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Car reviews - Saab - 9-3 - Aero range

Launch Story

Saab logo9 Dec 2005

By CHRIS HARRIS

SAAB is giving its core range a boost both literally and metaphorically.

The slightly revised 9-3 range, out this month, features a turbocharged V6 engine courtesy of Holden’s Engine Company in Port Melbourne.

Three 9-3 Aero variants receive it: the four-door sedan and two-door convertible, as well as a new four-door station wagon model dubbed SportCombi that’s due in Australia in the first quarter of next year.

At the heart of the Aero is a 2.8-litre V6 featuring a twin scroll water-cooled Mitsubishi TD04-15K turbocharger with a maximum boost pressure of 0.6 bar.

Running a 9.5:1 compression ratio, the 60-degree 2792cc double overhead cam 24-valve V6 pumps out 184kW of power at 5500rpm.

The 350Nm torque top peaks from 2000rpm to 4500rpm, with 90 per cent available at 1500rpm, aided by variable valve timing technology.

In contrast the outgoing 9-3 Aero 2.0t model’s torque figures, from a 2.0-litre High Output four-cylinder engine, were 155kW at 5300rpm and 300Nm at 2300rpm respectively.

As before, drive is directed to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.

But, for the Aero only for now, the old five-speed automatic transmission has been trashed for a new Aisin six-speed automatic gearbox with a sequential shift facility located on the steering wheel as well as within the gear lever assembly.

Saab says the Aero V6’s 0-100km/h-sprint time of 6.7 seconds makes it the fastest accelerating car it has ever built. In fourth gear the 60-100km/h time takes 6.2 seconds while 80 to 120km/h in fifth is the work of 7.9 seconds.

The turbo application is also a company-first with a V6 engine, and involved Swedish engineering input from the outset.

Stainless steel exhaust manifolds and specially tuned twin exhausts introduce a convoluted ‘sporty’ engine note exclusive to the Aero.

There have been other mechanical changes too.

A new electronic stability control device called ESP Plus has been incorporated. Compared to before it now cuts in more progressively and at higher thresholds.

The 9-3 Aero’s chassis and suspension has been ‘retuned’ for as ‘sportier road-hugging feel’ as well as to accommodate the heavier powerplant.

An increase in the ventilated brake package has also been carried out.

Visual references to the ’06 models are new-design alloy wheels and a restyled steering wheel.

Saab hopes that one in five 9-3s sold in Australia will be the Aero V6. The superseded Aero 2.0t accounted for 14 per cent in 2005.

The Aero V6’s arrival has led to a 9-3 rethink.

The 155kW 2.0t High Output four-cylinder engine is now reserved for the sports-luxury Vector.

The mid-range Arc continues with its 129kW/265Nm 2.0t while the 110kW/240Nm base-model Linear also remains the same mechanically.

The latter gains climate control and ESP but loses leather upholstery and alloy wheels unless the new ‘Linear Luxury’ model is specified.

Prices for all non-Aero V6 9-3s will be released in the new year.

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