2008 Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

With design based on the Aero-X Concept, the 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi range is focused on delivering a unique, ‘fun to drive’ experience that places it among the class leaders for sporty performance and excellent chassis dynamics. The Saab 9-3 comes to compete with models like BMW 3-series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-class.

The 9-3 features a coupe-like silhouette and strong, sporty stance of the Sport Sedan that helps it conveys that ‘moving when stationary’ look. And the muscular proportions of the SportCombi are a bold reaffirmation of Saab’s tradition for designing cars that are sporty in character and versatile in use.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The 2008 9-3 is powered by a range of ’tri-fuel’ choice of gasoline, diesel or bioethanol powered engines. It includes an all-aluminum 2.8-liter V6 turbocharged engine rated at 280 hp in combination with all-wheel- drive (Saab XWD); a powerful two-stage turbo diesel packing 400 Nm of torque and a choice of two Saab BioPower (E85) flex-fuel engines.

The turbo powertrains add excellent refinement and driveability to Saab’s traditional strengths of high torque for strong, mid-range pulling power. They deliver a level of responsive performance in keeping with the chassis’s excellent dynamics, further reinforcing the car’s driver focus. The line-up comprises six gasoline engine options, including two BioPower versionsand a choice of three diesel engines..

The sporty, distinctive looks of the Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi are an expression of modern Scandinavian design, incorporating contemporary and classic Saab design themes. Both models have a bold and assertive stance that reflects their strong, driving appeal. The sedan’s coupé-like profile communicates its sporty character, while the SportCombi’s cohesive, five-door bodystyle inherits the ’combi-coupé’ genes of the first Saab 99 Turbo.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

In common with all Saab cars, the 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi are designed ’from the driver outwards’. That means the cabin ergonomics, the instrumentation, the controls and the seating position are all developed from the driver’s perspective. The SportCombi adds versatility features, such as a surprisingly large cargo deck, to facilitate the active sports and leisure pursuits of owners.

The outstanding ‘fun to drive’ chassis dynamics of both the Sport Sedan and SportCombi deliver a level of driving involvement and pleasure that challenges the class benchmark. An active all-wheel-drive system (Saab XWD) is offered for Aero variants.

The 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi have the stiffest four and five-door body structurest yet produced by Saab, providing solid foundations on which their exemplary handling, ride and safety characteristics are built. A multiplex digital signal network ensures the fast and efficient control of major functions.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Saab has a long tradition of successful work with car safety and Saab cars consistently show well in real-life accident surveys, often being ranked best in their segment. In EuroNCAP crash tests, the 9-3 Sport Sedan and 9-3 Convertible have achieved a maximum five-star rating.


Design and Aerodynamics

The distinctive looks of the Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi clearly positions them as products that could only come from Saab. The styling strategy brings together contemporary and classic Saab design themes in a progressive, modern expression of the brand’s distinctive character. The result is a bold and assertive stance for both bodystyles that reflects a strong, sporty driver appeal.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

At the front, the deep, prominent evolution of the Saab grille adopts a theme first seen on the Aero X concept car. This is complemented by sweeping headlamp units that incorporate a thin ‘eyebrow’ lighting zone designed as a brand specific ‘signature’ feature. These units culminate in an upswept rear edge, introducing a Saab design theme from the 9-5 range and classic 900 model. The grille’s central wing motif is retained as a reference to Saab’s aircraft heritage..

The frontal styling sees the adoption of another Saab signature feature: a ‘clamshell’ hood, closing across the top of the front wings. The hood pressing incorporates a sweeping, U-shaped styling line, as first seen on the Aero X, which echoes the curvature of the windshield.

The swept-back frontal lines are complemented by a front bumper and splitter assembly with a deep, trapezoidal air intake, even more pronounced on Aero versions. This is flanked by deep black vents which are framed, like the grille, in a matte chrome finish. As with the Aero X concept, these represent a metaphor for the intakes of a jet engine.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Doors and bumpers moldings are clean and uncluttered by rubbing strips The flared, sill extensions are visually integrated front and rear with the scalloped corners of the bumper moldings. At the rear, both sedan and combi feature distinctive ‘frosted’ white light clusters, a subtle reference to the brand’s Scandinavian roots.

In profile, the gently arching roofline of the sedan flows between the steeply raked front and rear screens to create a coupé-like shape.. Classic Saab styling cues include: the combined teardrop form of the side windows with a disguised ‘B’ pillar; the wedge shape and high waistline culminating in that distinctive ‘hockey stick’ curve into the ‘C’ pillar; and a single swage line running the entire length of the car.

The SportCombi is a bold statement of Saab’s tradition for designing cars that are sporty in character and versatile in use. It draws on rich design heritage that began with the first ’combi-coupé’ Saab 99 Turbo, a performance car that also offered wagon-like functionality. The SportCombi’s compact appearance, its steeply raked rear screen, its short rear overhang, the small glass area behind the C-pillar, and the absence of roof rails, available as an option, are all features that separate it from conventional wagon design.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Like the sedan, the SportCombi has a rising belt-line that extends along the entire length of the car, culminating in the Saab ’hockey stick’ shape of the forward-angled D-pillar. All side windows are encapsulated within a single, teardrop-like graphic, with the B- and C-pillars ’blacked out’.

The dramatic rear styling features a relatively short rear overhang and distinctive, bold rear light zones with white, frosted lenses. In profile, these units are angled forward to emphasize the ’fastback’ shape of the rear styling. A rear spoiler is neatly integrated at the top of the steeply raked tailgate, extending and visually lowering the profile of the roofline. The overall effect provides a sharp contrast to the extension of rear bodywork and window glazing commonly associated with competitors in the premium wagon segment.


The 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi are both designed to cleave the air as efficiently as possible, providing good high speed stability, optimised fuel consumption and low wind noise inside the car.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The aerodynamics team concentrated their efforts on achieving a smooth airflow over, around, through and under the car. Advanced CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modeling played a vital role in the visualization of airflow and facilitated optimization work in the wind tunnel. CFD was also the main tool for analyzing internal airflows: in the engine bay. It was important to look at flow separation at the rear in order to reduce turbulence and minimize the size of the car’s wake.

The shaping of the side sills, rear body panels and the radius and curvature of the rear corner of the C-pillars in the Sport Sedan and the D-pillars in the SportCombi all play a part in helping to reduce drag. The result is an impressive drag coefficient of 0.28 for the Sport Sedan and 0.33 for the SportCombi

At the front, the rear edge of the hood lid ‘kicks up’ to smooth the passage of air on to and around the windscreen and A-pillars, helping to reduce wind noise as well as easing airflow. The traditionally deep curvature of the windscreen reduces the acceleration of the airflow as it approaches the A-pillars, which have a flattened radius where they connect to the windscreen to minimize airflow disturbance. The door mirror casings even have a small spoiler-like profile in the bottom surface to reduce the possibility of wind noise and grime build-up on the side windows.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

On the sedan, the team also worked hard to reduce disturbance where the bottom of rear window joins the trunk deck, a particularly sensitive area in ‘notchback’ shapes. The subtle upturn of the rear edge of the trunk lid is, in effect, an integral ‘lip’ spoiler which helps reduce the size of the car’s wake, the area of turbulent air that trails behind the car at speed.

High speed stability, including pitch sensitivity under braking and yaw responses to cross-winds at different speeds and angles, was a main priority. The SportCombi is the first Saab to achieve a zero level of lift at both axles, 0.00Clf and 0.00Clr. This has been achieved by utilizing the longer roofline of the SportCombi to speed up airflow, including the aerodynamic performance of the rear spoiler. . For the Sport Sedan a value of 0.11 Clr (coefficient of rear lift) is on a par with best in class.



The Saab 9-3 is designed to provide a near perfect driving position for the vast majority of drivers, almost irrespective of size, through a multi-adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for both rake and height. 

The main instrument panel gently arcs round the driver, an evolution of the same theme in the previous model. In typical Saab fashion, the controls are all logically grouped, those most frequently used bring nearest to hand and closest to the driver’s natural field of vision. The short gearshift lever is just a hand span away.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The main dials - a large speedometer, with a compressed scale above 140 kph, is flanked by a smaller rev-counter and a combined fuel/water temperature/turbo boost gauge - are recessed in traditional Saab fashion. They are white on black and continue to be softly illuminated in green as Saab believes this is the most restful color choice for night driving.

Also located in the main instrument panel are twin adjustable air vents and audio or infotainment system controls with, according to specification, a 6.5 inch, high resolution color monitor screen displaying particularly clear graphics.

The ‘Profiler’ facility, offering driver pre-sets for a wide range of functions is operated via steering wheel buttons, with on-screen prompts and selections shown in the main instrument display. Automatic climate control modes, the clock/alarm, speed scale illumination and, where fitted, the anti-theft alarm, parking assistance, rain sensitive wipers and heated seats can all be tailored in this way.

Saab has been seeking to minimize potential driver distraction for many years and the Saab 9-3’s ComSense safety function includes the use of a ’dynamic workload manager’, introduced with the first generation Saab 9-5 sedan in 1997. This enables the brief suppression of dashboard warning messages, or the interception of an incoming phone call, when a moment of high driver workload is detected by the operation of the indicators or heavy braking. 

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

In the same way, the ’Night Panel’ feature on all Saab cars, allows the driver to minimize distraction by switching off, or dimming, all the main instrumentation illumination at night (expect for the speedometer). The development of steering wheel controls for the audio system and telephone, as well as voice activation programs, are seen as further means of keeping the driver’s attention on the road.

The three-spoke steering wheel is slimmer and sportier than previous Saab designs. Adjustable for height and rake, it can carry buttons for the ’infotainment’ system, telephone, telematics or gear shifting with automatic transmission.

A substantial central console below the main instrument panel is inclined slightly towards the driver and sweeps elegantly down between the front seats. It accommodates the automatic climate controls, more minor switchgear, the gearshift lever, ignition switch and handbrake. The main storage compartment can be specified to incorporate coin slots, a 12-volt outlet for a battery charger and a smaller roll-top compartment with a cup-holder below the central arm-rest.

A particularly neat innovation is the ‘disguised’ handbrake, which is beautifully integrated in the edging trim of the console. It is a Z-shaped lever, self-adjusting and with a positive, easy-to-use action.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

In true Saab tradition, the ignition switch continues to be located alongside the handbrake. It is now entirely electronic in operation and the previous mechanical reverse gear lock is replaced by an automatic, electronic steering column lock.


Body structure

The body structures of the 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi are the stiffest yet produced by Saab, providing solid foundations on which their s exemplary handling, ride and safety characteristics are built.

The use of high-grade steels, tailored blanks, laser welding, the galvanizing of all external components and advanced joint techniques has produced extremely strong and durable structures. Effective ‘crash boxes’ in the front bumper help to minimize body damage in impacts up to 15 kph.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The power of the lighting system, which includes the option of bi-xenon headlamps, is in the fine tradition of Saab cars, as is the efficiency of the windscreen wipers and washing systems.

Structural Benefits

Exceptional levels of structural stiffness were an essential requirement in the design of the 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi. It is high torsional rigidity that helps give that reassuring ‘hewn for solid’ feel, which is communicated every time a door is closed or the car negotiates a poor road surface. And it makes a major contribution to eliminating squeaks and rattles, vibrations and resonance.

A stiff body is also a prerequisite for the work of chassis engineers. The car’s handling can only be effectively honed through its suspension and steering if the structure on which all these components exert loadings is solid and predictable.

Finally, but probably most importantly, the car’s ability to withstand a heavy impact is largely due to the strength of its passenger compartment and the ability of the body structure’s crumple zones to prevent energy reaching it.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Structural Strength

The body structure of the Sport Sedan and SportCombi’ is essentially a unitary construction fabricated from steel pressings and beams, on which is mounted a front sub-frame - carrying the engine, gearbox and lower front suspension mountings - and a rear sub-frame, carrying the rear suspension. Although a high level of structural stiffness was an essential requirement, this had to be balanced against the need to reduce unnecessary weight in the interests of fuel economy and achieving responsive handling characteristics. 
 The Sport Sedan has an exceptional torsional rigidity of 22,000 Nm/degree of deflection, while the SportCombi’s is only 6.6 per cent less than that of the Sport Sedan, despite the extended rear roof and the addition of a large rear tailgate opening. To put these figures in perspective, the body structures are as strong as a meter long rod, fixed at one end, would need to be in order to bend just one degree under the weight of fully-laden large car placed on the other end!

About 60 per cent of the car’s body weight is composed of high strength or ultra high strength steel, most of which is concentrated in the construction of the central passenger safety cage, where all main beams have welded closed sections for additional strength.

In all, about two-thirds of the body parts in the Sport Sedan and SportCombi play a structural role, although the key to the performance of the structure is how all these elements connect and interact in sharing the load-bearing task. The strength of a good design is far more than simply the sum of its parts.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

To calculate how loads can be distributed in the most efficient way, structural engineers used CAD techniques and finite element modeling (FEM) with a resolution of up to 850,000 elements, or cells, representing the car’s structure. Each body component is designed to contribute to structural integrity without being overloaded and structure-borne noise radiation from the engine, transmission and suspension is minimized.

Special attention was devoted to the location of seams and joints. It is pointless using high strength steels for different sections if the technique used to join them together is not at least as strong. For example, there are no joints at any of the corners of the safety cage, where stresses are likely to be greatest. Instead, joints between beams are carefully welded in place on straight sections with overlaps of at least 20 mm.

In order to be sure that extra strength does not necessarily mean extra weight, Saab engineers made great use of new technology in specifying ‘tailored blanks’ for large structural components. For example, the two main bearers which extend from the front of the car to the rear bulkhead are made from pressings of high strength steel. These are produced to different thicknesses, according to the localized loading demands at any point in the car’s structure. In other words, the extra strength or weight is located only where it is required.

The SportCombi was designed alongside the Sport Sedan and Convertible so engineers were able to integrate the requirements for a strong five-door body from the very beginning of the 9-3 project. To compensate for the loss of the cross bracing behind a sedan’s rear seat, the SportCombi features reinforcement to the base of the C-pillars and the addition of sub-structures or ’rings’, each connecting the top and bottom of the C and D-pillars with transverse beams in the roof and across the floor. These ’rings’ are then linked longitudinally by two beams in the roof, two in the cargo floor and one behind each side of the rear bodywork.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

On both the Sedan and SportCombi there are additional bracings above the rear wheel housings to provide a structure that is more than a match for premium class competitors, despite some potential loss of stiffness through the provision of a split/fold rear seat.

Superior Lighting

The strong lighting performance of Saab cars is almost as widely acclaimed as their reputation for safety. Hardly surprising, as good night-time visibility is, of course, an essential element of driving safety.

The Saab 9-3’s headlamps are housed within neatly integrated units, made from molded clear plastic, which is lighter and less prone to stone chips, cracking and condensation than glass.

The standard equipment headlamps use halogen bulbs behind projector units for excellent illumination. Powerful bi-xenon lights are an option for all variants. .These gas discharge bulbs give an extremely bright, much whiter light than halogen units. Saab was among the first manufacturers to offer this technology for both dipped and main beam – hence the term, bi-xenon. Where a normal halogen bulb will emit 1,500 lumens of lighting, a xenon unit will give 3,200 lumens, more than twice as much power, giving a spread of light 60 per cent better.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The effective control of such a powerful beam is essential for the benefit of fellow road users, as well as the driver, and bi-xenon lights have a dynamic, self-leveling function as standard. Under acceleration or braking, sensors detect body motion at the front of the car and electric motors in the headlamp units automatically adjust the height of the beam to compensate for any changes in the attitude of the body. As a further refinement, steering linked bi-xenon lights can also be specified to give an improved field of vision when cornering. 

The performance of headlamps, no matter how powerful, is badly compromised if the lenses become caked in grime. Powerful spray jets, working at 3.5 bar pressure, keep the plastic units clean. At the rear of the car, the single fog light automatically disconnects when the ignition is switched off, an added precaution to prevent it being inadvertently left on when no longer necessary.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The high level rear brake light is an LED unit, as tests show this illuminates more quickly than a conventional bulb, giving a more efficient warning signal.



The 2008 9-3 is powered by a range of ’tri-fuel’ choice of gasoline, diesel or bioethanol powered engines. It includes an all-aluminum 2.8-liter V6 turbocharged engine rated at 280 hp in combination with all-wheel- drive (Saab XWD); a powerful two-stage turbo diesel packing 400 Nm of torque and a choice of two Saab BioPower (E85) flex-fuel engines.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

All aluminum 2.8-liter V6 Turbo

This sophisticated engine has a 60º vee-angle between its cylinder banks for perfect balance and combines excellent multi-valve refinement with outstanding performance. Exclusive to Aero variants, it develops 280 hp/206 kW and exceptional torque of 400 Nm, when offered with Saab XWD, and 255 hp/188 kW and 350 Nm in front-wheel drive applications. The all aluminum construction provides a light and compact architecture, well suited to its transverse installation.

The cylinder heads, each with double chain-driven overhead camshafts operating four valves per cylinder, are of high specification aluminum. The design ensures enhanced heat resistance under 85 bar cylinder pressures, as well as minimum maintenance costs. The pistons have hard anodized ring grooves for durability and under-skirt oil jet cooling. The steel con-rods are strengthened by sinter-forging, a process that involves molding metal in a powered form. The exhaust valves are filled with sodium to further enhance cooling. The cylinders have cast iron liners and a bore/stoke of 89.00 / 74.8 mm.

The twin-scroll, water-cooled Mitsubishi TDO4-15TK turbocharger, operates at 0.6 bar maximum boost with intercooling and an integral by-pass valve. It is mounted centrally above the transmission and fed by both banks of cylinders. The use of two separate inlet tracts, one for each cylinder bank, separates the exhaust gas pulses, improving gas flow, reducing energy losses and raising turbocharger efficiency. The turbine wheel is made from a special high-grade steel alloy, commonly used in the turbocharged engines of world championship rally cars, which is resistant to erosion, cracking and creeping under high temperatures and centrifugal forces. 

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Also unique are double-skin exhaust manifolds, which are hydroformed with stainless steel liners to improve cold start emissions by minimizing heat absorption to the manifold. Air injection into each manifold for up to 30 seconds after a cold start also helps the central pre-catalyst, positioned upstream of the main catalytic converter, achieve ’light off’, its effective working temperature, as early as possible.

The 32-bit engine management system, with software calibrated specifically for the Saab 9-3 application, utilizes a torque-based engine control strategy and direct coil-over-plug ignition with a robust engine-mounted control unit. Ignition timing, fuel injection, turbo boost pressure, air mass measurement and the throttle setting are all key engine functions controlled by the software.

For driving comfort, control of the electronic throttle through the movement of the accelerator pedal is programmed to be sensitive to different driving conditions, with greater pedal movement introduced at lower vehicle speeds, such as when maneuvering or parking. At low engine speeds, the engine control system also brings the turbo in quickly by momentarily opening the throttle slightly more than requested by the driver.

In 280 hp or 255 hp specification, maximum torque is generated from just 1,800 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm, with 90 per cent of this value available from an exceptionally low 1,500 rpm. Under a full throttle load at take-off or low engine speeds, 90 per cent of maximum acceleration is delivered within one second. 

The fast, but controlled, torque build-up immediately above the 720 rpm idle speed is delivered with a turbine-like smoothness, giving impressive on the road performance. The 9-3 Aero Sport Sedan can accomplish the zero to 100 km/h dash in a rapid 6.7 seconds (FWD) or 6.3 seconds (projected) with Saab XWD, new performance benchmarks for Saab. 80-120 km/h acceleration in fifth gear is even more impressive, taking just 7.9 seconds (FWD) with the same figure projected for Saab XWD. Careful tuning of the Aero’s twin sports exhausts downstream of the main catalyst adds a distinctive, exhilarating engine note. 

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

New Two-stage Turbo Diesel Sets Class Benchmark

The new 9-3 range features the introduction of a powerful new four cylinder diesel engine with a unique two-stage turbocharging system, a world ‘first’ in the premium segment, giving class-leading levels of efficiency.

The 1.9-liter, 16-valve engine, badged TTiD, produces 180 hp/ 132 kW and 400 Nm of maximum torque, specific power outputs that are unmatched among competitor products on the market. With combined fuel consumption of 5.9 l/100k projected in the Sport Sedan, this engine also offers excellent economy, together with in-gear performance on a par with the 2.8V6 turbo gasoline engine

Saab’s two-stage turbocharging uses a system of by-pass valves that directs the exhaust gas stream between the two turbine wheels and also separates the air intake charge from the compressors. From tick-over to 1,500 rpm the exhaust feeds only the small turbo. Between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm the flow is split between both turbines, giving stronger boost and ensuring a smooth transition phase to full power operation, above 3,000 rpm, when only the larger turbo is engaged.

The compact design provides more efficient packaging than systems using two separate turbochargers linked together externally in series. It ensures that the complex control and regulation of gas flows on both the exhaust turbine and intake compressor sides is achieved with a minimal number of seals and connections.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The TTiD engine is a substantial development of the current 16-valve 1.9TiD unit, using common rail, direct and multiple fuel injection. It operates with a maximum boost pressure of 1.8 bar (1.4 bar for the current engine) together with a slightly lower compression ratio of 16.5: 1 (17.5:1). The cast-iron block, alloy cylinder head and all internal components are strengthened as necessary to withstand the higher thermal pressures.

The 150 hp version is focused more on performance. In-gear acceleration, the most important feature for everyday driving, is on a par with the 210 hp (155 kW) gasoline engine and the zero to 100 kph dash in the sedan is accomplished in a brisk 9.5 seconds. The 120 hp, 8-valve version majors on the cost of ownership, returning 5.4 liters/100 km over the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of just 147 gms/km.

Lightweight 2.0-liter Turbo, choice of three power ratings

The compact, all-aluminum, four cylinder 2.0-liter gasoline engine has a block perfectly ‘square’ in configuration, with a bore and stroke of 86 mm, and carries a unique Saab four-valve cylinder head, maintenance-free chain-driven camshafts, counter-rotating balancer shafts, for improved refinement, and an integrated oil cooler. It is controlled by the latest Trion Trion ic 8 version of Saab’s own, in-house engine management system, among the most sophisticated of its kind in commercial production.

A Mitsubishi TD04 turbocharger, with an integrated by-pass valve, is used together with intercooling in all applications. It operates at 0.5, 0.7 and 0.85 bar maximum boost pressures, respectively, for the 150 hp (110 kW), 175 hp (129 kW) and 210 hp (155 kW) engines. The latter also has altered valve timing.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The power characteristics of all variants help set new Saab standards for four cylinder engine refinement, throttle response and progressive torque delivery, as well as yielding competitive fuel consumption and low CO2 emissions. In common with all Saab engines, outstanding levels of torque are generated at low engine speeds, with at least 90 per cent of peak values available from just below 2,000 rpm.

Maximum power and torque figures are as follows:

  • 150 hp (110kW) at 5,500 rpm, 240 Nm at 2,000 - 3,500 rpm. (Badged 1.8t)
  • 175 hp (129 kW) at 5,500 rpm, 265 Nm at 2,500 – 3,500 rpm. (Badged 2.0t).
  • 210 hp (155 kW) at 5,300 rpm, 300 Nm at 2,500 - 4,000 rpm. (Badged 2.0T).

Naturally-aspirated 1.8i option

The appeal of the Sport Sedan and SportCombi is broadened by a naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter engine choice in Linear and Vector Vector specifications. The 122 hp (90 kW), 16-valve unit, with direct ignition by Bosch and an aluminum cylinder head and close-coupled catalyst, is focused on delivering excellent fuel economy, with low emissions and running costs, whilst retaining lively performance.

The use of an electronic throttle and a variable length intake manifold helpsdeliver a key Saab driving characteristic - strongly perceived low and mid-range pulling power. At least 90 per cent of maximum torque (167 Nm at 3,800 rpm) is generated between 2,400 and 5,700 rpm, while zero to 100 kph acceleration in 11.5 seconds still feels adequate. 

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

With service intervals up to two years, or 30,000 km, and lower insurance groupings, scheduled running costs will be competitively low. An electro-hydraulic power steering system is also fitted as standard with this engine, minimizing mechanical losses and contributing to lower fuel consumption.

This engine, badged ’1.8i’, is available only with a five-speed manual transmission and brings the Saab 9-3 Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi within the budgets of more cost-conscious drivers who still seek a premium-class driving experience.

Unique Saab BioPower Choice

Saab leads the premium segment in offering ’flex-fuel’ BioPower engines, which can run on gasoline and/or bioethanol (E85), a renewable fuel with a reduced CO2 impact. As well as being kinder to the environment, Saab BioPower is also the only flex-fuel technology that uses turbocharging to deliver increased power and performance.. .
In combining the benefits of ’going green’ with the enjoyment of even sportier performance, the development of BioPower reflects Saab’s brand values. It also offers a very practical solution to the environmental needs of customers because a BioPower engine can run on gasoline, without adjustment from the driver, in any proportion if E85 fuel (85% bioethanol/15% gasoline) is not available. With BioPower there is no loss of luggage space or additional weight because the same standard tank is used for both fuels.

The new Saab 9-3 range now features the introduction of a 2.0t BioPower engine, in addition to the current version. Running on E85, the 2.0t BioPower engine delivers 14% more maximum power (200 hp/ 147 kW.v 175 hp/ 129 kW) and 13% more torque (300 v 265 Nm). In the Sport Sedan, this gives projected zero to 100 kph acceleration in 7.9 sec and 80 to 120 kph in fifth gear in 10.0sec, compared to 8.5 sec and 11.1 sec, respectively, on gasoline.

On E85, the current BioPower engine gives 17% more maximum power (175 hp/129 kW v 150 hp/110 kW) and 10% more torque (265 v 240 Nm). In the Sport Sedan, that translates to zero to 100 kph acceleration in 8.4 sec and 80 to 120 kph in fifth gear in 13.9 sec, compared to 9.5 sec and 15.0 sec, respectively, on gasoline.

E85 has a higher octane rating (104 RON) than gasoline (95 RON), and turbocharging with Saab BioPower allows the use of a higher boost pressure and more advanced ignition timing than is possible with gasoline. This gives more engine power, without risk of harmful ’knocking’ or pre-detonation.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Advanced Transmissions

A six-speed automatic transmission is offered with the 2.8V6 Turbo and all three turbo diesel engines. A five-speed version is available on all other gasoline turbo engines, with an additional ’5+2’ transmission, exclusive to the 210 hp (155 kW) unit, introducing two intermediate gears, ’2.5’ and ’3.5’, for greater access to acceleration on kick-down.

All transmissions include ‘Saab Sentronic’, a sequential manual gearshift giving closer driver involvement. When the shift lever is moved across the gate to ‘manual’ Sentronic mode, ‘up’ and ‘down’ changes can be made with full lock-up in 3/4/5 or 6th gears. The process can be taken a step further by the option of steering wheel buttons, which bring gear shifting right to the fingertips of the driver.

A ‘Sport Mode’ can also be activated via an instrument panel button which aligns automatic gear selection more closely with the intentions of the driver. If the driver momentarily lifts of the throttle, the current gear will be held for more effective engine braking and a quicker acceleration when required. Downshifts are also more closely matched to the rate of vehicle deceleration under braking.
In automatic mode, these ’smart’ transmissions from Asin AW are adaptive to driver usage patterns and prevailing road conditions, fully exploiting Saab turbo power characteristics. The transmission can sense changes in engine performance, engine load, road gradient or altitude and will quickly find the ‘right’ gear without any irritating ‘hunting’.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

A close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox is standard fitment for the 2.8V6 Turbo and the 210 hp (155 kW) and 175 hp (129 kW) engines. With a wider set of gear ratios, it is also standard for the diesel engines, including a taller final drive for the 8-valve version in order to optimize fuel consumption. The gearbox has dual output shafts for compact design and lower transmission vibrations.


Chassis, Brakes, Steering

The Sport Sedan and Sport Combi fulfil their roles as fun-to-drivecars by displaying exceptional handling characteristics that not only set new standards for Saab but also challenge class benchmarks. They are the result of a rigorous development program, the most exhaustive ever undertaken by Saab, designed to combine the benefits of front wheel drive - predictability and excellent driver feedback - with new levels of chassis control for a more rewarding driving experience.

An exceptionally stiff body provided Saab engineers with a solid foundation on which to achieve outstanding chassis dynamics, exemplary ride refinement and impressively low levels of noise, vibration and harshness.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The chassis’s innate talents are backed up with a full arsenal of electronic driver aids, including ABS (Antilock Braking System), TCS (Traction Control System), EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and an optional ESP® (Electronic Stability Program). 

Sporty Handling with Saab ReAxs – passive rear wheel steer

The top priority of the Saab 9-3 chassis development program was to achieve best-in-class handling characteristics. This was an essential requirement as the car, in either sedan and wagon format, is targeted at owners who value the enjoymnent of a satisfying, high performance driving experience.

Anyone who drives the Sport Sedan or SportCombi will immediately appreciate its quick responses to steering, throttle and braking inputs, together with its impressive levels of grip, driver ‘feedback’ and body control. A low center of gravity and the exceptionally stiff bodyshell also play an important role.

The adoption of a four-link rear suspension layout, with toe-links and the use of ball joints instead of rubber inboard and outboard suspension bushings, has allowed engineers to dial in a unique, passive rear wheel steer characteristic, Saab ReAxs.

When cornering, the elasto-kinematics at the rear axle induce a very slight deflection of both rear wheels in the opposite direction to the steering input, i.e. toe-out for the outer wheel and toe-in for the inner wheel.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Depending on the radius of a bend and the consequent loadings at the rear axle, one degree of movement at the front wheels would typically produce a small but significant response of about one hundredth of a degree at the rear.

This is sufficient to prevent excessive understeer, where the driver is forced to apply progressively more steering lock to turn the front end of the car, increasing the scrub angles of the front tyres. The ReAxs characteristic overcomes this ‘crabbing ‘ effect, helping the tail of the car follow the direction of the front wheels, instead of its nose. For the driver, this gives the car a better balance, helping it turn in and respond more closely to steering inputs.

Suspension Design

The front suspension is by MacPherson struts with de-coupled top mountings, separating the damper and spring loadings, gas shock absorbers and a direct-acting anti-roll bar. The lower control arms are attached to a hydroformed (hollow section) front sub-frame, including a hydraulic bush on the rearmost mounting each side for optimum damping. For good directional stability and ride comfort, the layout is designed to be largely impervious to lateral forces and compliant longitudinally.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The independent rear suspension is also mounted on an isolated sub-frame and incorporates three transverse and one longitudinal link with an anti-roll bar. This layout allows a high degree of wheel movement control with good longitudinal compliance. Like the front suspension, bushings are stiff for lateral forces and relatively soft longitudinally. There is great scope for optimizing both handling and ride characteristics, as well as helping to prevent road noise entering the cabin.

Shear bushings are used in the rear shock absorber top mountings. These effectively dissipate vibrations from the road by absorbing small vertical up and down movements before they are transmitted directly into the mounting and the structure of the car. This feature improves ride quality and also plays an important role in further attenuating road noise.

To deliver the high standard of ride quality expected in this class of car, unsprung weight is reduced by using aluminum for the front wheel hubs and brake calipers, the lower control arms in the front suspension and the toe and lower links in the rear suspension.

Saab XWD

An active all-wheel-drive system (Saab XWD) is designed to optimize handling and stability in all driving conditions. It is offered as an option on Aero variants, together with an uprated 280 hp, 2.8V6 turbo engine. This state-of-the-art system includes innovative developments in wheel slip management the use of an electronically-controlled, rear limited-slip differential. It comes with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission. 

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Saab XWD is a fully automatic, on-demand system capable of sending up to 100% of engine torque to the front or rear wheels whenever necessary. While offering sure-footed handling in low-grip conditions, its sophisticated operation also adds a further sporty dimension to the driving experience in all road conditions. Fine balancing of the drive torque between the front and rear axles raises the threshold at which ESP throttle and braking interventions are triggered, providing more scope for closer driver involvement.
The system is governed by its own electronic control unit, which functions in harness with the engine, transmission and ABS/ESP control modules. The hardware consists of a Power Take-off Unit (PTU) in the front final-drive that transmits engine torque through a prop-shaft to the Rear Drive Module (RDM). This incorporates a Torque Transfer Device (TTD) and an optional electronically-controlled Limited Slip Differential (eLSD). Both are wet, multi-plate clutch units from Haldex. 

At take-off, the TTD is initially activated when the clutch plates are forced together under hydraulic pressure, thereby engaging the RDM. This pre-emptive function is a valuable improvement in current technology, which requires the detection of wheel slip before the TTD is activated. For the driver, the enhanced functionality gives maximum traction immediately for smooth, strong acceleration from rest without the possibility of any initial hesitation.

On the open road, drive torque is seamlessly and continuously varied between the axles by the control of a valve in the TTD, which increases or reduces the pressure on the wet clutch plates. When cornering, Saab XWD rewards the driver by providing enhanced, more finely balanced chassis dynamics. Data from the vehicle’s ABS/ESP sensors - measuring wheel speed, yaw rate and steering angle – is utilized and careful programming of Saab XWD enables the application of rear drive to balance oversteer and understeer characteristics,, improving stability and roadholding.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

In highway cruising conditions, when traction or optimum grip is not an issue, only 5% to 10% of engine torque is typically transmitted to the rear wheels. This helps provide the driver with a measure of greater stability, while helping to save fuel.

Installation of Saab XWD includes the fitment of a new rear sub-frame to carry the RDM, revised rear suspension geometry and new wheel hubs for the drive shafts. The three piece prop-shaft runs through two bearings with constant velocity joints for smooth running with minimal ‘wind-up’. Wheelbase and rear track dimension are unaltered.

Braking System

In EU specification, three brake sizes are fitted according to engine power. For all four cylinder engines, except the 210 bhp version, 285 mm front (ventilated) and 278 mm solid rear discs are fitted. For the 210 bhp engine they are 302/292 mm (both ventilated) and for the Aero 2.8V6 turbo and 1.9TTiD engines these are increased to 314/292 mm

High speed braking stability sets new standards for Saab thanks to the ReAxs control of the rear suspension geometry. This effectively ‘preloads’ the rear tyres by applying some lateral force through toe-in as braking commences.

A four channel ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) and a Traction Control System (TCS), is standard fitment for all variants. An automatic brake boost feature, Mechanical Brake Assist (MBA), increases braking pressure from the master cylinder when the driver stamps hard on the brake pedal, stopping the vehicle quicker and activating the ABS more effectively.

Cornering Brake Control (CBC) is activated when the car is cornering under heavy braking. Brake pressure is individually varied between all four wheels in order to keep the car stable, minimizing any snap oversteer or understeer characteristics.
All four brake discs have full size dust shields. These help to ensure braking performance is not impaired by large amounts of snow, mud or dust jamming the calipers.

Advanced Electronic Stability Program

The fine chassis dynamics of the Saab 9-3 can be supplemented by a new generation Saab-tuned ESP system, which is designed to gently counteract over-exuberance or misjudgements from the driver.

The latest, driver-selectable ESP has been recalibrated and honed using dedicated software to match the behavior of the chassis. The ’intelligent’ system is extremely progressive in use and is designed to function almost imperceptibly, avoiding harsh interventions when the chassis has already reached the limits of adhesion.

A yaw sensor in the center of the car detects movement around the vertical axis and a sensor on the steering column measures the steering angle being applied. Inputs from these sources are then correlated with the speed of the car.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The system is extremely flexible and it is programmed to execute whatever actions will most effectively prevent the onset of a loss of control. Depending upon the chassis’s disposition, it is possible for braking to be applied via the ABS system to one, two or three wheels at once, or, if necessary, for the electronic throttle opening to be reduced.

Precise Steering

The power steering on Saab cars is widely acknowledged for achieving just the right balance between assistance and ‘feel’. In the straight ahead position there is virtually no assistance, in order the give the driver as much direct control as possible, and even at low speeds the driver’s feel for the road surface is never impaired

For variants with 1.8i naturally-aspirated gasoline and turbo diesel engines, an electro-hydraulic power steering system is fitted, which uses a pump driven by a computer-controlled electric motor as a further contribution to improved fuel consumption.

As a general indication of the tautness of the chassis, tests show its lateral acceleration response time – the speed at which all chassis response to a steering input is completed – is about 30 per cent faster than average for this size of car.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

The hydraulic pump for the rack and pinion system is camshaft or belt-driven, depending on the engine variant, and the rack is mounted low down at the back of the front sub-frame. The geometry and tuning of the front and rear suspensions also combine to give the steering its distinctive feel, linearity and responsiveness. At just 2.97 turns from lock to lock, it is the quickest steering yet fitted to a Saab car.



Saab has a long tradition of successful work with vehicle safety. In surveys of real-life collisions made by the US Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) and the Swedish insurance company, Folksam, many Saab cars have scored well, several times being ranked best in their segment. In EuroNCAP crash tests, the Saab 9-5 Saab 9-5 Sedan, 9-3 Sport Sedan and 9-3 Convertible have all achieved a maximum five star rating. In the United State, the 9-3 Sport Sedan is also the first car with standard safety equipment to receive a “Double Best Pick” rating in crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

For Saab, the pursuit of improved safety is a never-ending quest and the Saab 9-3 product program has given safety engineers another opportunity to apply the lessons of real-life safety.

‘Real-Life’ Crash Configurations

Computer simulations and crash testing at Saab are designed to replicate what happens in real collisions on real roads, based on the findings of a database covering more than 6,100 real-life accidents, including the Saab 9-3 and Saab 9-5, on Swedish roads.

During the Saab 9-3 product development program, the structural design of the car and the deployment of its occupant protection systems were evaluated not only in consumer and legally required crash tests, but also in a large number of additional in-house configurations, taking occupants of different sizes into consideration. Prototype tests were carried out in the laboratory and outdoors in a wide range of speeds and configurations. 

However, advanced crash simulations, using finite element methods (FEM) and drawing on Saab’s extensive experience, help to find solutions before any prototypes are built. Support by simulation is used throughout the development process in structural design, as well as for the tuning of occupant protection systems, such as seat-belts and airbags. As a result, crash tests are increasingly used as a physical means of verifying what is already known.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Second Generation Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR)

Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR) are fitted as standard to the front seats. Crash investigation findings published by the US Journal of Trauma, and comparative tests by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Thatcham insurance research center in the UK, have shown the SAHR to be extremely effective in helping to prevent serious neck injury to front seat occupants in the event of a rear-end collision. The Journal of Trauma published a Saab study that found a remarkable 75 per cent reduction in severe neck injuries when comparing Saab cars fitted with SAHR against older Saab models not equipped with the SAHR system.

The Saab 9-3 product line features a ‘second generation’ version for even faster activation in rear impacts at lower speeds. The head restraint is activated as soon as the occupant’s lower back is pressed into the seatback by the effect of inertia during a rear impact.

The restraint is fixed to the top of the seat-back frame, which is designed to pivot at its mid-point. As the occupant’s lower back comes into contact with the bottom of the seatback, the upper half of the frame carrying the head restraint is designed to move forward and upward, towards the occupant’s head. In a rear end collision, this mechanism helps prevent neck injury by reducing the amount of head movement relative to the torso.
The SAHR system is entirely mechanical and after activation the head restraint automatically springs back to its passive position, ready for future use. 

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Roof Rail Airbags and Front Side Airbags

Roof-mounted airbags are installed on each side, between the A and C-pillars, in the interior headlining above the side windows. These are designed to help provide head protection for both front and rear seat occupants throughout an entire crash sequence. Side airbags, mounted in the outboard edges of both front seatbacks, are designed to help provide thorax protection.

Both are activated in side impacts, together with seat-belt pre-tensioning, and also in severe frontal impacts which require stage 2 activation of the front airbags. This helps provide head and body protection in the event of any subsequent secondary impact or an eventual roll.

To improve cushion kinematics during inflation, the roof rail airbags are inflated outwards from the central B-pillar area. They remain inflated for up to three seconds in order to help prevent an occupant’s head striking the A, B, or C-pillar, or intruding exterior objects, during the course of an impact sequence.

For sophisticated impact sensing and ‘intelligent’ airbag deployment, there are two impact sensors in each side of the car, one in the sill near the B-pillar and the other in the lower part of the C-pillar. These sensors measure acceleration rates, a decision on airbag deployment being taken by the central sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) in a few milliseconds.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Dual Stage Front Airbags

These are designed to help provide an ’occupant-friendly’ deployment in frontal impacts.

Two sensors in the front bumper beam detect impact severity, a sensor in the seat track communicates the seating position and a switch in the seat-belt buckles indicates whether or not the belts are being worn. This data is sent to the centrally located SDM which, within milliseconds, chooses between activation of the belt pre-tensioners alone, or in combination with stage 1 or stage 2 inflation of the airbags. In a severe impact, where stage 2 of the front airbag is used, the roof rail airbag is also designed todeploy for additional head protection. 

A collision with a relatively low level of impact energy would, for example, likely require less airbag pressure and, therefore, a slower rate of inflation than a more severe, high-energy impact. A short driver sitting close to the steering wheel also benefits from a softer, lower pressure inflation.

Seat-belt Load Limiter and Reminder System

Despite the use of airbags, seat-belts are still the single most important occupant restraint system and three-point belts are provided for all seating positions, including the middle of the rear seat.

For both front occupants, there are belt pre-tensioners and load limiting functions to help remove belt slack and reduce belt loads in more significant collisions. The pre-tensioner is mounted on the belt retractor and is activated by a signal from the airbag sensing system, igniting a small pyrotechnic charge that retracts the belt.

The load limiting function consists of a torsion bar inside the retractor that, at a pre-determined load level, will start to deform helping to reduce the belt load.

Saab has used a seat-belt reminder function since 1974 and, to further emphasize the importance of belt usage, the system in the 9-3 range independently informs and reminds the driver and the front passenger of non belt usage.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Occupant-friendly Interior

A great deal of experience has gone into making the interior surfaces and materials more ‘occupant-friendly’. In particular, the front areas of the cabin near the knee and lower leg are well bolstered to help prevent occupant injury. The driver’s pedals are designed to break away in a severe impact and the steering column is also collapsible.

Passenger safety is the main reason why interior door armrests and inner door handles are recessed. It is also one of the reasons why the Saan 9-3, in common with most other Saab cars, has a floor-mounted ignition switch, well away from sensitive knee and leg areas.

Driving Safety

It is, of course, preferable to be abler to avoid becoming involved in any road collision. Here the 9-3’s excellent chassis dynamics, steering and brakes helpkeep the driver in control and, therefore, less likely to be involved in, or better able to avoid, a collision. 

Driving safety is also advanced by the availability of anElectronic Stability Program (ESP®), Mechanical Brake Assistance (MBA), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC). These features are described in the Chassis section.

Optional cornering bi-xenon headlights provide better night vision. The steering-linked bulbs can swivel up to 15 degrees when negotiating a bend or corner above 15 kph. In highway driving above 120 kph, the low beam is also automatically raised slightly for improved illumination without dazzling on-coming drivers.

Improved driving safety also involves reducing the potential for driver distraction and the 9-3 features Saab ComSense functionality, which uses the concept of ’dynamic workload management’. This is described in the Interior Features section.

Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

A further aid is the optional Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). This warns the driver if pressure in any of the tires drops below the recommended level. Sensors in the valves initiate a radio signal and a warning message is illuminated in the main instrument display. TPMS is an option for Aero variants and comes as standard when 18-inch wheels are specified.



Gasoline engines:

  • 2792cc. V6. Aluminum cylinder heads and block. Twin-scroll turbocharger, intercooled. DOHC, 24-valve. Variable valve timing (inlet). Dual-mass flywheel. Bosch Motronic ECM
  • 1998 cc. 4 cylinders in-line. Aluminum cylinder head and block. Turbocharger, intercooled. DOHC, 16-valve. Balancer shafts.
  • Saab Trionic 8 ECM
  • 1796 cc. 4 cylinders in-line. Aluminum cylinder head, cast iron block. DOHC, 16-valve. Naturally-aspirated. Siemens ECM.
Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi

Diesel engines:

  • 1910 cc. 4 cylinders in-line. Aluminum cylinder
  • head, cast iron block. DOHC 16v / SOHC 8v.
  • Common rail, direct and multiple injection.
  • Turbocharged: VNT/ 2-stage turbo, intercooled
  • Dual-mass flywheel. Bosch ECM
  • Maintenance-free particulate filter.


  • 1998 cc. 4 cylinders in-line. Aluminum cylinder head and block. Turbocharger, intercooled. DOHC, 16-valve. Balancer shafts. Saab Trionic 8 engine management. Fuelled by bioethanol (E85)/gasoline in any proportions


  • All engines front, transversely-mounted, Hydraulically-damped. Front wheel drive.
  • Saab XWD (AWD option for Aero)


  • 5/6 speed manual gearboxes.
  • 5/6/5+2 speed automatic transmissions
  • with Saab Sentronic manual selection


  • Front: MacPherson struts and gas shock absorbers. Anti-roll bar. Hydroformed sub-frame.
  • Rear: Indep, four link, incl. toe-link. Coil springs. Gas shock absorbers. Anti-roll bar. Sub-frame.


  • Rack and pinion, hydraulic power assistance.
  • Electro-hydraulic for 1.8i, 1.9TiD variants
  • Turning circle (curb to curb): 10.8 m (V6, 11.4 m)
  • Lock to lock: 2.75 turns (4-cyl turbo, 2.97 turns)

Wheels, Tires

  • 15 x 6.5˜, 195/65, 215/60
  • 16 x 6.5˜, 215/55. 17 x 7.0˜, 225/45
  • 17 x 7.5˜, 235/45. 18 x 7.5" , 225/45


  • Hydraulic, dual circuit, vacuum booster. ABS,TCS, MBA, EBD, CBC.
  • Discs: All 4 cyl.engines (except 2.0 Turbo/1.9TTiD Aero):
  • 285 mm (f) ventilated / 278 mm (r) solid.
  • 2.0 Turbo/1.9 TTiD Aero: 302/292 mm, both ventilated
  • 2.8V6 Turbo: 314/292 mm, both ventilated
  • All US models: 302 mm ventilated / 278 mm solid 
Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi


  • Kerb: 1410-1690 kg (EU)
  • Distribution: 60%(F) / 40% (R)
  • Max. towing weight:
  • 1400-1600 kg (braked), 750 kg (unbraked)


  • Luggage (VDA): 425 dm3
  • Fuel tank: 58 liters (US, 61 liters)
  • Washer reservoir: 5.2 liters

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