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First drive: Saab 9-3 Aero charges up

Bjorn again: A GM V6 - courtesy of Holden - now powers upscale Saabs.

Holden-built turbo V6 power and a six-speed auto boost the Saab 9-3 Aero's appeal

9 Dec 2005

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

The slightly revised 9-3 range, out this month, features a turbocharged V6engine courtesy of Holden's Engine Company in Port Melbourne.

Three 9-3 Aero variants receive it: the four-door sedan and two-doorconvertible, as well as a new four-door station wagon model dubbedSportCombi 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 scrollwater-cooled Mitsubishi TD04-15K turbocharger with a maximum boost pressureof 0.6 bar.

Running a 9.5:1 compression ratio, the 60-degree 2792cc double overhead cam24-valve V6 pumps out 184kW of power at 5500rpm.

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

In contrast the outgoing 9-3 Aero 2.0t model's torque figures, from a2.0-litre High Output four-cylinder engine, were 155kW at 5300rpm and 300Nmat 2300rpm respectively.

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

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

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

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

Stainless steel exhaust manifolds and specially tuned twin exhaustsintroduce a convoluted 'sporty' engine note exclusive to the Aero.

There have been other mechanical changes too.

38 center image A new electronic stability control device called ESP Plus has beenincorporated. Compared to before it now cuts in more progressively and athigher thresholds.

The 9-3 Aero's chassis and suspension has been 'retuned' for as 'sportierroad-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 arestyled steering wheel.

Saab hopes that one in five 9-3s sold in Australia will be the Aero V6. Thesuperseded 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 thesports-luxury Vector.

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

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

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

2006 Saab 9-3 Aero V6s pricing:Sports Sedan: $69,990
Sports Sedan: $72,400 (a)
Convertible: $89,900
Convertible: $92,400 (a)

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