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Saab looks to safety

With almost two-thirds of its worldwide sales hinging on the new 9-3, Saab has made more than 2000 changes to the new model.

The platform remains the same, but all-wheel-drive has been added.

Due here early next year, the company hopes the XWD, Saab's designation for the latest-generation Haldex 4 system, which will make the model more popular with buyers.

Australia's GM Premium Brands director Parveen Batish wants sales improvements in 2007 and says the 9-3 will achieve that.

“We did 1650 last year and this year we're tracking 16.5 per cent up on that. We're aiming for June 30 when we hope to be over 20 per cent up. It's been a great start,” he said.

Saab's priorities are the new 9-5 and an SUV (which appears destined for a 9-4 badge) and a compact car built on the next-generation Astra platform, to transform its sales results.

The new 9-3 range is expected to sell here in November. The flagship Aero XWD and TTiD will arrive in the first quarter of 2008.

The base-model has the 1.8t 110kW/167Nm motor, with 129kW/265Nm and 155kW/300Nm options on offer.

The Aero gets 188kW (up by 4kW) and 350Nm or 206kW and 400Nm in the XWD model. The current 110kW/320Nm diesel is joined by a 132kW/400Nm two-stage turbo.

The XWD's Haldex system is also used by Audi and Volkswagen.

Its biggest asset is a system that claims to provide a better response to a lack of traction. In-car electronics and traction aids determine which wheel is best served with drive torque. It also uses a rear, electronic, limited-slip diff for added traction and yaw control.

The all-wheel-drive system is, for now, an Aero-only option, teamed with the 2.8-litre turbocharged V6.

The other newcomer to Saab's 9-3 range is a second turbo-diesel, the TTiD two-stage turbo-diesel.

Displacing just 1.9 litres, the turbocharger has two turbines, one small, one large which tag-team depending on engine revs.

It produces 132kW and 400Nm, with an economy of under 6 litres/100km.

Prices are still to be set, but Saab wants the new model's price to be close to the present range.

The new 9-3 has been fitted with more engine-bay insulation so that the new turbo-diesel is much quieter, though you are still aware of it at idle.

Power delivery has been improved considerably, offering a wide spread of torque and power delivery in the upper-rev ranges.