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2006 Saab 9-3 Convertible

New Car Review of the 2006 Saab 9-3 Convertible

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Base MSRP Range: $25,900 - $41,900

Base Invoice Range: $24,434 - $39,512

MSRP As Tested: $46,360

Versions: 2.0T, Aero.

Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Convertible

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive.

Standard Engine: 2.0-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 16-valves, Turbocharged, I-4, 210 – horsepower at 5500 rpm and 221 lb-ft torque at 2500 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual, Five-speed automatic.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): Manual 23/34, 22/31.

Optional Engine as Tested: 2.8-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 24-valves, Turbocharged, V-6, 250 –horsepower at 5500 rpm and 258 lb-ft torque at 2000 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual, Six-speed automatic.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 18/28, 17/28.

Standard Safety Features: Dual front airbags, Front side airbags, Front-seat active head restraints, Automatic roll bar, ">Antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, Brake Assist, Antiskid system, Tire-pressure monitor, Emergency inside trunklid release, Daytime running lights.

Competition: Acura TSX, Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35, Volvo C70.

Most diehard shoppers know about IKEA.

This giant retailer is all about bringing Swedish style to the masses like a postmodern, minimalist Wal-Mart. When you go inside, you'll walk through giant showrooms filled with funky pieces of furniture while techno music echoes around the building with strange beeps and whirrs, making you feel like you've stepped onto some weird Swedish planet where everyone wears black turtlenecks and eats lingonberry mousse. It's quite an experience.

Shoppers don't only like IKEA because it's weird, though. And let's face it, pretty much everything from Sweden is weird.

They like IKEA because it sells cool furniture at a very low price. Where else can you get a couch called the Lund Hogen for $439, or a trendy-looking armchair called the Klappsta for $100? You could make your downtown loft look sleek and modern without having to spend a fortune importing coffee tables from Stockholm.

And there's no better car to take shopping for weird Swedish stuff than a Saab, which is basically an IKEA with wheels.

I decided to have some fun by driving the Saab 9-3 convertible to the nearest IKEA store in Frisco, Texas, and take along my wife, who has Swedish roots and the maiden name of Lundgren. She was a perfect fit.

So was the car.

The 9-3 is a wonderful car to drive on the highway, with a smooth ride and cloth convertible top that seals out noise like it's made of acoustic tile. When you consider the turbocharged engine and unique body style, it's a compelling luxury package.

But it's more than that. There are plenty of compelling luxury cars on the road, especially from BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Lexus, but increasingly from brands like Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac and Lincoln, too. There are lots of great luxury cars for sale if you've got the money.

The Saab is just -- well -- different.

If you ever drive through an upscale suburb, it seems that every other car is a BMW. That's partially because BMW makes some amazing cars, but let's be honest. It's also because everyone's neighbor drives one, everyone's boss drives one and everyone's coworkers drive one, too. It's largely about keeping up with the Joneses.

If you want to stand out, you've got to drive something different. That's what the Saab is for.

From a practical perspective, the 9-3 is similar to many mid-size luxury cars. It has smooth power from a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 engine, which offers outstanding acceleration along with a jet-like kick from the turbo. It has a comfortable, driver-oriented interior with plenty of Swedish doo-dads, plus a convertible top that neatly folds away under a hard cover when you press a button. The robotic acrobatics are impressive to watch when the top goes down.

Beyond the basics of a good luxury car, though, is something harder to define. It's the car's soul.

Although Saab is now owned by General Motors, the quirky personality of the 9-3 remains the same. It still feels genetically linked to the old Saab 900, with a love-it-or-hate-it body shape like nothing else on the road. It still starts with a key in the center console, and it still has weird symbols on the buttons that people who drive American and Japanese cars would have a hard time figuring out. It's sporty, elegant and very spunky.

Better yet, it's a downright bargain compared to similar convertibles like the Mercedes CLK or the drop-top BMWs. The convertible version starts at $36,500, which is thousands less than its German competitors and even more of a steal when you realize how much stuff comes on the Saab for free. Hard-top versions of this car start as low as $25,900.

And that's why, in terms of style and price, this car is exactly like having an IKEA in your garage.

Pros: It has a sophisticated Swedish look and feel at a bargain price. It drives very well, has a reputation for safety and is significantly cheaper than its European competitors.

Cons: Some people won't like the styling. Trunk space is limited with the top down, and you'll face a learning curve if you're not used to Saab's controls.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 8
  • Performance: 8
  • Price: 10
  • Handling: 6
  • Ride: 7
  • Comfort: 9
  • Quality: 8
  • Overall: 8

More Data

Where Built: Sweden, Austria

Major Options: Premium Package, Touring Package, Cold Weather Package. Navigation system.

Seating: 4.

Number of Rows: 2.

Length in Inches: 182.4

Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles Bumper to bumper, 7 years/unlimited miles Corrosion protection, 4 years/50,000 miles Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles Free scheduled maintenance.

Weight in Pounds: 3480 lbs.

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Not available.

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not available.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: Not Available.

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 16.4

Destination Charge: $720