Complaints: I found little to complain about.
Praise: "Entry-level luxury," whatever. The bottom line is that the new 9-3 fits well into the market for premium, compact/mid-size family sedans.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Triple aces. There is more than enough here to please most normal jockeys, and perhaps a few recalcitrant throttle jockeys.
Powertrain: The tested Linear version of the 9-3 is equipped with a standard turbocharged, 16-valve, 2-liter, in-line four-cylinder engine that develops 175 hp at 5,500 revolutions per minute and 195 foot-pounds of torque at 2,500 rpm. The upscale Arc and Vector get a 210-hp version of that engine. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for the Linear; a six-speed manual is standard for the Arc and Vector. A five-speed automatic (Saab's Sentronic) that also can be operated manually is optional.
Capacities: The 9-3 seats five people and carries 14.8 cubic feet of cargo and 16.4 gallons of gasoline. Premium unleaded is required.
Head-turning quotient: Mild. Not much neck-twisting at all. What can I say? Mainstreams have a way of diluting creativity.
Price: Base price on the tested Linear version of the 2003 Saab 9-3 is $25,900. Dealer invoice on that model is $24,443. Price as tested is $26,525, including a $625 destination charge.
Purse-strings note: It's a buy. Compare with Acura TL/Type-S, BMW 325i, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35, Jaguar X-Type, Volvo S60.