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2007 Saab 9-3 Convertible Aero Ted Laturnus for The Globe and Mail

Ted Laturnus/The Globe and Mail

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Although the future of the Saab brand is in doubt, as well as that of parent General Motors, the current generation of 9-3 Convertible is an immensely driveable, easy-to-get-along-with cabriolet that features a nicely co-ordinated drivetrain, top-of-the-heap ergonomics and one of the most comfortable sets of bucket seats in the industry.

In 2007, it received an interior makeover and came in two versions: 2.0T and Aero. The former featured a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder powerplant, while the latter had a 2.8-litre V-6. Both were turbocharged, and about 40 horsepower separated the two.

You could choose either a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed autobox with the four-cylinder model and a six-speed automatic with the V-6. The 9-3 was also built on GM's Epsilon platform, utilized in the Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura.

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The Aero version also incorporated a built-in rear-wheel steering feature that Saab called a "Re-Axs" system. Basically, it deflected the rear wheels slightly during hard cornering.

Completely unobtrusive during most driving conditions, it makes a huge difference when things start to get interesting, and the 9-3 Convertible Aero was - and is - an extremely stable vehicle, with an excellent sense of balance.

One nice little extra: the exhaust had a nice subtle note to it that was audible when the top was down, and when the turbo waste-gate closed, you could hear the engine backfire ever so slightly. A small thing perhaps, but it added to the car's overall driving experience.

Although the front bucket seats in the 9-3 may be the best money can buy, there wasn't a whole lot of room in the back seat. Like its stablemate, the Sport Combi wagon, rear-seat legroom in the 9-3 Cabriolet was at a premium.

The other glitch in an otherwise sensible interior layout was found in the handbrake arrangement. Because of its design, the handbrake can pinch unwary fingers when it's released, and Saab should never have let this one out of the design studio.

On the other hand, Saab-o-philes were happy to see that the trademark ignition key on the floor arrangement remained intact in 2007 despite the interior redesign, and the 9-3, in all its incarnations, has one of the slickest dash-mounted cup holders in the industry.

Saab designers also did a nice job on the top. With a glass rear window and hard tonneau, it took about 25 seconds to deploy completely and was accessed via a dash-mounted button.

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You could also order a special sand-coloured top, which, with the colour-co-ordinated hard tonneau, added some $1,500 to the price tag.

As you'd expect with a car in this price range, the 9-3 Convertible - in both versions - came well equipped.

Full leather interior, heated front seats, steering-wheel-located audio controls, one-touch-down windows, block heater, cruise control, alloy wheels, headlamp washers, heated side mirrors, fog lamps, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake force distribution and front and seat-mounted side airbags all came standard with its just-under $57,000 base MSRP.

There are no safety recalls to report either from Transport Canada or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which isn't really that much of a surprise, considering how much emphasis Swedish manufacturers put on this side of things.

And at this point, NHTSA has but one technical service bulletin and it's pretty trivial: a possibly malfunctioning fuel gauge or fuel pump.

As far as Consumer Reports is concerned, a two-year-old 9-3 Convertible is a pretty safe bet, with good marks in all departments, with the exception of the electrical system.

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CR bases much of its research on the 9-3 sedan, but since it shares many of its components with the Convertible, it applies in virtually all areas. That said, CR gives the sedan an "average" used car reliability prediction, and the Convertible a "much worse than average" rating.

Market research company J.D. Power gives this vintage of the 9-3 "about average" and "better than most" ratings in all departments, but again, this is based on data collected on the sedan version.

Expect to pay somewhere in the $31,000-$32,000 neighbourhood for a 2007 9-3 Convertible.

Interestingly, there isn't that much of a price difference between the base and Aero models - no more than $500, according to the Canadian Black Book. Kind of surprising, when you consider that $4,500 separated them when they were new. And, given the present situation at GM, these prices may be more than negotiable.

globeauto@globeandmail.com

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2007 SAAB 9-3 CONVERTIBLE

Type: Four-passenger convertible

Base Price: $56,635; Canadian Black Book value: $31,450-$31,975; Red Book value: $31,600-$32,700

Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder/2.8-litre, turbocharged, V-6

Transmission: Six-speed manual/five and six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel-drive

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Horsepower/Torque:

  • 210 hp/221 lb-ft for four-cylinder
  • 250 hp/258 lb-ft for V-6

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.8 city/7.1 highway (four-cylinder with manual six-speed); premium gas

Alternatives: Audi A4 Cabriolet, BMW 3-Series Cabriolet, Toyota Solara, Volvo S80, Mercedes CLK 350

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