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2003 Entry Level Luxury Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Saab 9-3
2003 Saab 9-3

One of the things we like best about Saabs is that they have character. In that way, they are very unlike most offerings from Lexus or BMW or Acura, et al. Sure, they're safe, solid and attractively priced to boot. But perhaps more than anything, it's that Saab character that attracts the equally character-gifted people that drive them.

For 2003, the all-new 2003 93 Sport Sedan is poised to carry Saab's dare-to-be-different brand into a new era. Thoroughly redesigned, the latest 93 is a proper sedan now-no longer a hatchback. In the process, it has become more refined, more ergonomically friendly and less temperamental, yet it is still very much a Saab.

The 93 comes in three arrays: the Linear ($25,600), the luxurious Arc ($29,995) and the sporty Vector ($32,495). Each has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive and your choice of manual or automatic transmissions. The Arc and Vector get an extra helping of horsepower (210 hp), and the Vector's goes one better with a sport-tuned suspension to help conquer your favorite curvy road.

From a styling standpoint, the 93 presents few surprises; we've seen these grille shapes, headlights and window designs before. The rear end, however, is new, with a graceful roofline that looks like it could have come out of Audi's vaunted design studio. The Vector's subtle rear spoiler, ground effects and 17-inch wheels make it the extrovert of the group.

Inside the new 93, big, clear gauges are set within a somewhat less imposing version of Saab's trademark vertical dash. A new "high position display" perched atop the dash up near the windshield allows you to keep your gaze within the proper field of vision while reading information like time of day, temperature, radio station, etc. Every 93 also boasts Saab's legendary seat comfort, a free year of OnStar, a "Night Panel" button that darkens everything but the speedometer to reduce eye fatigue, and side -impact chest and curtain air bags. The Arc adds a 13-speaker sound system, leather, wood trim and more while the Vector gets adds sport seats, performance tires and metal trim.

These improvements have elevated the 93 such that now it has made it into the ranks of our entry-level luxury car buyer's guide, truly worth considering as a viable-and charming-alternative to any of the other find sedans in this group.