SAAB 9-3 model history

by André Braß, Unna

1998 entered the big Saab stage on 9-3. With changes from over 1.100 parts one could not speak of a small model maintenance of the unhappy 900 of the second generation, but rather of a new car. Externally, the Saab designers took care of Einar Johan Hareide, especially the front and rear end.

Saab 9 3 Aero Coupe

The front end received the new grille of the previously presented Saab 9-5 with, compared to the previous version, slightly wider lines and a central bar with indicated aircraft shape, which again and again found in some form over the decades since the company was founded.

This emphasis on the commonality between the models followed a Saab tradition. Even the early 9000 shared the front view with the first 900 (first with the straight, later with the oblique snout), and later the 900 of the second generation with the later 9000. Compared to the second-generation 900, whose design was developed by Björn Envall (the designer of the 99 Combi Coupe, the 900 or the first EV-1 concept car, for example), the front bumper design has also changed.

Furthermore, they followed the Saab innovation that after bumping up to 8 km / h, they returned to their original form, as they once debuted in the 99. In the back, the license plate space moved between the lights, which were given a new color scheme (based on 9000 and 9-5).

Rear-end Saab 9-3 with many changes to its predecessor

The 9-3 was in the body forms Hatchback sedan, coupe and convertible. The convertible was one of the few four-seaters on the market. While the sedan and the coupe, especially in Trollhättan ran off the line, the convertible was manufactured in Uusikaupunki, Finland.

Inside, the 9-3 took over the tachograph with the asymmetrically structured speed scale up to 140 km / h from the 9-5. The idea behind this wide tachometer scale was that the readability in this speed range was improved. In addition, the driver should be tempted to be a bit slower on the way (with the position of the tachometer needle at 140 km / h would be faster at a "normal" scale faster).

Furthermore, there was the "Night Panel", with the operation of all unneeded displays except the tachometer are hidden so as not to distract the driver's view at night unnecessarily off the road. The constant safety thinking was again shown in detail here. The tacho lighting then only goes back to the described 140 km / h mark. Only when the driver accelerates the car above this mark, the rest of the scale shows.

In addition to airbags in the steering wheel and in the passenger area, airbags are also found in the side seats of the front seats, which inflate up to the head. In addition, the 9-3 also received front seats with active head restraint (SAHR, Saab Active Head Restraints), which in the event of an impact to catch the back-hurling head early and thus prevent serious injury. Side impact protection in the doors and a shape of the seats, which prevents slipping under the belt in case of accident (anti-submarining), were already mandatory at Saab and also found their way into the 9-3. In addition, there were on all seats (5 in coupe and sedan, 4 in convertible) three-point seat belts.

Saab 9-3 as 5-door, also belongs to Marco

In the engines Saab again put on its proven two-liter petrol engine with 130 PS or turbo with 185 PS. In the first year, the 2.3 naturally aspirated engine with 150 PS could also be ordered. Thereafter, this engine was replaced by an 2.0 liter turbo with 154 PS. After changing the engine management from Trionic 5 to Trionic 7 this variant came on 150 PS.
Premiere celebrated the first diesel engine in a Saab. The 2.2 liter diesel with initially 115 and later 125 PS was a rough fellow, but at the same time a reliable endurance runner, but nowadays increasingly eradicated by environmental zones (unless the owner has invested early in a particulate filter retrofit solution that is no longer available today is).

The entry-level model was 1998 the 9-3 Coupe with the two-liter basic gasoline engine. It cost in the smallest equipment new 37.950 DM (= 19.404 Euro). The most expensive closed variant was 1998 the five-door with the 185 PS turbo engine. The higher equipment line SE included 59.950 DM (= 30.652 Euro) in the list. The most expensive way to drive a 1998-9 3 was as a convertible with the 185 PS turbo engine and the SE equipment. Then at least 72.250 DM (= 36.941 Euro) were due and the 80.000 DM brand was to break through with a few extras in addition to the rich features.

But with this engine and equipment offer it did not remain. In addition to a brief guest appearance of an 200 PS turbomort in model year 1999, Saab 1999 moved to model year 2000 the Aero, which got a two-liter turbo engine with 205 PS. There were also other front, side and rear aprons. Inside sports seats were installed.

Saab 9-3 Viggen

1999 also saw the arrival of a car that seamlessly joined the great Saab tradition of 99 Turbo and 900 Turbo S rioting vehicles, the Viggen. He celebrated his world premiere in March 1999 in New York and his European premiere in April 1999 in Leipzig. The Viggen received the well-known 2.3 liter turbo engine (from 9000 and 9-5) with 225 PS (later 230 PS). Externally, the Viggen got other bumpers front and rear, as well as other side skirts. This package gave the car a very chic and timeless exterior that still looks fresh today. Incidentally, it also lowered the drag coefficient of the car. For model year 2001 also the Aero got the optics of the Viggen (with the exception of the rear wing), as well as later the Last Edition of the convertible. Inside, there were new sports seats for the Viggen, which continued Saab's strength from superb seats. They also later found their way into the Aero.

Over the years, there were several special models. These included the Force, Sport Edition, Anniversairy, Design Edition or Last Edition models.

The 9-3 was again a success for Saab. After about 5 years ended at the 08.05.2002 the production of the 9-3 as a sedan and coupe in Trollhättan. The convertible was also built in Finland 2003 (as well as a few closed models for Scandinavia). Altogether 433.445 vehicles were produced in the short time. With the 9-3 of the first generation, the Saab tradition of the Combi-Coupe called practical hatchback, which was presented in 1973 with the 99 in August, formally continued and further developed over the 900 of the first and the second generation, as well as the 9000 has been. The successor was only available as a conventional sedan or station wagon (and of course convertible).

The 9-3 took the same path as the 9000, which was often overlooked as a mere everyday car. Good and well maintained specimens are always harder to find. Specially well-maintained Aero or Viggen models have become scarce and are being sought. A critical eye and special care should owners or interested parties of an 9-3 in the growing age, for example, the struts dedicate, the too early to bum. Overall, however, the 9-3 are reliable vehicles that - good care provided - in the best Saab meaning accompany miles and miles and prepare pleasure.

Pictures: Saab Automobile,

19 thoughts on "SAAB 9-3 model history"

  • What's going to happen with Saab? Is that really so that we can not buy such great cars like 9-5 or 9-3 with a lot of fun and power under hood? So, are we all going to become classic car drivers if we want to stay true to our brand?

    Somehow I can not imagine anything like that, as it will become.

    • And even if there is, there are worse things than becoming a youngtimer driver.

      I always say: a rock'n'roller doesn't drive a new car 😉

      • I've never had a new car before with my 40 years ;-), with the money saved, I preferred to do something different, for example, bought real estate. But for our good used, we need a new car supply

  • Hello,

    jag bewö inte …… no - I write in German

    I also do not understand why the 900II should be unhappy. I bought an 97er Cabriolet with 170.000 KM and there were not many unscheduled workshop visits (servo pump and generator were exchanged in 2011). I had to sell the car in the spring because it's going to Sweden this summer (hopefully forever) and I do not need any 3 cars there.

    In any case, the car grew to my heart after 65.000 KM and I would like to buy one again. Well - in Sweden I have enough choice ...

    : )

    Greetings from Lower Bavaria.


  • … ..Environmental zones in federal states, resp. Cities in Germany? Then I like to be surprised. How many regulations there are today ?? ... I can only be amazed ...
    Greetings from Switzerland

    • Yes, that's how I feel as an Austrian too. I was in Munich, then I was told that I should not ;-(, because my Saab too old, was there just 8 years old, 9-5 2,2 TiD, so diesel and very bad, because he needs the wrong Fuel, albeit little, and has no particulate filter, etc. I drive it with 5,8 to 6,5 liters on 100 Km, but that's no interest.

      For me, this is the perfect lobbyism of the German car industry, so that people only buy new German cars, which fulfill everything possible with the highest technical and vulnerable effort, Euro 6 and what is there, with start-stop and urea injection etc. Otherwise, these cars would need no human

  • An excellent car and for me somehow one of the last real Saabs, especially in the design. The 9-3 II did not look like Saab anymore, at least before the facelift. I see it that way, there are basically problems with any car. We should not forget that the recent 9-3 I 10 years are old, since the premium competition is already on the scrap, 3er, A4 and C-Classes of the time have disappeared from the streets, the Alfas much longer.

    I have two 9-3 I, base benzine from 1999 as coupe and the sedan as 2,2 TiD with 125 PS from 2002, a real steam hammer with good sound. For me the only right engines, because they do not have the oil sump problem as the gasoline. There were some ripped off engines, even from my extended circle of acquaintances. I miss this note here. Luckily, there are still no weak-minded environmental zones in Austria, but in Germany I drove with my diesel into them, went well, nobody noticed

    • If someone had noticed it would have been expensive. Oil sludge problems only arise with cheap oil, a lot of short trips and oil change intervals that are not adhered to. Every 10.000 KM -> Mobil 0 W40 and it's good.



      • Yes, they were used cars, probably the previous owners have shamed, and at some point it will take their revenge. A failure, what you can not cure then.

    • I would be interested in how to handle the environmental zones in foreign vehicles. If something like that does not exist in Austria, for example, then they do not have these amp-colored pretty adhesives on the vehicle like we do. So where should our German law enforcement officers know who is allowed or not? Maybe someone knows about it?

      • It was the same with me, I did not know it. I've noticed that only later, with a fairly current car, 9-5 from 2003, which hardly needs diesel, not allowed to Munich ;-( But all SUVs with 30 liters of super as city consumption curled around funny.

    • The German trio is not that bad either - for a while I also drove a 13-year-old A4 (2.6-liter engine) with 300.000 km on loan, without any problems. But then came the SAAB ...

      What would interest me much more, and where we just talk about environmental badges: A few days ago Tom reported here about a Saab with total loss (the Gallix). As you can see in this picture, the one green environmental badge has:

      I wonder what year of construction and what engine it was. It is somewhat similar to mine, the 9-5 2.3 t SE from 1999. But at most I would have received a yellow sticker - if I had applied for one. Fortunately, environmental zones in Saarland are rare ...

      • So you definitely get green with your 2.3t, even 9000s with the engines get green ...
        You should possibly ask somewhere else. Two years ago someone wanted to tell me about a year-old car that it didn't have a diesel particulate filter ...

  • Today I have a 9-3 I as a replacement car and enjoy it… 🙂

  • Hello Andre,

    “The unfortunate second generation 900” - a contribution as to why the 900 II should have been so unhappy would help me and other proud 900II owners understand what was unhappy about these thoroughly reliable vehicles. I had a 98 9-3 SE turbo and now a 96 900II R turbo (250T km), and to be completely honest, I had a lot more trouble with the 9-3 (especially shock absorbers, air conditioning compressor, various bearings, and obligatory those Wishbones).

    Both share the vulnerable DI modules, the miserable front brakes and the constantly adjusting handbrake.

    The only thing I miss is the hydraulic clutch of the 9-3, because the cable clutch in the 900II replaces any calf training ......


    Roberto Martinez

    • If I am correctly informed, then the 900-II was GM's failed attempt to assemble a SAAB from Opel parts, and that at the time when Opel was just inventing quality mismanagement. Because of the “resounding success” of this approach, SAAB was given more freedom in the selection of suppliers and components.

      Such quality defects are certainly not to be found on every vehicle - you were probably one of the lucky ones to get a good copy.

      If I am wrong, I ask for correction.

    • Hello Roberto,

      that was not meant to be pejorative. Unhappily, it is more about the misfortune of going into big footprints and the big problems at the beginning of the series that did not make the car's reputation good. I think that will be clearer when the model story for the 900 II appears.

      • Hello Andre,

        ok, that sounds quite different

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