Cockpit redesign - the Saab 9-3 should be cooler

The Aero has been with me for 8 years. A long time, totally uncharacteristic for me. Certainly due to the circumstances. Selling a Saab is something you have to think twice about today. Because it's hard to find anything better. I like the Aero, it's one of my favorite cars, the last hatchback from Trollhättan.

Even if it's not the best of all Saabs ever built.

What has bothered me for years is the wooden dashboard. The wood is real, it's valuable, it comes from a company that works for the most expensive brands. The nonsense with the plastic wood started at Saab only with the model year 2006. Then plastic decor moved into the 9-5. A low point in the history of the brand, from which the 9-3 Aero is fortunately still a long way off.

When its first owner in Gießen ordered it 20 years ago, he had the choice between wood and real carbon. He put his cross in the wrong place. Time for the redesign.

Fine leather, structure like the original
Fine leather, structure like the original

Time for a redesign - the wood has to go.

So that you don't misunderstand me. I like wood in the 900 and 9000 where it is particularly noble. Also in the 9-5, where it goes well with the character of a fairly comfortable car. Even in the 9-3 OG, but not in my Hirsch Performance Aero with Viggen Body Kit. It looks like an old German wall unit on steroids. So it's clear, the stuff has to go!

Just what should go in?

A friend has embellished his 9-3 with carbon design foils. The material is good, and the decor is available in almost every color. And it's not expensive either. But it's glued, and if you know about it, you can see it.

I'm also a fan of Saab Original, so the foil solution is out of the question. I would like Saab's optional carbon dashboard. Only, that doesn't exist anymore. In Sweden, years ago, the plentiful stock was dumped on the market for a fraction of its value to make room in the warehouse for VW and Opel spare parts.

Now, a few years later, these parts would be worth their weight in precious metal. Are people now angry in Sweden? Because the warehouses are empty, carbon is no longer available.

The search is tedious. I've been offered a few used parts over the months. Always damaged, attacked by the sun. Of course, 20 years leave their mark. And mostly they are the offers too expensive. Alternatively, I would get a dark dashboard from Saab, but it has color deviations from the climate, entertainment and SID. I don't like it either.

I'll be in at some point Frankfurt-Fechenheim and tell me about my problem, which really isn't one. At Saab Service Frankfurt, there is an 9-3 SE that has been converted to an aero look and has a special dashboard. It's gray to match the center console, climate control and everything around it. Looks like it was made of one piece, very simple, somehow Scandinavian, and it fits.

Redesign – puristic, cool gray is moving in

It actually comes from the 900 NG, i.e. the predecessor series. After thinking about it for a good 60 seconds, I swap my old German wall unit decor for a puristic, cool grey.

Granted, it's not premium. But it's coherent, and over the months I like the redesign better and better. And because I'm in the process of furnishing, the next thing to do is the steering wheel. Admittedly, this is almost new. An original Aero steering wheel, the old worn one is in the Saab hangar.

I'm a bit upset by the economical upholstery, which was somehow typical of Saab. Except for the great Turbo X steering wheel, savings were made in the wrong place in Trollhättan. Because you could have offered the willing customers, for a hefty surcharge, of course, better and grip-friendly steering wheels.

Just like other brands have been doing for decades and making good money.

Redesign - a new steering wheel for the Saab

In a hint of carelessness I drive to the Saddler I trust and hand over the old steering wheel without asking for the price. The design should be retained, only finer leather, nicely sewn and padded. All good.

A few weeks later I receive what I ordered. Probably the finest leather in my car career. Very comfortable, caresses the hand. Worth every single euro, a masterpiece of craftsmanship.

The steering wheel is “wow”, so is the bill!

Months later, the pain of the bill is forgotten. The steering wheel is still fun, is the luxury in the upcoming classic and will be with me for a long time.

The interior is stylishly newly furnished. Just before I write the post, I get an email from a friend. He found a brand new original carbon dashboard. Am I still interested? Of course, the price is fair and I'll transfer the money. The dashboard is great, around 10 small stickers with names documenting the names of the people involved in its creation and the production steps.

Touching, handcrafted, not mass-produced by a robot. Production 2007, as Saab Accessories. Definitely not cheap to make.

Since then I have had a Saab carbon dashboard in stock. As a reserve and option. Just in case I change my mind. The Saab 9-3 Aero keeps rolling. I like the Swede, even if he has his own peculiarities. The next post will be technical again. And I fall into the scrap car trap.

19 thoughts on "Cockpit redesign - the Saab 9-3 should be cooler"

  • blank

    It won't look good. I would advise a new (used) dashboard.

  • Hello, good morning. I have been a proud Saab 9-3 (1st) owner since yesterday. Unfortunately, I also have the problem of the carbon decal film that is loosening and would simply like to remove it and ask myself: Isn't the "original" plastic underneath the carbon decal anyway and is it enough to remove the old adhesive residue?

  • It is really just pure optics. And the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think it was always thought that because, as you wrote correctly, there is no weight saving. The dashboard is not replaced by a pure carbon part (which would only bring a negligible weight reduction), but an additional film is applied (which also only looks like carbon).

  • There is this water transfer printing. Wouldn't that be an alternative?

  • Hi,
    I also had the idea the other day to throw out the wood decor. The Scandinavian simple gray is much more factual and timeless. It's cool that you documented this. Thumbs up. I like your aero very much.
    Question: is the gray fascia of the 900 NG and 9-3 OG identical? Different part numbers can be found in the EPC. In 9-3 there was also the gray plastic version. I'm asking because you chose the 900 NG. Maybe there's a reason for that?

    • The gray decor of the 9-3 floor is supposed to be a little darker, but I haven't seen it. The color of the 900 NG fits perfectly.

  • Very interesting article.
    I have had a 9-3I Limited Cabrio for 5 years. A really nice car with beige leather seats.
    However, the wood in the dashboard has torn in some places and I would like to replace it. I also think that the wood is too dark for the light interior. But that is whining at a high level.
    The wood is no longer available. Foil is out of the question for me. Maybe there is still the company that made it for SAAB at that time.
    Does anyone know a solution?
    Thanks and best regards,

  • My aero had wood too. Back then, after buying it, I had it exchanged for an original dashboard in “titanium” look (there was wood, carbon or titanium in the accessories catalog at the time). Certainly not for everyone.

    I'm a little “jealous” of the steering wheel. The little existing upholstery has bothered me for a long time. But since I have still not decided whether to invest anything in the car at all, it will remain on the list for the time being.

  • blank

    in the old Saabs I like the wood very much, in the 9-5I like Paul I also find the wood beautiful. From the year of construction, I somehow find wood no longer suitable. The least suitable is wood in the 9-3II or 9-5NG. Wood somehow no longer fits in there.

  • Very good action, that fits!
    In my 900II SE Talladega, which contains some design elements of the later AERO, the dark plastic is also built in - absolutely harmonious with the surroundings.
    In the 900II SE Cabrio (green scarab, with beige interior) I would not have the idea of ​​changing the wood. I even upgraded a wooden gear knob.
    Now I am considering swapping the original steering wheel for a wood-leather combination, as the old leather is now showing slight signs of dissolution after 23 years. There is a solution in the deep south ...

    Greetings from the coast 🙂

  • Nice considerations and as always an interesting blog post. One sees / reads as always: what is liked or what is beautiful is allowed in the eye of the beholder. I can only speak for myself: in the silver 9-3 CV S of my wife I like the simple, gray plastic very well, in my black 9-3 CV Aero with Viggen Kit I like carbon in combination with the dark interior very well (carbon in Great condition, previous owner had it renewed), if I had an SE with beige interior, wood would be my favorite. Probably even with an aero with a beige interior. But some questions just don't come up, so we just live happily with our cars and just enjoy our SAABs 😉 Stay healthy !!!

  • Looks really good, the tone-on-tone, I would not have thought.

    I find carbon terrible and also a little ridiculous, because the weight optimization achieved in a sports coupe makes no sense, but the main thing is that it pleases.
    My first 900 Turbo 16s had the real wood cover and the Nardi steering wheel. Today I think that's a bit old-fashioned and that's why I installed a piano-black dashboard on my current 900 Turbo 16s, including the lid of the glove compartment. Since originality is not particularly important to me - especially in the interior, I installed a radio with a 10 ″ screen, also because of the better legibility. (I hope no one will have a heart attack now 🙂).
    I like it very much. At the weekend I still covered the door pockets and the door inserts with black leather - also to better integrate the speakers built into the door pockets.

    I'm already grieving when I'm done ...

    • No heart attack in any way. On the contrary. I think that's good. If Corona hadn't come, there would have been a comparable project here. So it's postponed, maybe to 2021, forecasts are currently difficult.

  • I also really like the pure variant. Makes something with its simplicity. I have the carbon design in my 9-3 I Cabrio. I also like it very well, unfortunately it peels off in some places and I wonder if it can be repaired or what is underneath if I would remove it (if that's possible) ?!

  • blank

    Sattler & tone on tone

    It looks damn chic. That's how I like Saab cockpits best. That's design. Nevertheless, the decoration department has also created something good ...

    I find it fascinating how well (depending on the exterior color and interior) the decors can harmonize with the Saabs, even though they actually form a contrast to switches, controls and fixtures ...

    With the emphasis on being able to. Failed combinations could also be ordered.

    The Saddler and the Scrappage Bonus

    The latter is already an issue again. I would be extremely interested in how many jobs in D are destroyed by the repeated and completely unimaginative scrapping campaign.
    An unemployed / former upholsterer once asked me about my classic car and complained of his suffering.

    Locksmiths, welders, painters, saddlers, coachbuilders and so on and so on ...

    On the other hand, there are increasing numbers of industrial robots that are producing more and more models abroad, even for German brands and groups.

    So how many jobs will be saved and how many will a national scrapping premium destroy and who will benefit the taxpayers' money if we buy new cars that are produced globally every few years?

    I consider this form of a “stimulus injection” to be completely irresponsible in any way. Be it environmental or social policy, economic or other political.

    You might as well detonate a few A-bombs and hope that the global fallout will somehow know how to act selectively where and when.

    So it's all the cooler that the blogger has such a big heart for his steering wheel and one of the last saddlers.

  • It may be that I am sensitive to light reflections ... In my case, the belt tongues of the back seat also move around on the top of the backrest instead of hanging on the catch buttons. The inclined light reaches them more poorly and the reflections then go into the roof instead of forward to the driver.

  • blank

    The cockpit. My one is always torn back and forth. The SE Cabrio sports chic wood, but you can see its age. The winter 5-door in S shows the silent, but also harmonious gray. Maybe it will be ebony zebrano if it doesn't look too artificial. I haven't noticed any reflections with the original wood design, even openly. Is the saddler of trust based in Estenfeld?

    • The Saddler is near Aschaffenburg, directly on the A3.

  • The dashboard in plastic: I've been looking at it for over 10 years and find it neither cheap nor unsuitable. The color matches the rest of the cockpit and the surface structure is unexcited and subtly matt. Last but not least, this fits the driver-oriented design.
    I temporarily considered an exchange for wood (because of the beige velor the only coherent option), but then I rejected it: the glossy wood or carbon surface, on the one hand, destroys the design restraint of the cockpit itself and also provides for annoying reflections in the field of vision of the driver.


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