- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

As summer winds down this week’s convertible caught the attention of on-lookers for its four seasons good looks. I’d like the Saab 9-3 to drive me through the fall and into spring.

The 9-3 convertible’s eye-catching appeal is drawn from the highly praised Aero X Concept car. With the top up or down, the 2009 Saab 9-3 has distinctive aerodynamic styling cues that make the four-seater look like it’s slicing the wind. The Saab 9-3 is also built in sedan and wagon models.

My 9-3 tester featured a 2.0-liter High Output turbocharged four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed manual transmission. The torque was tremendous, delivering 221 lb.-ft. of torque at just 2,500 rpms. Horsepower ratings are set at 210 at 5,500 rpms. The turbocharged I-4 has fuel ratings of 18/24 mpg.

Part of the enjoyment is shifting through the six-speed manual transmission. Each move of the gearshift lever is precise. Aided by its hearty torque, the convertible moves from a standing stop in a blink of an eye.

By simply holding down on a switch, the soft top folds neatly into a rear deck compartment. Push upward on that same switch and the compartment opens, the top comes up overhead and locks itself in place. It takes all of about 20 seconds.

The Saab 9-3 offers a lot more than just a convertible top for fair-weather driving. I would feel as comfortable in the Saab 9-3 convertible year-round as I would with any other front-wheel drive sedan.

The 2009 Saab 9-3 is offered with comfort features that make it enjoyable to drive during the colder months. The 9-3 has dual-zone automatic climate control, heated sideview mirrors, high-pressure headlamp washers, a multi-function car computer, and 150-watt AM/FM sound system with XM Satellite radio. Naturally, it has cruise control, power door locks and windows with front express down.

The passenger-side outside mirror has a good safety feature of a Wide Angle, allowing me to see cars that are way off to the side. In addition to the power door locks it also has a lockable glove box. The adjustable steering wheel is leather wrapped and has controls for the audio system.

The driver’s seat has eight-way controls and the center armrest contains a 12-volt system. The two-passenger rear seats are reasonably comfortable. And the 9-3 trunk has a decent amount of storage space.

My 9-3 tester had a base price of $39,590, but it came with loads of optional equipment, bringing the total to $45,680. Some of the highlights of those options included eight-way power for the front passenger’s seat, rear parking assist, fog lamps, as well as heated front seats for the cold weather.

Regarding safety equipment, the 9-3 has Electronic Stability Control, DynaCage with active rollover protection, side-impact airbags, active head restraints on the front seats, anti-lock brakes and traction control.

The Saab informs me their top-of-the-line Bose Centerpoint surround sound system compliments Saab’s turbocharged driving experience. Bose engineers worked with Saab designers to develop the 150-watt seven-speaker system, using special design analysis tools to take more than a thousand measurements inside the vehicle to assess the acoustic environment of the cabin.

The Saab 9-3 comes with a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty that includes courtesy transportation and roadside assistance and a no-charge scheduled maintenance warranty for 3 years/36,000 miles.

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