We wish we could tell you more about the XWD all-wheel-drive system, but the fact is, we were only in the demonstrator vehicle for a couple of minutes, testing the car's abilities through a full-throttle slalom course where it worked beautifully.
The rest of the time, we were in a front-wheel-drive 9-3 Aero V6, with its dazzling new looks in jet black and 10 more horsepower than the previous 9-3. We could feel the extra power through the six-speed automatic transmission, a transmission we left under manual control pretty much all day long so we could use the shifter paddles on the steering wheel.
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. Saab says this engine will propel the new 9-3 from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds, and it certainly feels strong and sounds good doing it. One of the 2157 changes Saab boasts is the addition of a quiet package standard on all models, so the car definitely sounds more refined than before.
The dynamics of the new 9-3 are very similar to the outgoing model, because nothing major has been changed. The body and chassis are extremely stiff. The suspension is nicely isolated and very good in handing terms, with built-in rear-steering. The steering is both light and quick, the brakes are very big for the car's size and weight, very powerful and highly resistant to fade.
Driving this car, with all of its chassis, suspension and electronic aids, is a pleasure because it responds so quickly and so well over bumps, into holes, around corners and over rises. Driving on freeways, the 9-3 just settles down quietly and lets you listen to the music.