Friday, 16 February 2007

Saab 9-3 SportCombi 2.0 LPT Sport+

By Dr Long

SportCombi is Saab’s lingo for stationwagon or estate version. Launched in 2006 by Auto Eurokars in Malaysia, the 9-3 SportCombi is an athletic and sporty looking wagon.

Somehow, this bootless version appeared sleeker than its sedan brethren, looking much like an extended hatchback, rather than a utilitarian estate.
Notable features include an all aluminium hatch, passive rear-wheel steering and frosted rear lamps cover. Another creative innovation is the flat cargo bed which can be folded to form a partition. Great for packing stuffs in the rear and not have them flung about! At the centre of this same floor board, an aeroplane-shaped handle - made of brushed aluminium alloy - really catches the eye. Lift this and pull up the hard board completely, a space saving subwoofer is mounted just underneath. In IKEA fashion, this 10” speaker with its housing fits nicely into the spare wheel. Overall audio performance is however just adequate.

Suprisingly too, this estate drove nicer than the sedan, despite sharing the same floorpan (wheelbase et al), engine and transmission. It was very pleasant to go around corners albeit with that little FWD tendency to understeer. Interestingly, this 9-3 variant felt well put together with that stronger ‘cocoon’ bodyshell. As such, it is reckoned that suspension damping - and thus ride comfort - is improved too, as a result of a stiffer body structure. There is just that appreciable bit more of ride pliancy than the 9-3 sedan. Or could it be that the dampers or suspension load ratings is different for this wagon (seeing that it is heavier than the saloon)?

The turbo spools pretty quickly to give a maximum output of 195bhp @ 5,620rpm. Hardly any lag and you could feel an addictive ‘charged’ power band stretching from 2500rpm onwards. Nicely responsive and torquey in response to a heavier right foot. Torque peaks at 310Nm from a low 2000rpm, and stays constant all the way 5000rpm! Braking performance cannot be faulted, for this is a car capable of 230km/h and a century sprint figures of 8.8 seconds. Despite all these petrol-head’s indulgence, in-cabin serenity, comfort and general NVH refinements are not an issue. Saab’s 5-speed Sentronic auto tranny is fuss-free. Well, the gearbox maybe just a little slow in engaging (manual mode) upshifts during hard acceleration but still no jerks or drama here.

High speed stability though is a little lacking. Doing upper-range triple digits on a deserted expressway, the test car felt ‘floaty’ and even a little jittery at the rear axle. Conversely though, tackling bends with Saab's ReAxs passive rear-wheel steering, this 2.0T Sport+ wagon is quite well behaved, provided throttle input is metered nice and smooth.

In conclusion, the 9-3 SportsCombi is a viable alternative to mainstream uber-wagons from the other famed Swedish automaker and even that few Teutonic Touring models. A pleasant all-round family wagon, this Saab truly deserves a second look for those looking for practicality, space, comfort and perhaps, a different kind of exclusivity.


Chek Chung said...

hi doc,

i think it is abit late now but i would like to know more about it.

where to find one in Malaysia?


tazztham said...

hi dr long,

i am seriously looking for one Sportcombi. where can i get one?

thk. pls email

drlong said...

Hi Chek Chung & tazztham,

I seriously don't know where to find a used 9-3 SportCombi since SAAB has long exited Malaysian market when Auto Eurokars (AE) given up the franchise sometime 2008 or thereabouts. Its parent company, SAAB was bankrupt as well as under receivership, and only until of late, weakly resurrected.

I believed AE hardly sold more than half a dozen of 9-3 SportsCombi versus many more of the sedan versions.

Your best bet would still be MotorTrader, Star newspaper or Mudah.My sales portal. Most used car dealers don't take in Saab in KL/PJ areas.

Sorry can't be of much help to you guys on this matter.