2003 Saab 9-3 ARC Sedan (448)


This week I tested the Saab 9-3 Sedan. I hope the ignition system isn’t as complicated in their jet fighters. A message keeps coming up that the steering wheel is locked. What happened to the good old days when things that should be simple were simple? Today we think we have to be cleaver and new or different.

But different isn’t necessarily better. We use high tech for things that take much less time to do the old fashioned way. Consider the radio controls on most cars. Simple knobs should be used for volume and tuning instead of trick buttons that are more difficult to use.

My honey asked what cars compete with this Saab. She obviously doesn’t read my column. “Well dear, the competition for this car include such cars as Mercedes and BMW…” I’m not sure she considered it a luxury car, but it really is, in my view.

The 9-3 comes in three models – Linear, ARC and Vector in order of lowest to highest sophistication and pricing.

General Info:

Parts – Majority Sweden, some from Germany.

Assembly – Trollhattan, Sweden

Class:  – Sport Sedan

Cars: – 9-3 and 9-5 sedans, convertible and wagon.

Handling & Performance:

Very good for the most part, but there was an annoying power surge at stop and go operation. It appeared to be caused from the gas pedal activation.


Very clean lines that are classic and distinctively Saab, albeit with slight changes influenced by the company’s new owner, General Motors.

Fit and Finish:

Swedish quality that is quite good.


I love gadgets and the moisture sensitive windshield wipers are really cool if you chose the touring package for $1,195 that includes this feature.


Base price on this ARC Sedan is just under $30,000 but you can add some options, like auto trans $1200, sport wheel package for 17 inch wheels and sport suspension for $1295, Touring package with rain sensing wipers, in-dash 6-disc CD Changer for $1195, power glass sunroof for $1100, heated front seats $495 and metallic paint for $475.

Consumer Recommendation:

The competition is all very capable and I’d have a hard time choosing, but my favorite is the Cad CTS because of the exciting styling.

The Competition:

Saab 9-3 $26-40,000, Acura TL $29-33,000, Audi A4 $25-42,000, BMW 3-Series $30-44,000, Cadillac CTS $30,000, Chrysler 300M $29-33,000, Infiniti I35 $29,000, Lincoln LS $32-44,000, Mercedes Benz C-Class $25-50,000, Volkswagen Passat $22-38,000, Volvo S60 $26-33,000.

Good News:

Nice ride, one touch power windows up and down front and rear, split folding rear seat with pass through to a large trunk.

Bad News:

Poor ignition system, complicated audio controls, surge in acceleration.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbocharged 210 hp engine, 6-speed manual trans (test vehicle had optional 5-speed auto trans for an addition of $1,200 to the MSRP), traction control, power antilock disc brakes, Electronic stability program (ESP), dual front air bags, front and rear side airbags, anti theft system, keyless remote, leather, air conditioning, power windows with express up and down, power heated mirrors, rear seat fold or 60/40 split with pass through armrest, computer information system, cru8ise control, tilt wheel, audio with CD player with steering wheel controls,

Gas Stats:

21 City and 30 Highway MPG.


MSRP $29,995.

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