A midnight run over the San Gabriel mountains northeast of Los Angeles reminded me how much I enjoy piloting a competent, well-balanced car on Californiaís beautifully engineered mountain roads. The Angeles Crest Highway (Rt. 2) climbs and twists north out of La Canada Flintridge, then links (via the lovely N3) to the Angeles Forest Highway down to the 14 freeway, Palmdale, Lancaster and" />

Issue: Dec 2003


Cars Worth Noting - 2004 Saab 9-3 Convertible



2004 Saab 9-3 Convertible

by Gary Witzenburg

A midnight run over the San Gabriel mountains northeast of Los Angeles reminded me how much I enjoy piloting a competent, well-balanced car on Californiaís beautifully engineered mountain roads. The Angeles Crest Highway (Rt. 2) climbs and twists north out of La Canada Flintridge, then links (via the lovely N3) to the Angeles Forest Highway down to the 14 freeway, Palmdale, Lancaster and points north. Every curve, precisely radiused and banked, leads to another equally sweet, and the Saab soaks it up with unabashed glee.

The optional, manually shiftable Sentronic automatic makes easy work of selecting just the right ratio for best advantage of the 210-hp turbo fourís ample torque. Accelerating out of each curve, upshifting toward the next, the Saabís perfectly precise steering, athletically taut suspension and linear, progressive brakes add to enjoyment of the road.

Iíve always liked Saab convertibles, and this $40K í04 is easily the best one yet. Top down on a warm summer evening, itís as handsome and pleasant as any on the market. Top up, itís as quiet as lesser sedans. Its body is stiffer than the average softtopís, and itís far less shaky over rough spots than past open-air Saabs. Other than the Saab-icon console location of the electronic key, itís also less quirky.

The padded power top retracts into an expandable boot in the trunk ó provided youíve unloaded your luggage so the sensors know thereís nothing in its way. Steering spoke controls for the CD-changer sound system are a welcome convenience, as is the trip computer that tracks (among other things) your average mpg and distance to empty. We averaged 27-28 mpg over 4,000 miles, some of it beautifully brisk but too much of it creeping endlessly in California crushhour traffic.

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