Summer lovin’, Swedish-style.
by Marty Padgett
There’s a smorgasboard of four-seat convertibles out there, but for some reason, the 9-3 Convertible from Saab has its legions of gay fans who swear by its Ikea-kin design, its exclusivity, its turbocharged engines, and maybe, its ability to attract tall blond companionship?
Whatever the reasons, there’s reason to cheer this year, because the 2008 9-3 Convertible gets the same extensive renovation that the sedan and wagon models just received.
For 2008, there are really two Saab ragtops: the 2.0T is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 210 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is the standard gearbox, while a five-speed automatic is an option. The 2.0T also sports 16-inch wheels and standard tire pressure monitors.
For those times when four cylinders just looks small on paper, there’s the Aero. it spins out 255 horsepower from a turbo 2.8-liter V-6, and also twists out a usable 258 pound-feet of torque. The Aero gets a six-speed manual standard, while a six-speed automatic is optional. Saab promises 0-60 mph times of less than seven seconds in this version.
In either case, the Saab’s engine whistles while it works, putting the Convertible to highway speeds at a comfortable pace that’s a little more languid than BMW’s 335i Convertible or Volvo’s C70 four-seat convertible hardtop. In the Saab’s favor: that Aero six-speed automatic feels wired into your brain, the shifts are so instant and so well-timed.
To shore up its roofless structure, Saab took the design for the new sedan and wagon, and added stiffening agents in the windshield frame and pillars. It’s made good progress, but being a tall-sided car with no ceiling and potentially, five hundred pounds of beefy ballast in the back seat, the 9-3 Convertible isn’t quite as rigid as some of its Euro competition. A noticeable shiver here and there reminds you it’s more at home in Scandinavia than San Diego.
Inside, the 9-3’s cockpit has been tightened up and brushed up with metallic-plastic trim that looks smart. With light leather inside and a tan convertible top, the Swedened taste is just this side of heaven–the reverse of the black plastics in and BMW or Audi. The major controls are easy to reach and to use, and the Convertible sports a version of GM’s fine audio system, including Bose speakers, XM satellite radio, and a plug-in for your iPhone.
It might not be as sleek as the BMW and Audi convertibles, and it keeps a pace all its own. But when the top is down–and spring has finally sprung–the practical things get pushed to the back seat, and the Saab shines in a northern light all its own.
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