Saab 9-3 Drive Event, Washington, D.C. – Part 2

Posted on 01. Sep, 2007 by in 2000-2009, 9-3 SS, Washington, D.C.

Photo Credits: Saab History

On Tuesday morning I woke up for a breakfast in the Ritz Carlton Brickyard room with much anticipation for what was in store for the day. At 8:00am, the introduction of the new 9-3 began where we were provided a summary of the new 9-3 by Andreas Andersson then received a rundown on the driving route for the day.

Following the introduction, we departed in our Saab 9-3s for the drive from the hotel. There were a number of 2008 9-3s available to drive, from manual transmissions to automatics as well as base models to Aeros. The first 2008 9-3 I chose was a 9-3 Sport Sedan Aero in black with a standard transmission. My co-pilot was Knut Simonsson who I met Monday evening at the House of Sweden, who provided quite a bit of knowledge about the new 9-3 that I was driving as well as the future direction of Saab Automobile. During my drive in the new 9-3, it became immediately apparent that the changes, all 2,158 of them, most noticeable was the immensely tightened 6-speed shifting sequence compared to the 2003-2007 models. The firmer drive and handling of the Aero was also quite noticeable, particularly on high speeds on route 66 heading out of the Washington, D.C. downtown area.

The three-legged route covered approximately 175 miles which included stops in Middleburg, Flint Hill and finally Warrenton, Virginia.

During each of these stops, we were encouraged to alternate through the various 9-3s provided, so I changed in Middleburg at the Market Salamander and hopped into a base model 9-3. This change that I made was immediately softer and gentler in comparison to the Aero, a noticeable change without question dropping down two model levels. The interior appointments included in this base model 9-3 seemed to be at first glance anything but a base model with the wood fash and side panel strips, effectively a high-end luxury model without the firmness and performance of an Aero model.

My final vehicle switch took place at the Flint Hill Public House where both myself and my co-pilot moved into a beautiful red 9-3 Aero Sport Sedan with an automatic transmission and tiptronic paddle shifters on the steering wheel and the ever so enjoyable “sport mode” feature. The feeling behind this sophisticated system was hard to put into words with the paddle shifting on the fly and as much as I hate to admit it coming from one who grew up appreciating the manual transmission, I almost preferred this new setup over the former. Aside from the newer feel of the 2008 model and the transmission, the “sport mode” feature that I mentioned was anything but subtle, it was a full-on concerted addition designed to hold the gears longer for greater accelleration whilst also downshifting faster when braking at higher speeds. This was the Saab that I enjoyed the most over the course of the 9-3 drive event and hope to get a chance in the near future to drive again.

It is important to mention that none of these models were equipped with XWD (Cross-Wheel Drive) because what was in store for us at the end of the day at our final destination, was a co-piloted test drive of the single XWD car on hand at a vacant airstrip. This is where the media got a chance to drive through a series of cones and other obstacles at Airlie Airfield in Warrenton, Virginia. Please stay tuned for this final installment that covers the test drive of the XWD in my next posting.

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