If the noise wasn’t obvious enough, the massive sign-writing on either side of the car was sure to give it away. Saab have finally stepped out of their comfort zone and ventured into new technologies, creating vehicles powered by Diesel and 85% Ethanol.
Inside, the new Diesel Saab 9-3 range is much the same as a regular 9-3, the difference lies in the drivetrain. The new 1.9-litre Diesel motor is mated to either a six-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual gearbox. Fuel consumption figures achieved by the respective gearboxes are 5.9-litres/100km and 7.2-litres/100km. The torque’y new Diesel motor produces a commendable 320Nm of torque and 110kW’s of power, providing enough poke for day-to-day driving.
Driving a Diesel powered vehicle requires slightly more forethought, especially in the Saab’s case. Often Diesel’s suffer chronic bouts of turbo-lag, whereby you lay down the throttle and there is a momentary lapse before the turbo spools and things are in motion. The new Diesel in the Saab range is no exception, it suffers from quite a decent slab of turbo lag from a standing start, and as such; it became a bit tricky when power was required right away.
Through the bends, Saab’s new Diesel can be quite a hoot to drive if kept in its torque band. Acceleration is brisk and once the turbo is spooling, the car can be quite rewarding to drive. The six-speed automatic gearbox – optioned in the test vehicle – can be quite lifeless and irritating at times. It’s seldom in the right gear and doesn’t really know if it’s coming or going. If I was paying, I’d stick with the 6-speed manual version any day of the week.
Interior room – both front and rear – is quite generous, complying with the regular demands of family haulage. The 9-3 Linear Sport SportCombi being test driven features a groovy set of 17” alloy wheels, along with fog lights, electric driver’s seat and a sports tuned chassis. Other standard features include: Automatic climate control; leather seats; rear parking sensors; CD-player; rear fog light; leather bound steering wheel; electric windows; cruise control and rain sensing windscreen wipers.
Safety features include: Electronic Stability Program (ESP); ABS Brakes; Cornering Brake Control (CBC); Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD); driver and front passenger airbags; front seat side airbags; roof rail airbags and pre-tensioning seatbelts.
The new Saab Diesel range starts from $44,900 for the 9-3 TiD Linear Sport Sedan and then moves on to $47,400 for the 9-3 TiD Linear Sport SportCombi and finally ends with the 9-3 TiD Linear Sport Convertible at $67,400. Automatic gearboxes are available across the range for an additional $3,000.
This new Saab Diesel is a good thing. It’s pretty quiet inside the cabin and the handling characteristics are good enough to correlate to a sporty drive. The six-speed automatic gearbox is nothing special and can be quite frustrating at times, so save your dollars (all 3000 of them) and stick with the slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.