It will be the first GM Europe car to use HFV6, a new engine built by Holden, GM’s Australian subsidiary.
Developing 250bhp, it has a range of unique features and gives the 9-3 the distinction of being the fastest Saab yet.
But higher output and greater torque than any other six-cylinder rivals are not the only factors likely to set the flagship model apart when it goes on sale in October.
Saab GB managing director Jonathan Nash said: ‘Our plan is for the Aero V6 to be unmatched for performance at the price. We’re still working on the details, but I want this car to cost less than £27,000.
‘For a premium of less than £2,500 over the current top four-cylinder 9-3, this model will represent terrific value and has the potential to give our German competitors a real run for their money. My hope is that it will also attract some of their customers.’
The new engine is also due to go under the bonnets of Convertible and Sport Wagon 9-3s in November. As a result, it is likely to power around 12% of 9-3s across all world markets in 2006.
The car’s final trim level is yet to be fixed, but standard specification is likely to include anti-lock braking with traction control and electronic stability control, six airbags, 17-inch alloy wheels, six-speed manual transmission, climate control and cruise control.
Also standard will be split-fold rear seats, bi-xenon headlamps with washers, electric mirrors with automatic reverse dip and fold-back and a full colour-coded body kit, including front and rear spoilers and side sills.
Behind the wheel
WITH hefty pulling power spread across a wide band, progress is effortless and quiet in the 9-3 Aero V6. As well as being quick off the mark, the six-speed automatic version we tried was particularly relaxed during high-speed cruising, but the general low level of engine noise tended to accentuate wind whistle from the door mirrors.
Though copious torque is available from as low as 1,500rpm, the Saab streaks away when the accelerator is floored from 2,000rpm. The wall of power allows the speedo needle to swing around to the benchmark 62mph in a 7.9 seconds but more significantly, overtaking manoeuvres can be completed in the minimum amount of time.
Sentronic, the Saab sequential manual gearshift, comes as part of the automatic package, an option likely to be priced at £1,200. Included with Sentronic are paddle switches to allow gear changes to be made by thumb from the steering wheel. Mounted in front of the rim rather than behind, they’re not entirely successful because they don’t fall naturally to hand.
Saab has worked hard over the last three years to get on to user-chooser lists and it seems to be working, with fleets sales increasing massively this year, helped by Vauxhall’s expertise.
WITH oodles of power, a smooth ride and composed handling, this ultimate 9-3 is a worthy contender for corporate buyers who want their performance motoring to come in a more affordable package.
Engine (cc): 2,792
Max power (bhp/rpm): 250/5,500
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 258/2,000
Max speed (mph): 155
0-62mph (sec): 7.9
Fuel consumption (mpg): 26.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 252
On sale: October. Price (est): £26,795