2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible
Although it may be born from jets, as Saab's new ad slogan goes, the 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible's navigation system makes it hard for pilots to follow their flight plans. The automatic unfolding of the convertible top is a sight to behold, however, and we were impressed by the quality of the stereo. The sound system gave us reason to bring an MP3 player on road trips but no more than one friend, as backseat space and trunk room are both extremely limited.
The 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible's road handling and manners are acceptable, but the turbocharged four-cylinder engine doesn't produce much low-end power, making for weak acceleration at less than 15mph. Mileage figures, both tested by the EPA and based on our observations, aren't very impressive for an engine of this size, suggesting the turbocharger burns extra. Accelerating at medium speeds is enjoyable, especially since a gauge on the instrument cluster shows how hard the turbocharger kicks in. Road handling is heavily technology-assisted with traction control, a stability program, and antilock brakes, all contributing to a very safe ride. Only the front seats get air bags and active head restraints, further suggesting the backseat is just for show.
The base price for the 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible is $36,500. Our test car was optioned with Fusion Blue Metallic paint, Sentronic automatic transmission, front heated seats, headlamp washers, and a navigation system. Including the $720 destination charge, the final sticker on our vehicle was $44,160.The 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible retains a traditional Saab look, but from the side, the wheels and the tires just don't look big enough for the car--there's a lot of space between the wheel arches and the waistline. The trunk space is limited, even more so with the top down. The doors contain decent-size map pockets, and the air-conditioned glove box is large enough to hold a notebook computer. The passenger-side cup holder is a novel piece of engineering--it pops out of the dash, with plastic pieces unfolding and pivoting in either direction. Our staff members had differing estimates on how long it would last in real-world usage, from 5 minutes to a year.
The eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat was quite comfortable, with a solid range of adjustments. The steering wheel can be manually adjusted for tilt and rake, and it has cruise and stereo controls. Ergonomically, our only complaint from the driver's perspective is the hand brake. Although nicely integrated into the interior layout, it has an odd release-button position that led to some forearm pain after repeated operation. On the other hand, you open the power soft top by holding down a single button. All it takes is 20 seconds up and 25 seconds down, and it puts on a good show doing it. Even better, if we kept the button depressed, the windows matched the position of the top, making it easy to roll into summer mode.
While the 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible's front-seat occupants can expect to be quite comfortable, life in the backseat is a different story. If one of the front seats is all the way back, there is literally not an inch of legroom behind it. Even with a driver of less-than-average height, there still isn't enough legroom for an adult. The hard-plastic seat backs used for the front seats also don't provide any give, although they are dished slightly in an attempt at giving more legroom.
The 2006 Saab 9-3 2.0T Convertible's navigation system seems to have more buttons than just about anything short of the space shuttle, though we suspect the shuttle might be easier to operate than this navigation system, which is one of the worst we've seen. By far, our biggest complaint is that it doesn't want to display street names on the map, no matter what level of zoom--although it showed a few names if we scrolled the map so that it wasn't centered on the car. Inputting a destination wasn't fun either. At $2,000, this should have been a touch-screen system. Instead, we had to select each letter and number using a rotating dial, which was especially frustrating, as there is a keypad sitting right next to the navigation system. Points of interest include only places such as museums, gas stations, and Saab dealers--if we wanted to go to Costco, Home Depot, or a bookstore, we were out of luck.
The keypad, which so taunted us while we attempted to enter navigation destinations, didn't do anything at all in our test car. It seems to be a legacy from European models, which have a factory Bluetooth option. American models don't get the Bluetooth option, just a useless keypad.