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2006 Saab 9.3

by Martha Hindes

Saab 9.3
Saab 9.3 Interior

Frustrated wanna-be pilots have been placated for years by the interior of just about any Saab automobile. There's that flat-faced, instrument-laden dash with as much suggestion of an airplane cockpit as one could likely find on any set of non-airborne wheels. For 2007, that Top Gun demeanor on the sporty 9.3 gets muted a bit, but not enough to dim the allure. Instead, Saab enthusiasts will find enough electronic goodies, including "infotainment," and chrome-trimmed larger gauges, to make the transition a joy -- even without the joystick.

The 9.3 comes in three models: Sport sedan, SportCombi wagon or convertible. They are powered by two turbo-charged engines, a base 2.0-liter, 210-HP inline four, or 2.8-liter, 250-HP V-6 on upscale Aero models. A new six-speed manual replaces last year's five-speed for the base sedan.

Also, for 2007, the 9.3 gains GM's OnStar communications/safety system as an option. Available are 16- and 17-inch wheels. And XM Satellite radio becomes standard on the up-model Aero trim, optional on base sedan. Sport sedans also can add a Bose stereo upgrade. And four new hues join the exterior color palate: Electric Blue or Smoke Beige (both metallics), Titan Grey metallic on the sport sedan and SportCombi, and Arctic White on the convertible, which also adds a choice of tan convertible top.

Saab affirms the 9.3 was developed from the driver out, with instruments, seating and ambience meant to blend with the pilot at the wheel. Outside, there's an identifiable Saab look that thrusts forward visually with a strong wedge-shaped profile under steeply-raked windshield, commanding beltline in the shape of a hockey stick and sloping fastback, all over short overhangs. Expect the turbocharged six-speed manual to fare best at 22/30 miles per gallon, with premium fuel recommended. The manual convertible drops a point each way. Base prices range from $26,720 to $42,375 (convertible).

Some have criticized Saab for being too closely aligned with GM, with which it has a long-term affiliation. But the 9.3 is its own automobile, and the typical, premium-car turbo-loving, tactile road handling Saab driver is unlikely to cast a glance at a less definitive automobile. Just check repeat buyers' internet blogs if you doubt it.