The 2008 Saab 9-3 line of vehicles offers multiple choices for the buyer. The convertible is available in two trim levels, the 2.0T ($38,965) and Aero ($44,920). The 2.0T is equipped with a 2-liter I4 producing 210 horsepower while the Aero has a 255 hp, 2.8-liter V6. The SportiCombi (wagon) comes in the same trim levels with the same engine choices at $28,885 and $35,520 respectively with the Sport Sedan 2.0T and Aero listing for $27,640 and $34,670.
Cosmetically, there are a lot of changes in the 9-3 for the coming model year, starting with a completely re-conceptualized front end (including clam shell hood) and a sleek side profile. The headlamps, door panels, and rear profiling have all been refreshed, giving the entire series a modern, aerodynamic look.
Since the 9-3 is responsible for about two-thirds of the maker's global sales, this is hardly a model Saab can afford to allow to grow stale, but even with the new good looks, that seems to be what's happening. Outside everything looks new and shiny, but under the hood it's same, same, same -- as in 2005 vintage. There will be an option for an all-wheel drive system called XWD, which is new for 2008. Going that route in the Aeros you can buck up to a turbo V6 pumping out 280 hp.
So the question for the buyer becomes, "Are sexy new looks all it takes to make me want this car?" The engine choices are strong, but there just may not be enough new here to make the Saab your vehicle of choice unless you already have allegiance to the brand. It's time for Saab to get in there and make some substantive changes to keep the 9-3 as competitive in the market as they need it to be.