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Taking a Firm Stand

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Changes transform the 9-3; it feels light, poised and balanced. Brakes are upgraded with larger, grooved rotors, semi-metallic brake pads, and larger calipers with larger master cylinder. With specially developed Dunlop SP Sport 2000 tires, Viggen rides acceptably firmer with handling characteristics that can best be appreciated on the tightest curves you can find.

Superb handling can only be appreciated when motivated by a responsive drive train. Saab's turbocharged 2.3 liter 5-cylinder engine is that. It produces 44 percent more torque per liter of displacement - the team's chosen power priority - than a 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera.

Horsepower builds top speed while torque pushes you out of corners. This is where power figures can mislead. Viggen produces 225 horsepower (150 kW) at 5,500 rpm and 252 pound-feet of torque (368 Nm) from 2,500 rpm through 4,000 rpm. This does not tell you that second, third, fourth, and even fifth gear acceleration feels like over 300 horsepower or its J 37 Viggen jet fighter namesake.

Foot-to-the-Floor

Third gear "foot-to-the-floor" acceleration will take you from 2,000 rmp to over 100 miles per hour (170 kph) in the distance of freeway on-ramps. Fourth gear will take you above 90 mph (150 kmh). Torque is electronically limited in first and second gear to prevent excess wheel spin.

Viggen has a larger, water cooled variable boost turbocharger capable of 1.4 bar (20 psi) boost and is controlled by an electronic throttle. Intake and exhaust valves are changed for increased heat resistance. The only transmission is a five-speed, short-throw manual. Plus there's an upgraded clutch, stronger, larger diameter drive shafts, and stronger CV joints. (Constant velocity joints transmit power from drive shaft to front wheels, allowing them to both turn and apply power simultaneously.)

Comfort and safety are equally important to Saab. You can see this from the moment you open the door. The sill has "Viggen" etched in stainless steel. Seats, retaining Saab's Active Head Restraint, are so tightly supportive that gentlemen will need to empty their rear pockets. Coverings are leather; a deep cobalt blue and Rocky Black with Viggen delta-wing emblems embossed at shoulder level.

Flying by Night

The dash appears to be rendered in gray metal with black switches. Gauge needles in day-glow orange are easily read, and Saab's Night Panel system extinguishes all but the speedometer, unless your attention is needed. Saab also includes audio controls in the steering wheel and discreetly placed OnStar controls (our favorite safety system) in the center panel.

Back seat passengers each have head restrains and shoulder belts and comfortable seats. There's enough room for a medium-sized passenger to lie across the seats and nap.

So the question is, do you want black, silver, or Lightening Blue? Coupe, five-door or convertible? Do you want a vehicle equally comfortable driving coast to coast or to tennis lessons, commuting or sprinting between corners? Do you want the exclusivity of owning one of 3,000 cars sold worldwide (1,000 in the U.S.) - or something that thousands of dealers sell by the truckload?

 

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