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2003 Saab 9-3 compact Near Luxury Sedan

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Saab's second series of front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicles in 2003 moves upscale with a larger package size and a bump into the elite premium compact sport sedan segment supported by two new turbo-charged engine choices.

A new chassis marking a generational change for the 9-3 sedan stretches the wheelbase and widens the tire width to form a stable platform that's larger than the previous 9-3. First in what will become a family of models, the four-door 9-3 Sport Sedan projects the sleek wedge-shaped silhouette of a racy coupe with windswept lines flowing over a raked windshield. Two new aluminum engines, each a 2.0-liter four-pack, tack on a turbo-charger to boost the muscle while economizing on fuel. Different tuning changes the power output -- from 175 hp to 210 hp.

The two versions go by badges of 2.0t (175 hp) and 2.0T (210 hp).

Standard transmission for the 2.0t is a manual five-speed, while the 9-3 2.0T gets a six-speed manual, yet both offer Saab's five-speed automatic with new Sentronic manual shift mode plus optional shifter tabs mounted on the steering wheel.

Mechanical assets include four-wheel independent suspension and large disc brakes on all wheels, along with Saab's Electronic Stability Program (ESP), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and a Traction Control System (TCS). The Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR) are aboard, as are dual-stage front air bags and side curtain-style air bags.

Three themes diversify the 9-3 with Linear, Arc and Vector issues.

Cabin styling for Linear is understated in leather upholstery with anthracite trim. 9-3 Arc piles on more gear for luxury and the trim shifts to poplar wood. Vector slants toward the sporty edge with 17-inch alloy wheels and a leather interior defined by trim in matte chrome. Saab offers an optional package for Linear with 16-inch alloy wheels, a six-disc CD player in the dash with upgraded stereo sound, and power controls to move the sunroof and driver's bucket seat.