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Saab 9-3 SportWagon 2.0T XWD road test report

2.0T XWD

The first word that pops into the head when thinking about the Saab 9-3 SportWagon is “Stalwart” – it feels like its been around for a long, long time, and aesthetically things haven’t changed that much since the 9-3 was launched back in the 20th century! So where does the 9-3 SportWagon fit in the current automotive market? Well it’s difficult to say, and this is one of the reasons for the Swedish carmaker’s uncertain future. It’s not that the car isn’t without merit but in the face of stiff competition from Audi and BMW (to name two) the 9-3 SportWagon sadly falls short.

Road Test Reports Says3.5 star rating
A front-facing image of the Saab 9-3 SportWagon

Image number 2 of the Saab 9-3 SportWagonImage number 3 of the Saab 9-3 SportWagonImage number 4 of the Saab 9-3 SportWagon

Performance Performance - 3 stars

The 2.0T XWD, which is an all wheel drive estate, is only bettered in the 9-3 SportWagon range by the V6 XWD, and it shows with a powerful and capable performance coming from the engine, which sees the 4.6 metre long car capable of hitting 143mph and 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds. Pick up through the gears is particularly satisfying with the car really responding to dropping down a gear and overtaking a slow moving vehicle, in fact the car has an impressive amount of torque to call on in the higher rev range. Coupled to the engine is a six-speed manual (although a six-speed auto is also available) which is responsive and delivers the undoubted power of the engine. However, one very disappointing aspect of the car is its CO2 missions of 207g/km, which is substantially worse than the BMW 320i SE Touring (148g/km) and the Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI SE (154g/km) making it a tough pick for business users looking for a vehicle under the magic 160g/km threshold.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 5 stars

The XWD is Saab’s All Wheel Drive technology pronounced “cross wheel drive” and it’s a very intelligent capable piece of equipment. In a nut shell the XWD constantly monitors both the driving style and the conditions on the road to independently adjust power to each wheel; this provides a noticeable improvement to traction, grip and handling. The car can be thrown into corners with gusto and the XWD responds to deliver the right amount of torque to keep the car glued to the road. Extensively tested in Swedish winter conditions the car can even cope when it encounters a sudden icy patch on the road, responding to the change of road conditions in 80 milliseconds! Impressive stuff.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

What the Saab lacks in cutting edge aesthetics and class leading performance it makes up for in many ways through the build quality which is evident right the way through the vehicle from the excellent materials inside in the cabin – including a special mention to perhaps the most comfortable leather seats that the posterior has ever had the pleasure to sample; which are part of the Executive Pack optional extra. The estate also sports the ubiquitous (for Saab) cockpit-style driver’s dash – intuitive, clear and simple controls and all easily to hand. Reliability has rarely been an issue and the SportWagon should face up to the riggers of UK driving, and with service intervals of 18,000 miles the car is built to last.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

Sturdy and well built you would expect that the car performs well for Euro NCAP occupancy and the car ticks the 5 star box for safety, and the general feel of the car is of something substantial which can be a reassuring feeling on the busy roads of the UK. To keep the thieves out the car comes with central locking, alarm and immobiliser as standard.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 3 stars

Being an estate the car scores well for both space and practicality; the car would work well for families and those sporty couples you see portrayed in the adverts. Luggage capacity with rear seats up is a decent 419-litres, while with the rear seats down this volume expands to 1287 litres – all good so far. Things take a turn for the worse when you compare the amount of room to its main rivals and the Saab is out gunned by both the 3-series Touring and the A4 Avant. Those expecting the “ski hole” in the rear seats won’t be disappointed.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 2 stars

In a Saab–friendly utopia the SportWagon would still be an excellent choice for people looking for performance, agility, and refinement wrapped up in an estate shell; sadly time waits for no car and in the face of very stiff competition the Saab 9-3 SportWagon just doesn’t stack up anymore. The OTR price of the 2.0 XWD is a few thousand pounds more than its main competitors and factor in its poor environmental statistics and you’ll not only be paying more Vehicle Excise Duty but also more trips to the petrol station, as the Saab is thirstier than others available. It’s not that we disliked the Saab, to the contrary we enjoyed the drive and the XWD is exceptional, however the car is aesthetically dated and over-priced in the very competitive estate segment.

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