When the first 900 Cabriolet was introduced in 1986, SAAB really turned the market for convertibles upside down. While many other luxury brands tried and produced their own as well with varying progress, SAAB’s 900 and 9-3 Cabriolets were a resounding success and are generally considered to be the true icons in the segment. Uusikaupunki, Finland and Graz, Austria were the assembly plants before the Cabriolet production was relocated home to Trollhättan in 2009, the same location where regular production halted in 2011. Since December 2013 however, hundreds of new MY14 9-3 SportSedans were manufactured and only last week, a thoroughly upgraded 9-3 Cabriolet left Stallbacka…
The first Convertible
A SAAB Cabriolet has always been extremely high on my wish list. Apart from stunning design and great performance, the feeling of freedom when driving with the roof down is just unsurpassed. I had been on the lookout for one for many years, but was never able to find the perfect match- if anything because I simply couldn’t afford one earlier.
In the early Spring of 2009 a great opportunity presented itself: a SAAB dealer in Falun (some 300 kilometres north of Stockholm) had a MY08 9-3 Cabriolet Vector in Arctic White for sale. Not only was the 2.0t BioPower automatic loaded with options (e.g. cornering Xenon headlights and the Premium Sound System with 6 CD changer), it featured the light beige roof and parchment leather interior that I really liked. The car was technically new but had been in use as a demo vehicle and as prices had generally dropped by quite a bit on the back the GM announcement of an “orderly wind down” of SAAB, I was able to negotiate a great deal and trade in my MY05 9-3 SportSedan I had been driving earlier.
I still remember the talks I had with the salesman vividly. He was the text book example of someone who not only really knew what he was talking about, but also was truly expressing deep passion for the SAAB brand. He drove an almost identical 9-3 himself and convinced me that it would be no problem driving this “summer car” all year round, something I actually did the first two years and never regretted.
Apart from the usual maintenance and a paint sealant, I never felt the urge to do any upgrades to the car. It was perfect just the way it was! Well… until I got the MY14 9-3 Sedan. Then Orio ran a campaign here in Sweden with great deals on front bumper / grille upgrades. Although a TurboX/TX front would have been quite nice too, I decided to want to try and turn my MY08 9-3 into a MY14-inspired version.
The one thing I never realized could make such a big difference were the leather Hirsch door handles. They were also fitted in the 9-3N Sedan and they really provide a premium feeling to the car. If you ask me, they should be standard on any SAAB. Finding a set turned out to be more difficult (like with most Hirsch accessories at the moment), but I was lucky in the end. Another Orio web shop promotion subsequently provided the inspiration to upgrade the dashboard to titan look and I got my local SAAB Service Centre to install the whole bunch when I had the car in for regular service.
The big change however was to the exterior. I love the MY14 front. A more modern, stylish and somewhat brutal look, with the larger aircraft wing around the SAAB logo and the very distinctive fog lights. The design of the fog lights had already been updated by SAAB Automobile as a part of the MY12/Griffin series, but NEVS went a step further by introducing LED bulbs and Daytime Running Lights (DRL). These DRLs turned out to be a real challenge for my upgrade attempt as the electrical values of the new bulbs don’t match the pre-MY14 9-3’s and generate flickering lights and error messages if fitted without modifications.
The MY14 Cabriolet by NEVS
These DRL modifications required experts and I found them at NEVS in Trollhättan! Not at the factory as you may suspect, but actually at their service department. Probably one of NEVS “best kept secrets”, this part of the NEVS’ Technical Development Center has actually been operations since 2013 and is run by a team of highly experienced professionals. The team did nothing short of an outstanding job. A new MY14 front (with working DRL’s!), an updated back and the finishing touch with MY14 SAAB logos on the steering wheel, the rims and on the ignition key. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better it turned out that my car had received thorough cleaning and a waxing treatment. It feels I got a new car and this is what the MY14 SAAB 9-3 Cabriolet could have looked like!
The all-new 9-3 Cabriolet
As much as I truly adore driving my current (and now upgraded!) 9-3 Cabriolet and love writing about it, I would have equally liked to write about an all-new 9-3. When I spoke with NEVS President Mattias Bergman recently, he confirmed that getting the Cabriolet back into production was part of their early plans. While most of the tools and required body presses are available, not all of them are. In particular equipment that was standing at suppliers’ sites turned out to have been destroyed (either at the suppliers’ own initiatives or at the request of GM) and recreating them would have been way too costly. Bergman did confirm again however that he feels that the Cabriolet is unique and essential to the brand and that NEVS is working hard on a Phoenix-based product portfolio that is broader than SAAB Automobile has ever had. As previously announced in June, a new Business Plan is being worked on as we speak that will further underpin this and I am expecting NEVS to share more details soon. Until then… time to enjoy my “new” 9-3 Cabriolet before it goes into winter storage 🙂