in 2009 Upscale Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,213 - $16,259
Original MSRP: $30,360 - $51,330
MPG: 15 City / 24 Hwy
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2009 Saab 9-3 Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

According to the majority of reviewers, the 2009 Saab 9-3 is a peppy performer that maneuvers well.

  • "Both the 2.0T and the turbocharged V6 deliver adequate power, but performance is nothing special for this class. Models with Saab's XWD system are more capable. ... But even with the additional grip and power, the 9-3 Aero isn't hard-edged enough to be considered a true sport sedan or wagon." -- Edmunds
  • "Feels agile and is rewarding to drive vigorously. At the same time, it remains comfortable for long-distance cruising." -- Forbes
  • "Some shoppers gravitate toward the Saab 9-3 partly because of its 'stealth' personality; it delivers more in performance and handling than its straight-forward appearance suggests." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers discover the 9-3 delivers pleasing power regardless of which engine you choose, and any of the three transmission options match well for a quick turbocharged ride. But the impressive engine power results in lower fuel efficiency, and the 9-3 has one of the lowest MPG ratings of the class. The EPA rates the 9-3 between 15 and 16 mpg in the city and 24 and 26 mpg on the highway.

  • "2.0T models are fairly quick, but launch response is dulled by turbo lag. Passing reserves are impressive, though. The Aero's V6 feels stronger overall; its automatic transmission is quick to kick down for summoning more power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Saab's manual gearbox ranks among the best for easy shifting." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The turbocharged V6 may be small by competitive standards at only 2.8 liters, but, at just under nine pounds of boost, it is a model of efficiency, smoothly and quietly bringing the power on and keeping it on until it runs out of revs." -- New Car Test Drive

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Saab 9-3's driving dynamics are acceptable, with the car's power-assisted rack and pinion steering receives the most favorable reviews.

  • "The handling was crisp, even with a bit of numbness from a steering wheel." -- The Boston Globe
  • "All 9-3s are firm and poised, but 2.0T are more compliant over bumps. ... The steering is precise, though some drivers might prefer a heavier feel. The 2.0T is nimble, with good grip and balance in turns, but the Aero offers a bit better grip and response." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 9-3's ride is smooth and quiet over smooth surfaces, but the suspension loses composure on bumpy pavement. Steering is light and accurate, but body roll around corners is excessive, even on the trim levels with the lowered, sport-tuned chassis." -- Edmunds
  • "The brakes are very big for the car's size and weight, very powerful and highly resistant to fade." -- New Car Test Drive

All-wheel Drive

Test drivers describe the 9-3's relatively new all-wheel drive system, called cross-wheel drive (XWD), as sophisticated. XWD is an option for the Aero trim.

  • "It sounds impressive on paper, but even the brief demo we experienced on a grassy field in suburban was compelling. Grip was immediate and highly controllable, as well as completely transparent and absent of any buzzing, abrupt changes in attitude or intrusive braking from the stability control system. Nice." -- Popular Mechanics