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2005 Entry Level Luxury Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

SAAB 9-3
2005 Saab 9-3

One thing about Saab autos doesn't seems to change. There's always the feeling of a cockpit-like flattened-front dash, a signature of the Swedish auto maker's ties to its aerospace background. Beyond that, Saabs have grown in luxury standing and stature in an inevitable faceoff with other premium competitors that has moved it from one-time hatchback-dominant to a growing wanna-have for fussy upmarket American buyers.

For 2005, Saab completes the lineup of its premium, 9-3 compact sedan line with an entry-priced lux convertible joining five existing hardtops and softtops among a list of welcome upgrades. It adds an optional DVD-based, in-dash nav system, the kind that's become almost a right of passage for top-of-the-line automobiles.

Built from what Saab terms "the driver out," it sports a sleek, wedgey profile, deeply sloped windshield and short overhangs front and rear for an "in-motion" look even when still. In actual motion, it rides on a wealth of standard, high-tech stability and suspension controls and is powered by two 2.0 liter, turbo-boosted inline fours generating 175 and 210 hp depending on trim level. Eye-opening "Chili Red" spikes a palate of three new exterior colors for '05, joining more subtle Parchment Silver and Smoke Beige.

Five-speed stick shift is standard, while auto trans with Saab's Sentronic manual function is an option. To keep hands steering during manual mode driving, the sporty, top-line Aero model has available steering wheel shift controls.

Entry Level Luxury Cars
Entry Level Luxury Buyer's Guide