Staff Impressions
This is the first Saab I've really driven extensively in the last couple years. I have to say I'm impressed. Considering what you get for the money you spend, the 9-3 SportCombi-or any 9-3 for that matter-is a hell of a good buy. The list of standard equipment is long. Other cars of European ilk may start at a similar price point of around $33,000, but by the time you deck them out with the equipment you want, like a sport-tuned suspension, leather interior, and xenon headlamps (all standard on our Saab 9-3), the closing price skyrockets closer to $40K.

On the road, the car is fast, comfortable and gets pretty good fuel economy. Even so, it still has a few quirks. The throttle response seems a little lazy when you get hard into it, and with this much power going through the front wheels, torque steer could become an issue. The steering wheel is great, ergonomically sculpted, and comfortable to use, with sport paddle shifters for the automatic tranny mounted thereon. It is a sport auto, not a sequential manual like DSG, but it gets the job done reasonably well.

One thing this SportCombi's got that we don't have among our long-termers is the hatchback and extra storage space. Photographers Hallstrom and Simpson were particularly excited about shooting out the back, and homeowners like Bidrawn and Platt seemed to appreciate it, too, rubbing their hands together and mumbling excitedly under their breath about hauling fertilizer, bathroom tile, and so on.

All things considered, this 9-3 SportCombi makes a nice addition to the fleet, and we're grateful to have it.-Karl Funke

Here is room for a group of friends, with cubbyholes and sleek metro styling-all the while keeping me out of a minivan or SUV. I love wagons! This wagon, I'm sorry, I mean SportCombi, was a much-needed redesign from the 9-5 SportCombi. The new upward-raked look to the rear and the narrow, connected windows in the back make it look sportier than other wagons. Of course, it is sporty, with a turbo that delivers impressive performance, lagging only a bit at low rpm. Though even with a lower sport-tuned chassis on the Aero version, the suspension still weeble-wobbles. On first impression, the radio controls are said to be too complicated, but I'm warming up to the jet-fighter, control-panel feel of the dash. For everything that comes with this car, the price is outstanding, and true to Saab's distinctive form, it stands out in the IKEA parking lot. Oh, and dig that crazy cupholder.-Amanda Savercool

This is the sport wagon for me. Unlike the 9-2X, the 9-3 SportCombi is predominantly Saab, and as such, it appeals to the hatchback Saab loyalists, something the company has needed desperately for some time. The wagon provides a true Saab driving experience, which is hugely important for those new to the brand. The last thing you want to do is fool buyers into thinking they are getting something they are clearly not.

Thankfully, no smoke and mirrors here. What you see is what you get: a reasonably priced, practical sport wagon that's very safe and comfortable and genuinely fun to drive. Its styling is basic, but it's clean and it works. Wholly functional, the interior layout is also simple and straightforward. Opt for the Aero package. For a small premium, you get a ballsy turbocharged V6 engine with a six-speed manual, as well as sporty 17-inch wheels and all-season performance rubber, among other well-rounded sport and luxury features. -Robert Hallstrom

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