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ROAD TEST REPORT

MOTORING & SERVICES

By Bob Hudson MIAME Vehicle Evaluation Engineer August

National Roads and Motorists' Association Limited

ABN 77 000 010 506

No. 667 Dec. 2002

trading as

NRMA Motoring & Services

SAAB 9-3 ARC Sport Sedan

2.0 Litre Automatic

FEATURES BEST

Safety and security standards Smooth responsive performance Good handing and braking

WORST

Firm ride around town Rear legroom a bit tight Brake dust quickly soils wheels with immobiliser, power windows and (heated) mirrors, steering wheel adjustable for height and reach, and a 60/40 split fold rear seat. The Arc adds leather upholstery and wood trim, and electric adjustments for the driver's seat. The Vector is more sports orientated with its sports-tuned suspension, its front, rear and side body skirts, and its heavily bolstered front seats. Though the new body and longer wheelbase have provided more space (shoulder room particularly), rear legroom is still tight if the front occupants have their seats set well back. Front occupants have ample leg space and headroom is good. Unlike the Vector's sports seats, I found that the Arc's front seats lacked good lateral support in the backrest and that the cushion was a bit short for good thigh support. Surprisingly, given that the Arc is more the luxury model (without the sports-tuned suspension of the Vector), its ride was quite firm and even choppy around town. However it did smooth out with the increased speed of open road conditions. Saab's long association and expertise with turbocharged engines shows through in the 9-3. The medium boost turbo engine in the Arc does an excellent job of combining lively performance with smooth, progressive response and quite good fuel economy. Even without its various stability and traction controls systems, the 9-3 would rate as a good handling car. However, it's nice to know that if conditions suddenly turn nasty, or if the driver makes a blunder, then these systems will combine to help you (within the laws of physics) to stay on the road. The 9-3's powerful braking system also adds to the safety package, providing very effective emergency stopping and good resistance to fade under heavy usage. The only downside is that brake dust quickly soils those nice alloy wheels. SUMMARY: There's no argument that the new 9-3 Sport Sedan is a far better vehicle than the outgoing 9-3 in so many ways, however some elements of its individuality seem to have been watered down under the influence of GM ownership. Some potential buyers may also lament the non-availability of a hatchback model with its extra versatility. Nevertheless, in the areas of safety, performance, driving dynamics, equipment and finish, the new Saab 9-3 stacks up quite well against its European opposition and it's a car that's definitely worth putting on the shopping list.

The Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan is the first all-new Saab since 1997, the first new product to be produced under GM ownership, and is a vastly improved and different vehicle. There certainly are plenty of changes in the 9-3 to justify an `all-new' tag. The body is stiffer, stronger and more stylish (it's based on a Vectra platform), there are new engines and transmissions, `best-ever' chassis dynamics, and a host of new safety and technological features. The Saab 9-3 was recently awarded a maximum five star rating in EuroNCAP crash tests. The new 9-3 adopts the same model names introduced with the 2002-series 9-5 models and they are the Linear, Arc and Vector. The high performance Aero badge stays, but this version won't arrive until later in 2003. Prices start at $48,900 for a manual Linear, a manual Arc costs $52,900 and the manual Vector costs $56,900. Automatic costs another $2,500 in all these models. The Aero will have an expected price of around $70,000-plus. The base Linear model is powered by a low pressure turbocharged 2.0 litre engine that produces 110 kW of power, while both the Arc and the Vector have a slightly higher boosted 2.0 litre engine that puts out 129 kW. The forthcoming Aero model will have 155 kW. The manual gearbox is a carryover (but upgraded) five-speed unit from the previous 93, but the automatic is a new five-speed adaptive unit with a Tiptronic-style manual shift. The Aero will have a six-speed manual. The new body sits on a longer wheelbase and wider tracks, which along with extensive chassis development as well, contributes to the new 9-3's much improved handling characteristics and the virtual elimination of torque steer. Key elements of the 9-3's chassis development (and its active safety package) include reduced unsprung weight through the use of aluminium suspension components and hollow anti-roll bars, a new four-link rear suspension with passive rear wheel steer, and suspension bushings tuned for high lateral stiffness. All 9-3s come with ESP (Electronic Stability Control), TCS (Traction Control System), CBC (Cornering Brake Control), as well as ABS (anti-lock brakes) and EBD (electronic brake force distribution). Though there is an extensive options list, standard equipment levels are comprehensive. All 9-3s get six airbags, Saab Active front head restraints, dual zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, remote central locking

SAAB 9-3 Arc Sport Sedan

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE: Type ....Four cylinder, in-line, DOHC, 16 valves Capacity in litres..................................... 1.998 Induction ............. Turbocharged, fuel injected Fuel recommendation............................ PULP Claimed max. power ...... 129 kW at 5500 rpm Claimed max. torque ...... 265 Nm at 2500 rpm Specific power output.................64.6 kW/litre TRANSMISSION: Type .............................. Five speed automatic Driving wheels ....................................... Front Speed per 1000 rpm in top gear....... 47.5 km/h WHEELS: ...................... Alloy, 6.5 x 16 inch TYRES: ......................Goodyear, 215/55 R16 Spare: ............................ Steel, matching size STEERING: Type ............... Power assisted rack and pinion Turns lock to lock....................................... 3.0 Turning circle (measured) .............10.9 metres DIMENSIONS: Mass ................................................... 1476 kg Length .............................................. 4635 mm Width (incl. mirrors 2038 mm) ........ 1762 mm Height............................................... 1466 mm Ground clearance (measured)............. 144 mm Seating capacity ............................................ 5 Fuel tank capacity............................... 62 litres TOWING: Max. towed mass (trailer plus load)........ 1600 kg Max. towball download (laden trailer) ... 75 kg NRMA THEFT RATING: Points on 0-110 scale (high score best) .... 71.5 WARRANTY: .........Three years, 100,000 km MANUFACTURED IN:.................... Sweden

TEST RESULTS

ACCELERATION: 50 - 80 km/h (in Drive)......................... 3.3 sec 60 -100 km/h (in Drive)........................ 5.2 sec 0 - 80 km/h ........................................... 6.4 sec 0 - 100 km/h ......................................... 9.3 sec 0 - 400 metres..................................... 16.7 sec FUEL CONSUMPTION (litres/100 km): Best recorded during testing....................... 8.0 Worst recorded during testing .................. 11.1 Average on test........................................... 9.9 BRAKING: Distance to stop from 80 km/h ......28.7 metres NOISE: Interior at constant 80 km/h.............. 67 dB(A)

· Test vehicle supplied by Saab Automobile

Australia Pty Ltd

Call NRMA Technical Advice on 1300 655 443, should you require additional information on this vehicle, on other makes, or for general advice on automotive matters.

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