.100 changes were made, including a revised suspension in an attempt to tighten up the handling characteristics of its predecessor, the Saab 900 1994–1998 model. It featured revised styling with some models receiving a black rear spoiler and removed Saabs trademark underbody mounted "snow & gravel flaps". It was available as a three or five-door hatchback, and as a two-door convertible. It was the last small Saab to use the companys H engine. Improvements over the Saab 900 NG included better crashworthiness with more extensive A-pillar reinforcements, stronger door sills and frames, standard torso/head side-airbags and Saab Active Head Restraints. Other notable changes were stronger AC compressor and a switch to an hydraulically operated convertible top instead of electric.

The 9-3 was available with a new variant of the B204 engine B204E, 154 hp 115 kW), a low pressure turbo LPT engine based on the B204L used in the last generation Saab 900. For the U.S. market, all 9-3s received turbocharged petrol engines with the "full pressure turbo" B204L, 185 hp 138 kW) as the standard offering, and a "HOT" B204R, 200 hp variant in the SE models for the 1999 model year. The 2000 model year saw a revision from SAABs Trionic T5.5 to Trionic 7 engine management system. The T7 based engines were the B205L with 185 hp 138 kW and the B205R HOT engine with 205 hp 153 kW. The first generation 9-3 was also the first Saab available with a diesel engine, a unit also found in the Opel Vectra, Astra G, Signum, Zafira A. Unlike the Saab 900 NG, the 9-3 is fitted with a CAN bus like the Saab 9-5.

A Saab innovation is the Night Panel, carried over from the Saab 900, which permits dousing of the instrument panel lighting, except for essential information, for less distraction when night driving.

A total of 326.370 first generation 9-3s were built.


2.1. First generation 1998–2002/3 Saab 9-3 Viggen

A high-powered version of the Saab 9-3, the "Viggen" English: Thunderbolt, was marketed from 1999 to 2002. It was named after the Saab 37 Viggen aircraft.

The Viggen included a turbocharged 2.3 L engine B235R. Initially it was rated at 225 bhp 168 kW; 228 PS and later at 230 bhp 172 kW; 233 PS on 1.0 bar 15 psi of boost from its Mitsubishi TD04-HL15-5 turbocharger. The cars were equipped with a higher capacity intercooler, performance tuned ECU, flow through muffler and tip, heavy duty clutch and pressure plate, stiffened and lowered springs, firmer dampers, as well as stronger CV joints and driveshafts.

In 1999, the Viggen was the first 9-3 to use Saabs Trionic 7 engine management system. The 2001 model year introduced a Traction Control System TCS. The TCS was later made available in the SE line.

The car featured a rear wing that required relocating the radio antenna, aerodynamically designed bumpers and side skirts, special bolstered and colored leather seats in four colors: black with black inserts charcoal, black with blue inserts deep blue, black with orange inserts flame ochre, or tan with tan inserts), sportier suspension, as well as bigger wheels and upgraded brakes.

The Viggen was only available with a five-speed manual transmission, CD player, power moonroof, and what were initially Viggen-specific motorised and heated leather seats with the Viggen delta logo embossed in the backrest; these were later also available in the Aero model U.S. market SE model without the embossed Viggen logo. Some colors featured carbon-fibre interior trim from its introduction to the middle of the 2001 model year. Cars built afterward came with a less expensive printed gray pattern for the dash and standard trim.

New buyers of Viggens in the U.S. were offered two days of advanced driving instruction at Road Atlanta and an opportunity to dine with Saab USA executives from nearby Norcross, Georgia.

Some motoring journalists were critical of untamed torque steer in low gears.


2.2. First generation 1998–2002/3 Production summary

A total of 4.600 Viggens were manufactured until production ended in June 2002; of which 500 units were produced for the UK market. For 1999, 426 3-door Viggens were imported into the U.S.; of those 420 were blue, 2 were silver, 2 were Monte Carlo yellow, and 2 were black.


2.3. First generation 1998–2002/3 First generation 9-3 engines

Other than the diesel engines, all the first generation engines were versions of the Saab H engine. Other than the Saab 9-5, the first generation 9-3 was the last to utilise this all Saab DOHC 16-valve Fuel Injection design. The Non-Turbo models use a Distributor, and Leads to each Spark Plug, while the Turbocharged engines utilise Saabs Trionic engine management system which works hand in hand with the Direct Ignition Module or Cassette mounted to the top of the engine, directly connecting to the spark plugs. Trionic 5 was used on the B204 Engines, and Trionic 7 was introduced with the B2x5 Engines. The later two technologies were migrated into other GM products during the ten years that GM controlled Saab. All of the engines, other than the normally aspirated version and the low-pressure turbo, had high specific power outputs. The B205R generated 102.5 horsepower 76.4 kW per litre and 210 lb⋅ft 285 N⋅m of torque.


  • Turbochargers used: B204E, B204L: Garrett T25; B204R, B205E & B205L: Garrett GT17; B205R & B235R: MHI TD04-HL15T with 5 cm? exhaust port.
  • The primary differences between the B205L and the B205R are the upgrade to the TD04-HL15T turbo from the GT17 and the ECU tuning.
  • The Primary differences between the B204E and the B204L are with the use of a Boost Pressure Control Valve and the ECU tuning.
  • The primary differences between the B204L and the B204R are with the intercooler and the ECU tuning.

3. Second generation 2002–2014

The second-generation 9-3 was launched in January 2002, at the North American International Auto Show for MY03. Originally, the 9-3 was due to debut with the Opel Vectra in October 2001, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but in July 2001, it was announced that delays had forced General Motors to postpone the introduction. Both cars were eventually introduced in March 2002, at the Geneva Motor Show. The convertible version of the second-generation 9-3 began with the MY04, and SportCombi with MY05.

The new 9-3, like all other Saabs, remained a front-wheel drive car. The most drastic change from the former generation was the elimination of the hatchback design. The second-generation 9-3 was available as a four-door saloon, an estate, and a two-door convertible introduced in 2004. It included Saab Active Head Restraints SAHR II to reduce whiplash and ReAxs, a passive rear wheel steering design and passive toe-in to help reduce understeer under heavy braking.

The new 9-3 departed from the EcoPower engine used previously for a new 2.0 L inline-four engine Ecotec engine from General Motors for the petrol powered models. There are three different versions of the turbocharged inline-four, with the amount of turbo boost determining the power output. The 150 hp 112 kW version 1.8t was standard in the non-U.S. market Linear form trim-level. The 175 hp 130 kW version 2.0t was standard in U.S. market Linear or non-U.S. market Vector form, mated with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed Sentronic which is a traditional automatic, not to be confused with SAABs earlier Sensonic which was a manual transmission which allowed for shifting without a clutch pedal. The 210 horsepower 2.0T B207R engine was available in both the Arc and Vector forms, and as the Aero in Australia and the United Kingdom. In 2003 Aero, Arc, Linear and Vector models, the standard manual transmission was a 5-speed gearbox with the 6 speed a £200 optional extra UK market price. 6-speed manual was standard on U.S. Vector models.

The 9-3 and the Opel Vectra were the first of the global GM Epsilon platform, which was then lengthened to accommodate four new cousins, the Chevrolet Malibu/Malibu Maxx, the Pontiac G6, and the Saturn Aura. A proprietary fiber-optic electric/electronic system, the possibility of AWD exploited from 2008 on, dubbed Saab XWD, and ReAxs as described above, are just a few of the features exclusive to the 9-3. On February 22, 2012, the final 47 Saabs were built. They were all 9-3 Independence Edition convertible models built by one of Swedens largest car dealers, ANA, in Trollhattan.

There were 21 LHD cars, and 26 RHD ones. The final Saab was a Saab 9-3 Aero Independence Edition TTiD convertible.


3.1. Second generation 2002–2014 Second-generation 9-3 engines

Note: Diesel, biopower and certain petrol engines were not available in North America. Starting from late 2004 diesel engines are Fiat-sourced common rail units.


3.2. Second generation 2002–2014 2004

The Vector form was replaced with the Aero in the USA. In addition, the Arc received the 5-speed manual in place of the 6-speed. In the UK 210 horsepower 2.0T was also available as the 6 speed manual 9-3 Aero.


3.3. Second generation 2002–2014 2006

A new V6 engine was introduced. A new 2.8-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder was also added for 2006 along with an improved 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produced 35 more horsepower. The 4-cylinder option had 12.3 psi maximum turbo boost pressure and turned out 210 hp 157 kW, while the 6-cylinder had 8.7 psi boost and turned out 250 hp 190 kW. In certain markets, like Switzerland, a 230 hp variant of the 6-cylinder was also offered in Vector trim. The 2.0-litre 16-valve turbo four-cylinder model was marketed in the United States as the 2.0T, replacing the Linear and Arc models sold until the 2005 model year. The United States 2.0T version was similar to the 2005 Arc except for U.S. Linear wheels were used. The Linear and Arc versions continued to be sold in most other countries. A special "20 Years Edition Aero Convertible" for the American market was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2006 to celebrate 20 years since the introduction of the Saab 900 convertible. All 20 Years Edition Aero Convertibles were offered in metallic electric blue.


3.4. Second generation 2002–2014 2007

The dashboard was revamped for 2007, with the Saab Information Display moved from its high mounted position to the main instrument binnacle. The button-heavy climate control system disappeared, replaced by the Saab 9-5 climate control system, OnStar was re-introduced and required when Nav was ordered in North America, and the corporate GM head unit debuted, which allowed for satellite radio and MP3 CD capability. The suspension went from harsh to firm, and the cabin was quietened. Steel Gray was also replaced with Titan Gray as an exterior color choice. In the U.S. market, only the 210 hp 2.0-liter 16-valve turbo engine and the 250 hp 2.8-litre V-6 turbo were available. The manual transmission in the 2.0 model was changed from a 5-speed to a 6-speed.

A 60th Anniversary Edition was also offered for sedan, wagon and convertible body styles for 2007 to celebrate 60 years of SAAB. The package was available on 2.0T cars, and included unique five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, black leather sport seats with grey inserts and SAAB embossments on the front seats, dark walnut trim, black floormats with grey binding, front fog lamps and a BOSE audio system with 6-disc CD changer and satellite radio. Sedan and convertible models also received trunk-lid spoilers. An Ice Blue metallic paint was offered for the edition, as well as standard SAAB paint colors. 60th Anniversary Edition sedans were offered for US$24.820, SportCombi wagons for US$30.065, and US$40.065 for convertibles.


3.5. Second generation 2002–2014 2008 facelift

Saab claimed over 2000 changes were made to model year 2008 cars. The 2008 range, first presented at the Saab Festival in Trollhattan, Sweden June 10, 2007 included new frontal styling inspired by the Saab Aero-X and Saab 9-2X, Saabs first use of LED "signature" lighting in the revised headlamps, new door panels, a new clamshell bonnet, new rear bumper, and frosted "ice block" rear lamps. Black replaced charcoal gray as an interior color choice. Snow Silver became a new exterior color. The 2.8T V6 powering the Aero models received a mild output boost from 250 hp to 255 hp. Some additional exterior modifications are available on the limited-edition XWD 280 hp 209 kW 9-3 Turbo X, presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show 9/07. The Turbo X made its North American debut at the New England Auto show in late November. Saab also released an all-wheel-drive version of the Aero, with the system dubbed "XWD", in March 2008.


3.6. Second generation 2002–2014 Saab Turbo X

It was made to celebrate SAABs 30 years of turbocharging. All Turbo X were offered in metallic jet black with matte grey trim. The Turbo X is SAABs first production car with the XWD all-wheel drive system from Haldex Traction and eLSD. It is powered by a 2.8-litre V6 producing 280 PS 210 kW mated to a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. It has larger brakes as well as stiffer springs and shocks. The dash, shift lever and door panels have carbon fiber look and the turbo boost gauge draws its inspiration from the Saab 900.


3.7. Second generation 2002–2014 2009

The 2009 9-3 series expands the trim levels while dropping the limited-edition Turbo X saloon and estate from the lineup. The 2.0T and Aero saloon and estate models are now available with Saabs all-wheel drive XWD. The convertible range lacked the all-wheel-drive option. The 2009 Saab 9-3 was mostly unchanged from the 2008 model, although the Aero trim level came standard with the XWD system, eLSD, and 280-horsepower power increase, all formerly reserved for the discontinued Turbo X. During 2009 the 9-3X was launched at the Geneva auto show. The 9-3X is a four-wheel-drive XUV version of the 9-3 SportWagon. The new 9-3X came with two engine choices: the 1.9-litre diesel producing 180 bhp and the 2.0-litre petrol motor producing the 210 bhp. Only the 2.0L petrol engine is equipped with the XWD while the diesel version is available only with front-wheel-drive.


3.8. Second generation 2002–2014 2010

For 2010, the Saab 9-3 Aeros turbocharged V6 was eliminated. All models used the 2.0-liter turbo-4.


3.9. Second generation 2002–2014 Saab 9-3 Aero Carlsson

2010 marked the 50th anniversary of Erik Carlssons first win for Saab on the RAC Rally in a Saab 96. A limited edition of 96 Aero Carlsson 9-3 was released priced at £26.495. The 9-3 Aero Carlsson features Saabs cross wheel drive XWD system, a turbocharged engine, 2.8 litre V6 producing 280 hp and 400Nm of torque through a 6-speed automatic sentronic gearbox.


3.10. Second generation 2002–2014 Saab 9-3 ePower

The Saab 9-3 ePower electric car was unveiled at the 2010 Paris Motor Show and became Saabs first electric vehicle. The ePower concept car is based on the 9-3 SportWagon, has a 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack, a top speed of 150 km/h 93 mph, and an estimated driving range of 200 km 120 mi. Saab had scheduled to run a two-year trial with 70 ePower demonstrators in Sweden by late 2011. The new owner of the Saab estate, National Electric Vehicle Sweden, initially stated that they intended to start producing the all-electric 9-3 ePower to be launched in China by late 2013 or early 2014.

The production version was slated to be unveiled at the 2014 Frankfurt Motor Show and market launch for 2015. In April 2014 NEVS began production of a batch of 200 units to be tested in Qingdao, China by mid-2014. After the test, sales are scheduled to begin in Sweden in 2015.


3.11. Second generation 2002–2014 2011–2012

The 9-3 received some revisions in 2011 for the 2012 model year. Changes were in the engine range with an overall reduction in diesel and petrol engine fuel consumption of 12% and 7% respectively. An entry-level 163 hp, 2.0-litre gasoline/BioPower engine was added for 9-3 saloon, estate, and 9-3X models with Saab XWD. Other changes included rear badging in line with all new Saab 9-5 saloon, ice block style headlights, New bumper design, titanium metallic effect trim around instrument panel, gearshift, doors and glove box. Aero gets graphite fiber effect. Contrast stitching on leather upholstery.

In most markets, car was badged Griffin. The three-spoke alloy wheel returned in 16- to 18-inch choices. An "Independence Edition" convertible was released with a total of 366 units to commemorate the first anniversary of the sale to Spyker Cars.


3.12. Second generation 2002–2014 2014 NEVS

National Electric Vehicle Sweden NEVS restarted production of the Saab 9-3 Aero Sedan MY14 on December 2, 2013 in Saabs former Trollhattan assembly plant. The only exterior difference on the MY14 model is the lack of the Griffin badge, to which NEVS does not own the rights. The Griffin is replaced with a badge displaying the Saab logotype, as well as new seats. The 9-3 Aero MY14 features a 220-horsepower 2.0-liter direct-injected twin-scroll turbocharged engine and went on sale in Sweden on December 10. The first cars were to delivered in Spring 2014 as a "Limited Edition" model. Only two colors were available, black and Silver.

The 9-3 no longer meets the latest Euro NCAP tests regarding pedestrian safety; therefore, only 1.000 cars of each body model could be sold in Europe, as a low-volume manufacturer. The only other market was China. An electric version was to be launched in spring 2014 in the Chinese market.

The updated 9-3 have been tested favourably by motoring magazines. Vi Bilagare wrote that it feels modern and feels sporty yet comfortable.

Saab automobile production ended as of May 2014 because Qingbo Investment, one of NEVS shareholders, was not able to reach a financing agreement. By the end of 2014, Indias Mahindra & Mahindra agreed to buy a majority stake in NEVS. In February 2015, it was announced that the remaining 100 cars that were stuck on the halted production line since May 2014 would be completed.

Production of the electric 9-3 was started in 2019.


4. Third generation

Work on a third generation Saab 9-3 started in 2007, when designers in General Motors facilities in Russelsheim and Detroit began work on a design study. The design language was supervised by Simon Padian, and the design team managed to produce a clay model and several computer models before General Motors announced it had put the Saab brand "under review" in December 2008.

After an intended sale of Saab to Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg ultimately failed in 2009, General Motors reached an agreement with Dutch manufacturer Spyker N.V. in January 2010. The sale of Saab to Spyker was completed in late February 2010 and work on a replacement for the 9-3 was restarted virtually immediately. The new management of Saab, headed by CEO Victor Muller, felt, however, that a new design language was needed to distance a newly independent Saab from General Motors.

Muller hired Jason Castriota in June 2010 to work on a scalable car platform that would serve as the basis for future Saabs, beginning with the replacement for the 9-3. In October 2010 a number of prototypes were produced and evaluated against the prototypes made in 2007. Eventually, Castriotas prototype was chosen and the design team was instructed to develop a five-door combi coupe, a convertible and a crossover on the new platform.

The work on the new platform culminated in the unveiling of the Saab PhoeniX concept car at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2011. By that time, Saab had run into serious cash flow problems, but work on the PhoeniX platform and the 9-3 replacement continued, even when Saab went into voluntary reconstruction in September 2011. The replacement of the 9-3, which had been renamed 900 by that time, was to have 1.6 liter turbo engine supplied by BMW, which was also to supply the cars start-stop system. The car was to have a hybrid drivetrain and was to be released in both a premium Aero and an economy Vector variant.

When Saab finally filed for bankruptcy in December 2011, Castriota and his team had finished most work on the cars body and its engineering, with the interior remaining the last hurdle before completing the car, which was planned for Fall 2012. The main assets of the bankrupt company were acquired by National Electric Vehicle Sweden NEVS, which may revisit the PhoeniX platform. NEVS was focusing its efforts on producing an electric variant of the second generation 9-3.


5. Awards


  • Saab 9-3 received an award as the most reliable vehicle in the middle class. With 50.000 km, 93.1% of Saabs showed no defect requiring the service and for the 100.000 km, this percentage is still respectable and is 84.2%.


  • Wards 10 Best Engines 2.8L V-6 Turbo