Saab 9-3 2-0T Aero Cabriolet

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Keywords: Saab 9-3 2-0T Aero Cabriolet

Description: Saab 9-3: Driving the Saab 9-3 rag-top on its silver anniversary

The automotive equivalent of Last Of The Summer Wine it may be, but Saab’s long-running ‘family’ cabriolet can rightly lay claim to being the daddy of the modern compact exec-based convertible genre. Saab’s shifted 300,000 cabrios since the 900 convertible appeared in 1986, but is its aging 9-3 cabrio still a valid player in the face of newer, more advanced German opposition?

Unlike, for example, the BMW 3-series, Saab still opts for a fabric roof on the 9-3 Convertible. It’s uncomplicated and straightforward, just one button to operate and takes a shade over 20 seconds to go from roof to roofless. With the roof in place, there’s a modicum of wind noise at urban speeds; naturally, you’ll find it gets a load more blustery when engaged in roof-down mode. It certainly looks more handsome when divested off its top, especially those sweeping lines of the rear third towards the boot.

The model we tested – the 9-3 Convertible Aero 2.0-Litre Turbo, to give it its Sunday name – is reaching the end of its shelf life (for more, see below). It’s fitted with an old school-style five-speed auto ‘box (no paddle shifts) and frankly, unless your aim is merely to cruise, we’d opt for the six-speed manual, such is the automatic’s rather lumpen performance. That said, a 0-62mph time of nine seconds garnered from the 2.0-litre turbo isn’t embarrassing (unless you compare it with the 7.7sec manual); in fact, the BMW 320i SE Auto does the run to 62mph in 9.8 seconds. The seats are comfortable, but the interior finish falls well short of the 3-Series, A5 cabriolet and even the dark horse of the group, VW’s EOS.

Despite this, Saab cabrio ownership isn’t cheap. The model tested starts at £35,294.35 (that 35p is obviously crucial). Add in leather interior (£1174.47), a convenience pack (£403 and nothing to do with the bathroom but electric folding mirrors, rain sensor wipers and the like) and TX design pack (£607 for fancy anthracite and titanium spread throughout) and you are £500 shy of £40k.

And you can have it soon, sort of. No Saab isn’t releasing an all-new 9-3, but there’s a MY12 (model year 2012) update just around the corner. The headlines are new front bumpers and ‘ice block’ headlamps (as seen on CAR’s 9-5 long-termer), as well as a new instrument panel, cabin and upholstery. Two new 2.0-litre engines (163bhp and 220bhp) benefit from direct injection, VVT and twin scroll turbocharging. It means, says Saab, a 4% CO2 reduction across the range.

There’s also a limited edition Independence Edition of the MY11 model now in showrooms. There are 366 being manufactured (one for every day of the year (in a leap year, obviously), 80 of which will make it to the UK. You can have any colour as long as it’s Amber Orange metallic and all are individually numbered; other attractions include satin-chrome and black 18-inch alloys, carbon fibre-look leather finish across the interior and orange-stitched steering wheel. You have an option – well, no option – of one engine, the 180bhp 1.9-litre twin-turbo diesel with a six-speed auto ‘box. Oh Ambassador, you are spoiling us!

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