Car reviews - Saab - 9-3 - 5-dr wagon range
6 Feb 2006
SAAB will finally add a mid-sized wagon to its product portfolio when the 9-3 SportCombi – the first all-new Saab to arrive Down Under since the current 9-3 convertible was released in October 2003 – is launched in Australia this week.
Priced from $45,400, Saab says the newest 9-3 derivative will carve a niche for itself among medium European wagons by being a stylish, award-winning 4WD alternative.
The curiously named SportCombi will be available in two turbocharged variants, opening with the 110kW/240Nm 2.0-litre Linear 1.8t, which is priced $5500 higher than the entry-level 9-3 Linear 1.8t sedan ($39,900) and $19,500 below the least expensive 9-3 convertible – the Linear 1.8t at $64,900. The five-speed auto version costs $47,500.
In line with the recently respecified 9-3 Linear sedan, the Linear SportCombi offers stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control, adaptive twin front airbags, front seat-mounted head/thorax side airbags, roof rail airbags, anti-submarining front and rear seats and Saab active head restraints, plus 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, automatic climate-control, a chilled glovebox and heated leather seats as standard.
A Linear Sport Pack, comprising Saab Parking Assistance, 17-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured body skirts, foglights and a power driver’s seat, is also available at $4000.
Other 9-3 SportCombi options include a power sunroof ($2000), bi-Xenon headlights with washers ($1500), metallic paint ($1200), anti-theft alarm ($750), Saab Parking Assistance ($750) and Sport Chassis ($500).
SportCombi introduces a new “hero” paint colour for Saab – Fusion Blue – and is also available in new Saab colours Jet Black and Arbor Green.
Top of the SportCombi tree is the 184kW 2.8-litre V6-powered Aero, which produces a healthy 350Nm of torque between 1800rpm and 4500rpm (with 90 per cent of its peak available from just 1500rpm).
Built by Holden in Port Melbourne, the SportCombi’s 60-degree twin-scroll turbo V6 is borrowed from the 9-3 Aero sedan and convertible, and was deemed worthy of mention in the Ward’s Auto (US) 10 Best Engine Awards for 2006.
It propels the SportCombi Aero manual from 0-100km/h in a spirited 6.4 seconds.
The 9-3 SportCombi Aero costs $72,400 as a six-speed manual and $74,900 in six-speed auto guise – about $2500 more than the 9-3 Aero sedan and $17,500 less than the 9-3 Aero convertible.
The Aero features new 17x7.5-inch five-spoke alloy wheels as standard, along with a new-generation ESP Plus stability control program, retuned suspension, twin sports exhaust outlets and a sports bodykit with matt chrome exterior highlights.
On sale from today (February 1), SportCombi is the first monospace-shaped medium Saab sold here since the previous-generation 9-3 five-door hatch was discontinued in November 2002.
A rival for European wagons like BMW’s 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-class, Audi’s A4, Alfa’s 156 Sportwagon, Peugeot’s 407 Touring, Renault’s Laguna and Volvo’s V50, it joins the MY2005 9-5 SportEstate (136kW 2.3t Linear: $64,400 184kW 2.3HOT Aero: $86,900) in Saab’s local wagon line-up.
Unlike in the UK and Europe, where SportCombi is expected to be the biggest-selling 9-3 derivative, Saab Australia has forecast just 200 sales in 2006.
Saab Australia and New Zealand director Ralph Stevenson says SportCombi has the potential to kick-start the premium, mid-size wagon market in Australia.
“SportCombi puts Saab into the premium, mid-size wagon segment for the first time, and at a great time. As the market changes, sport wagons have the potential to carve out a significant niche in Australia,” he said.
Presenting a distinctive wedge-shaped profile with a rising belt-line, Saab’s hallmark &lsquo.”
hockey stick”-shaped D-pillar and a single side window graphic, SportCombi’s large, high-mounted frosted LED rear “Ice” light lenses further emphasise its fastback styling.
Inside, flexibility is increased via a larger cargo area (419 litres with the rear seats in place or 1273 litres with them folded) dubbed TwinFloor, a lightweight alloy tailgate, a 60/40-split rear seat with ski-port and an optional flat-folding front passenger seat called Passfold.
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