2002 Saab 9-3 Overview
Innovative to the point of quirkiness, Saab was one of the key pioneers not only of front-wheel drive, but also of body designs that were at once aerodynamic outside and spacious inside, while providing outstanding passenger protection. During the 1970s, when most cars were losing performance to stricter emissions rules, Saabs grew faster (and cleaner) every year. During this period Saab re-introduced automotive turbocharging and pioneered distributorless ignition. The 99EMS, 99 Turbo, and 900 Turbo models became performance legends. Since then, the rest of the world has caught up a bit, and the latest Saabs are more mainstream than their ancestors. Still, the current 9-3 preserves that special character that makes a Saab. The ignition key is still mounted on the center console; a modern version of the Black Panel instrument cluster remains; and innovative solutions abound. The model name is pronounced nine-three, and it is a reference to Saab's heritage. Saab was founded in the 1930s as an aircraft manufacturer, and its first automobile, the 92 of 1949, was so named because it was the company's 92nd engineering project. Subsequent Saab cars were numbered more or less in sequence, so that the digit 9 becoming a company hallmark. The Saab 99 of 1969 was followed by the 900 in 1979 and then the 9000 in 1985. At that point someone must have noticed an unpromising trend, and hence the retreat to 9-3 for the bread-and-butter range and 9-5 for the company flagship.