: New Saab 9-3 Convertible: More Than a Convertible…
Fun to drive appeal from acclaimed Sport Sedan chassis dynamics
Distinctive, Scandinavian design with unique styling features
Body structure three times stiffer than previous model
Advanced soft-top sets new performance standards for class
Powertrain choice of 175 or 210 bhp lightweight turbo engines
Easy rear passenger entry/exit
'CargoSET' automatic trunk expansion linked to soft-top
'DynaCage' rollover protection with pop-up roll bars
Integrated front seat-belts, SAHR, head/thorax side airbags
Total of 8 new benchmark or innovative features (listed below)
The all-new Saab 9-3 Convertible brings a stylish, open top dimension to the exciting new 9-3 range and is the latest step in the biggest new product offensive in Saab’s history. It represents the most significant advance Saab has made in 20 years of designing four-seater, four season, soft tops and is poised to re-affirm the company's leading position in the premium convertible segment.
Saab engineers played a pro-active role in developing the architecture of the new 9-3 product generation and from the very outset were able to feed in their demanding requirements for a premium, open-top car. The result is a Convertible with a level of structural integrity, build quality and running refinement that places it at the very top of its class.
As practical as it is stylish, its innovative product features further develop the Saab concept that an open-top car should be ‘more than a Convertible’. And in addition to functional qualities, the new Convertible offers a greatly improved driving appeal through incorporating the widely-acclaimed chassis dynamics of the Sport Sedan. By combining such sporty and functional characteristics, it symbolizes the core appeal of the Saab brand.
Powered by a choice of 175 or 210 bhp turbocharged engines, the Convertible is a fully integrated design engineered from the ground up to be free from compromise. It effortlessly exchanges a coupé profile for roadster-like looks by deploying an automatic soft-top which is among the most advanced in the segment, featuring three innovations.
“The launch of the new 9-3 Convertible is the latest phase in the roll-out of a new generation of products, each demonstrating the sporty and multi-dynamic appeal of our brand,” says Peter Augustsson, Saab Automobile’s President and CEO. “We are confident our new Convertible will comfortably exceed the high expectations of our customers”.
Innovative features and new class benchmarks:
Fastest soft-top operation in segment
Unique self-raising, soft-top storage well (CargoSET)
Unique color-keyed interior headlining for soft-top
Unique ‘two phase’ tonneau cover movement for quick roof deployment
Unique Surround Trim integrates front and rear passenger cabin
Unique Hydroblox water repellent textile seat upholstery
Unique accelerated electric seat travel for easy rear entry/exit
Automatic climate control adjusts to heat levels in open top mode
The new 9-3 Convertible goes on sale from September and will be built in a dedicated new production facility at Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik, near Graz, Austria.
Saab is established as a leading player in the premium convertible segment, having advanced the concept of four season, four-seat open top motoring for almost 20 years. The new model's appeal as a sportier yet still surprisingly practical car goes right to the heart of the Saab brand.
Main highlights include:
Premium convertible sales up by more than 50 per cent since 1998. Saab has helped grow the segment, accounting for as much as 50 per cent of sales in some European markets.
'More than a Convertible' - describes appeal of new model as a sporty yet practical car than synthesizes the attributes of a sports car and sedan.
Target customers are affluent, progressive individualists who appreciate fine design but do not wish to be associated with conventional status symbols.
Research shows Saab Convertible customers more highly educated than those buying competitor products in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the US.
Dominant customer requirement is stylish and distinctive good looks. Provided by Convertible's Scandinavian design flair, a simple 'timeless' quality free from ostentation.
Fun to drive requirement satisfied by adoption of Sport Sedan's widely-acclaimed chassis dynamics, all turbo engine line-up and lowered chassis for Aero derivative.
Well-balanced proportions and a purposeful stance endow the car with a strong, sporty character that, roof up or down, echoes its fun to drive appeal. The automatic soft-top raises the ‘state of the art’ and includes three innovative features.
Main highlights include:
Unique ‘stand alone’ design. Scandinavian design flair that ensures the lines are clean and flowing, but never cold or clinical. An open top car that looks like a unique model in its own right, free from any awkward styling comprises.
Saab signature, wedge-shaped profile. Top down appearance no longer interrupted by intrusive mounting towers for front seat-belts.
Clean rear deck styling. Pop-up roll bars and retractable rear head streamlined by twin fairings, hinting at Convertible’s sporty character.
Coupé looks. The new soft-top has a tauter, smoother appearance through use of six, instead of five, braces and greater tensioning.
Unique 'Surround Trim'. U-shaped styling line extends from base of A-pillars along the top of the doors, rear side trims and tonneau cover. Integrates the front and rear passenger areas and visually unites the only top exterior surfaces that ‘come inside’ when the top is up.
Hydraulically-powered, triple layer roof. Automatic self-latching to the windshield header and deploys fully in just 20 seconds. Fastest in its class.
Integral rain gutter sewn into side of the soft-top fabric. Prevents water droplets dripping down on to the seats when a door is opened.
Weight-saving design. Soft-top frame, swivelling braces and front header rail all made from magnesium.
Unique tonneau cover operation. For quicker roof deployment, the tonneau has a unique two-stage cycle, rising horizontally and then moving rearwards parallel to the top of the trunk. More robust operation, better sealing.
'CargoSET' Automatic trunk expansion. Soft-top connected to flexible, ‘concertina’ storage well. When the roof is in position, the well retracts, releasing useful storage space in the trunk.
Class-competitive 0.34 Cd (roof up). Soft-top resistant high speed ‘ballooning’.
Interior Design and Features
The interior retains the cockpit feel and driver-focused themes of the Sport Sedan. Particular emphasis was placed on styling that integrates the rear passenger area, including a 'f'ixed-head' interior ambience..
Main highlights include:
Front and rear passenger areas integrated by consistent styling themes, contributing to 'bespoke' character.
Fixed-head‘ interior ambience. First convertible to offer soft-top with light colored headlining. Combines with near seamless fitting to give impression of fixed-head interior.
Front seats with integrated seat-belts unique to Convertible. Deeply bolstered for comfort and support. Electrical operation includes unique accelerated fore/aft movement for quick rear access.
Easy entry/exit for rear passengers. Single action movement of front seats through 243 mm and elimination of ‘B’ pillar-mounted seat belts.
Rear seat comfortably shaped and upholstered. Deep squabs with back-rest kept at a comfortable angle, not compromised by packaging requirements.
'Hydroblox' water repellent textile for seat upholstery. Unique feature.
‘Profiler’ customization. A wide range of functions can be pre-set according to personal preference including: anti-theft alarm, parking assistance, rain sensitive wipers and automatic climate control.
High-positioned Saab Information Display (SID). Located in binnacle at the top of the fascia, near the base of the windscreen, close to the driver’s natural field of vision.
Choice of Linear and Vector ‘forms’, plus ‘Aero’ sporting flagship. Each with uniquely-designed seat upholstery and 16/17 inch alloy wheels. Aero adds sports bodystyling and lowered chassis.
‘Light room’ or ‘dark room’ interior themes. Beige or light gray seats, door panels, rear side panels, lower front fascia, headlining and carpet.
‘Intelligent’ dual zone air conditioning. Automatic Climate Control (ACC) switches to offer 11 manual heat settings when soft-top is lowered.
Integrated Bluetooth™* application. Bluetooth wireless technology with integrated telephone enables short-range communication between devices such as telephones, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and computers.
*Bluetooth is a trade mark owned by Bluetooth SIG Inc, used by Saab Automobile AB under license.
The new 9-3 Convertible inherits the sporty handling characteristics of the Sport Sedan. The rigid body structure provides a solid foundation for suspension systems with impressively low levels of noise, vibration and harshness.
Main highlights include:
‘ReAxs’ passive rear wheel steer characteristic. The kinematics of the rear suspension are tuned for a unique rear wheel steer response for optimum handling and stability.
Four-link independent rear suspension. High lateral stiffness for stability and grip; longitudinal compliance for ride comfort.
Front suspension by MacPherson struts with lower A-arms mounted on a hydroformed (hollow), sub-frame. High lateral bushing stiffness for good steering response and precision; high longitudinal compliance for ride comfort.
Low mounted steering rack gives excellent feel and precision with progressive power assistance and fast responses.
Mechanical Brake Assist (MBA). Automatically boosts braking pressure when driver presses hard on pedal, reducing stopping distance. Standard fitment.
Advanced chassis electronic systems. Saab-tuned ‘user friendly’ ESP (Electronic Stability Program). EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), CBC (Cornering Brake Control) and TCS (Traction Control System) all standard features.
Minimized unsprung weight for better ride comfort. Hub carriers, brake calipers, lower control arms in the front suspension and the toe and lower links in the rear suspension made of aluminum.
Body Structure and Systems
The 9-3 Convertible was developed in tandem with Sport Sedan, ensuring all the special structural requirements for an open top car could be accommodated. Structural integrity and build quality positions it at the very top of its class.
Main highlights include:
Torsional rigidity almost three times greater (11,500 Nm/degree) than that of previous model, giving 'hewn from solid' feel for excellent refinement, stiff suspension mountings and strong safety structure.
Second ‘supplementary’ chassis. To compensate for absence of fixed roof, torsional stiffness raised by completely integrated, additional strengthening system, linking front, rear and side structures.
High and ultra high strength steel widely used, accounting for about 60 per cent of the Convertible's body weight.
Reinforced A-pillars and windshield header rail able to withstand loading 2.2 times greater than weight of the car.
Low speed impact resistance. 'Self-repairing' bumpers and deformable crash boxes provide bodywork protection in impacts up to 15 kph, minimizing accident repair bills.
Advanced electronics. Extensive use of fiber optics for advanced 'infotainment' and telematics. With a signal capacity 50 times greater than conventional wire circuitry, fiber optics provide a reliable high speed communications platform, saving weight and complexity.
Headlamp reflector units exclusively made from magnesium for more complex shaping and better lighting performance.
LED used for high level brake light in trunk lid for faster, safer warning.
'Fail safe' rear stop lights. If outer bulb fails, stop light function automatically switches to inner bulb until broken bulb is replaced.
High pressure windshield washers operate at 3.5 bar, twice usual pressure, for more effective cleaning. Linked to large 5-liter reservoir.
Improved chassis dynamics are complemented by outstanding driveability and refinement from the lightweight powertrain package, first seen on the 9-3 Sport Sedan. Saab’s latest Trionic engine management system adds a smoother, more linear power delivery to typically strong, mid-range torque characteristics.
Main highlights include:
All-aluminum 2.0-liter turbo engine configured for 175 or 210 bhp. Balancer shafts and dual-mass flywheel for greater running refinement. All internals unique to Saab.
Smooth power delivery. Saab Trionic 8 engine management system provides adaptive torque control and ‘power on/power off’ management to eliminate shunting or jerks under sudden throttle movements.
Improved transmissions. New six speed and uprated five speed manual gearboxes. Five speed, adaptive automatic transmission includes Saab Sentronic sequential gear selection and optional steering wheel buttons.
Unique ‘pendulum’ engine mounting. Engine noise and vibration reduced through installation of small 'damper' rods between base of engine and back of front sub-frame, controlling movement.
Saab products consistently show well in real-life safety surveys, the new 9-3 Sport Sedan also achieving a maximum five star rating in a recent Euro-NCAP crash test study. The new 9-3 Convertible meets the same crash performance targets as the sedan.
Main highlights include:
Crash testing based on ‘real life’ research. Test configurations developed from Saab database covering more than 6,000 real-life road collisions.
75 crash test configurations used in development of body structure and restraint systems for new 9-3 range, including eight different types of rollover test for the Convertible.
'DynaCage' rollover protection includes pop-up rear roll bars, strengthened A-pillars, sills and automatic seat-belt pre-tensioning
Fully integrated front seat-belts mounted entirely to frame of seat. Optimized belt geometry regardless of seat position and more comfort.
Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR). Protection against neck injury for front seat occupants in event of rear end impact. Automatic re-setting.
Adaptive front airbags. More occupant-friendly deployment according to impact severity, seat position and seat-belt usage status.
Two-stage side airbags. Separate chambers for thorax and head protection. Mounted in outer edge of front seat-back for optimal deployment irrespective of seat position.
Ownership, Security, Convenience and Accessories
The Convertible's excellent build and materials quality is reflected in a substantially reduced cost of ownership, including lower servicing, repair and insurance costs. Security systems include all measures that are proven to be effective.
Main highlights include:
Up to 30 per cent lower scheduled maintenance costs due to longer service intervals and reduced workshop times.
Maximum service interval extended to two years/30,000 kms. Algorithm monitors engine usage and oil change requirement.
'State of the art' security developed with insurance companies. Maximum five star rating for 'theft of vehicle' protection and four stars for 'theft from vehicle' by UK insurance industry's Thatcham research center.
Immobilizer system uses electrical steering lock and electronic engine disablement. Rolling code for encrypted 'start' message in key's transponder.
Anti-instrusion measures include deadbolts, lock shielding and freewheeling lock cylinders. Alarm systems include ultrasonic motion and 'tilt' sensing. Audio system electronically 'married' to vehicle.
Host of 'convenience' features make living with the new Convertible as easy as possible, including 'smart' door mirrors that automatically fold out.
Foldable wind deflector for easy stowage among wide range of accessories. These include an innovative 'CargoWing' rear spoiler which converts into a useful ski or snowboard carrier and will be available later in the model year.
New Saab 9-3 Convertible
Body structure, Electrical and Lighting systems:
“We’ve engineered this Convertible from the ground up to meet our targets for torsional stiffness. The only soft feature left is the top!”
Martin Johansson, Project Leader, Body and Exterior
Torsional rigidity almost three times greater
Firm foundation for improved refinement and chassis dynamics
Unique supplementary platform
High speed electronic connections
Extensive use of fiber optics
Unique halogen headlamps with Bi-xenon option
Fail-safe rear stop lights
Powerful screen washing system
Saab engineers played a leading role in developing General Motors’ Epsilon architecture, on which the new 9-3 product generation is based, and from the very outset were able to feed in their demanding requirements for an open-top car. The result is a premium Convertible with a level of structural integrity, build quality and running refinement that positions it at the top of its class.
The electrical architecture is equally advanced and includes the extensive use of fiber optic technology, giving a signal capacity 50 times greater than conventional wire connections. It provides a communications platform with the capacity handle all likely developments in the fast-moving fields of ‘infotainment’ and e-services.
The power of the lighting system, which includes ‘fail safe’ rear brake lights and the option of bi-xenon headlamps, is in the fine tradition of Saab cars, as is the efficiency of the windscreen wiper and washing systems.
The body structure of the new 9-3 Convertible is essentially an open ‘uni-body’ fabricated from steel beams and pressings with all external parts galvanized. Saab structural engineers have used CAD techniques and finite element data models with a resolution of up to 500,000 cells to represent the car’s structure.
About 50 per cent of its 383 structural body parts are unique to the Convertible and 60 per cent of its body weight is composed of high or ultra high strength steel. However, a more important consideration is how all the elements interact in sharing the load-bearing task. The strength of a good design is far more than simply the sum of its parts.
When work began on the all-new Saab 9-3 series, Saab designers and engineers were for the first time able to ensure that the needs of a Convertible variant were given the same priority as those of a sedan.
In particular, they took up the challenge of engineering an open top car that concedes little or nothing to the structural losses implicit in foregoing a fixed roof. They were determined to ensure that the Convertible shared the Sport Sedan’s much improved, ‘fun to drive’ handling; its solid, vibration-free running refinement and, of course, its impressive crashworthiness. A strong body, stiff in torsion, was an absolute pre-requisite.
The result of their work is an exceptionally stiff convertible body that is among the very best in its class. Its torsional rigidity, 11,500 Nm/degree of deflection, is almost three times greater than that of its predecessor.
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 resonances.
Chassis engineers also demand a stiff body because the car’s handling can only be effectively honed through the control of its suspension, wheel and steering movements if the structure, on which these components exert loadings, is solid and predictable.
Finally, the car’s ability to withstand a heavy impact is largely due to the strength of its passenger compartment and the ability of the structure’s crumple zones to prevent energy reaching it.
‘Twin’ chassis architecture
To achieve their goals for the Convertible, Saab engineers have successfully installed what is, in effect, a second or ‘parallel’ structure within the platform: an additional, completely linked ‘ring of steel’ extending from the front to the rear of the car.
The most important element of this new structure is a large closed casing, known as the ‘torsion box’, located between the rear wheel housings, immediately behind the rear seat and ahead of the soft-top stowage compartment. It helps compensate for the loss of rigidity from the connected ‘C’-pillars of a fixed roof.
The bottom of the torsion box is welded to another completely new large pressing, a combined rear seat beam and floor which also forms the boot well. This is another important link in the structure and, like the torsion box, is welded at each side to the first of two rear inner side panels which, in turn, connect with the lower B-pillar and side sills.
Enlarged side sills, unique to the Convertible, are further major components of this ‘second chassis’. They are 32 mm higher and 8 mm wider, with a 25 per cent larger cross-section, than those of the sedan and are made even stronger by the addition of an internal longitudinal plate running the whole length of the box section. The three cross bracings are also good for impact resistance.
Forward of the side sills is another crucial area, connecting the sill, the base of the A-pillar, the bottom of the front bulkhead, the sub-frame mountings and the floor. This is heavily reinforced through a structure of four carefully shaped steel pressings.
The upper A-pillars, together the windshield header rail, provide rollover protection as well as structural strength and are made from no less than four longitudinal steel members with short, strategic cross bracings. The header rail is also reinforced, consisting of three layers of steel. The whole combined structure can withstand a loading of 2.2 times the weight of the car, about 3.5 tonnes.
The final pieces of the ‘second chassis’ jigsaw are bracings that engage both the front and rear sub-frames, which, for extra stiffness, are now bolted directly to the body with steel collars instead of polymer bushes. At the front, one transverse and two diagonal ‘X-rods’ are bolted into the sub-frame at its mounting points. At the rear, two diagonal ‘V-rods’ are bolted in position, linking the sub-frame on each side to the mounting of the trailing arm in the rear suspension.
Saab engineers have developed a novel ‘off-set’ spot-welding technique which can bridge a gap of 40 mm in order eliminate any weak links or connections in this structural chain where more than two thicknesses of steel are welded together.
The front and rear bodywork is protected by ‘self-repairing’ bumper assemblies, which can absorb impacts up to 8 kph in order to minimize damage and the need for repair. The bumper ‘skins’ are easy and quick to replace after a minor collision. A very practical benefit in minimizing the nuisance and cost of those little ‘supermarket car park’ incidents.
For higher speed impacts, Saab was first to introduce deformable ‘crash boxes’ behind the front bumper (introduced on the second generation Saab 900 in 1993). These are intended to absorb and contain relatively ‘low speed’ impact forces in order to prevent damage to more expensive bodywork components.
Other manufacturers have now adopted crash boxes but for the new 9-3 program, Saab has perfected the technique still further. No less than 103 computer simulations were carried out to ensure their effectiveness. The finished design is an octagon shape with a conical profile and ‘concertina’ sections that will protect the structure of the car, including its front body panels, from damage in impact s up to 15 kph. The boxes are bolted and lightly welded to the front beam to make their replacement simple.
Where there are no structural demands, Saab engineers are able to consider the further use of weight-saving materials. And for the new 9-3 series, they have adopted aluminum for the hood, saving 50 per cent or 9 kilos in weight compared to steel. It is also slightly stiffer and more resistant to dents.
All major mechanical and electrical functions in the new 9-3 Convertible, including numerous driver and passenger comfort features, are precisely and reliably controlled through an advanced digital signal network.
The use of fiber optic technology provides a signal capacity 50 times greater than the fastest conventional wire links, offering a secure platform for the application of advances in telematics and enabling owners to conveniently install new functions.
The entire electronic and electrical network uses databus transmission – often referred to a ‘multiplexing’ – to connect groups of electrical subsystems and pass on signals from all the car’s sensors. In this way, a CANBUS (Controller Area Network) uses just one or two wires with microprocessors, transistors and LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to replace a complicated wiring harness and all its associated relays, switches and bulbs.
CANBUS technology offers great benefits in weight saving, reliability and data transmission capacity. It is used to connect all the main subsystems: powertrain, chassis, body, ‘infotainment’, telematics, navigation and climate and comfort.
A battery of sensors are the ‘nerve endings’ of the new 9-3 Convertible and the data they provide is dispatched as packages of digital signals, or ‘buses’, along three information ‘highways’, stopping where required at 44 sub-stations, or microprocessors, for analysis and subsequent action.
A powerful control module governs each of these highways and their substations; all three integrated with each other to ensure there are no ‘traffic jams’ or conflicting requirements. If all this functionality were achieved using a traditional, complex wiring harness, it would weigh twice as much, more than 40 kilos, and be twice as long, at 1,600 meters!
A single wire highway, or ‘low speed’ Bus, with a capacity of 33 kbits per second, connects functions within the car: the ignition switch, steering column lock, airbags, the main instrument panel, interior lighting, doors, mirrors, windows, the soft-top, the security alarm, gear shift position and, where fitted, electrically-operated seats and parking assistance.
Powertrain control, the Trionic 8 engine management system, ABS, TCS, ESP and related functions are all connected by a dual wire, ‘high speed’ Bus, with a transmission capacity 15 times greater at 500 kbits per second.
The third highway is the largest yet fitted to a passenger car, using fiber optics instead of wire to give a massive capacity of 25 Mbits per second, 50 times greater than that of a dual wire bus. It is utilized by all three audio system options and, where fitted, the integrated GSM telephone, which features voice control, the GPS navigation system with DVD reader and the OnStar telematics service (US market only).
The fast moving world of information technology is likely to place increasing demands on the ‘in-car’ time of drivers and passengers and the new Saab 9-3 series is configured to accommodate all likely future developments in digital communication to and from the car.
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 headlamps of the new 9-3 Convertible are housed within neatly integrated units made from molded clear plastic, which is lighter and less prone to damage from stone chips, cracking and condensation than glass.
The standard equipment headlamps use halogen bulbs behind projector units to give excellent illumination. In order to meet Saab’s demanding requirements, the reflector surfaces are uniquely made by the supplier, Hella, from magnesium, instead of the commonly used steel, which allows more complex shaping for even better lighting performance.
New 9-3 Convertible customers can also go one step further by specifying the optional and exceptionally powerful bi-xenon lights. These gas discharge bulbs give an extremely bright, much whiter light than halogen units. Saab is 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.
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 attitude.
The performance of the headlamps, no matter how powerful, is badly compromised if the lens becomes caked in grime. The new 9-3 Convertible has powerful spray jets, working at 3.5 bar pressure, to keep the plastic units clean. These automatically retract when not in use.
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.
The high level brake light on the top edge of the trunk lid is an LED unit, as tests show this illuminates more quickly than a conventional bulb, thus giving a more efficient warning signal.
And if one of the rear stop lights fails, driving safety will be not be affected because the stop light function – extra light intensity whenever the brake pedal is pushed – can be programmed into either of the two light bulbs in each rear light cluster.
The outer bulb normally performs the additional stop light function but, if this bulb fails, the function is automatically switched to the other bulb. This is possible because the usual voltage restriction (13.3 > 6.3v), which is lifted whenever the brake pedal is pushed, is applied to both bulbs. Normal service is automatically resumed when the broken bulb is replaced.
High powered cleaning
Keeping a clear windscreen is vital for driving safety and the large wipers are linked to a powerful battery of three pairs of washer jets, all working at 3.5 bar pressure, twice the power of other systems on the market. It is cleaning power designed to shift the most stubborn of deposits.
The wipers are two speed with an infinitely variable intermittent wipe. An automatic rain-sensing operation is available as an option, including driver adjustment for sensitivity.
In true Saab tradition, the 5.0 liter washer reservoir is exceptionally large, with two liters more capacity than normal. User trials show that jets working at such high pressure do not, in fact, require more washer fluid because they are generally used in shorter bursts.
New Saab 9-3 Convertible
Interior Design and Features:
More Comfort and Functionality
"The interior of this car also becomes part of the exterior so we have been careful to ensure it adds to the overall visual appearance. The front and rear passenger areas are also designed so that they work well together as a single concept.”
Maria Thunberg, Chief Designer - Color and Trim
Integration of front and rear passenger areas
‘Fixed-head’ interior ambience
Light colored headlining brightens interior – Saab ‘first’
Unique front seats with integrated seat-belts
‘Hydroblox’ water repellent textile upholstery – Saab ‘first’
Unique accelerated electric seat travel for quick rear access
‘Profiler’ customization function
High-positioned Saab Information Display (SID)
Two interior ‘forms’ – Linear and Vector
Easy entry/exit for rear passengers
ACC switches to heat settings with soft-top down - unique feature
Extensive use of fiber optics for advanced ‘infotainment’
As you would expect from Saab, there is more to the design of its new Convertible than good looks alone. The new model offers major improvements in interior comfort and refinement and is, without doubt, the biggest step forward Saab has made during 20 years of engineering premium, four season, four seater convertibles.
The overall interior design reflects the curves and flowing lines of the exterior. In the same way, the fascia layout, the supportive seating, the shape of the door panels and trim, together with the feel of the tactile, soft-touch controls, are all very modern interpretations of classic Saab styling themes. It is a warm, harmonious interior, without undue ostentation, that is typically Scandinavian and could only come from Saab.
The high quality materials include the introduction of Hydroblox, the first water repellent seat upholstery to be fitted to a convertible. A polyester membrane lines the underside of the textile seat covering in order to prevent water penetration, a particularly useful feature for a convertible if the driver is caught in a shower of rain, for example, before being able to raise the soft-top. The membrane has billions of tiny perforations as small as one micron in size which prevent water, but not air, passing through so that the fabric can still 'breathe'. Hydroblox is fitted as standard for the Linear specification interior, where the seat squabs and seat-backs are part textile. It is, of course, not necessary for full leather interiors.
The standard of fit and finish throughout is everything you would expect - and more - from a premium-class manufacturer such as Saab. For example, the lines of the large door panels are beautifully extended through into the rear side panels, creating a single sweeping shape that integrates the front and rear passenger areas.
Front shoulder width is increased and rear passenger access greatly improved by the adoption of sliding front seats and the elimination of B-pillar mounted seat-belts.
Attention to detail, so typical of Saab, is everywhere to be seen, no more so than in the rear passenger compartment. In design terms, this relatively small part of the interior of convertibles has become rather neglected. As it is generally used only occasionally, and there are no carry-over panels, the standard of finishing trim and upholstery often lacks cohesion, failing to match the quality up front. However, rear seat passengers in the new Convertible do not travel second class because Saab’s design team has paid close attention to this ‘forgotten’ area.
Both seating positions are well shaped and upholstered, with deep squabs far superior to the flat, narrow bench seats that are often seen. The rear seat cushion also extends outwards at each end, in a gentle concave arc, right up to the side panels. This complements the shape of the rear cabin and even the tonneau cover. The angle of back-rest is kept at a comfortable 21° from vertical and not compromised by packaging requirements.
The integration of the front and rear areas is, of course, further reinforced by the unique Surround Trim styling line, described in the exterior design.
An important aim of the interior design team was the achievement of 'a fixed head interior ambience', when the roof is in position, similar to that of a sedan. This has been accomplished by adopting an interior headlining that is co-ordinated for color and fits almost seamlessly.
Saab now leads the premium convertible segment by introducing a color choice for the headlining of the soft-top as part of the car's standard specification. The choice of beige (parchment) or light gray, depending on the ‘room’ option chosen, contributes to an interior that is lighter and more welcoming than that of other convertibles.
The feeling of being inside a fixed-head car is reinforced by the neat fitting of the fabric. Seams where the headlining is attached to the roof’s swiveling braces are barely visible and the edges sit smoothly over the seals on the side windows.
Up front, the color of the soft-top’s header rail matches the headlining. It is very slim and completely padded, locating invisibly on the windshield header where the small light console adds to the impression of being under a permanent roof.
As a further refinement, all components of the soft-top's frame that may be visible from inside while it is deploying are also color-coded.
Unique Front Seats
The sporty, well-shaped front seats have been specially designed for the Convertible. They make a very visible contribution to the high quality appearance of the interior and reinforce Saab’s fine reputation for class-leading seating comfort.
Both the seat cushion and back are deeply bolstered, giving excellent lateral and under thigh support without restricting room to sit comfortably. An electrically-adjustable driver’s seat is standard on all variants except Linear, giving fore/aft, back-rest rake, seat cushion height/tilt and pneumatic lumbar support adjustments. In manual form, both seats have a fore/aft, back-rest rake and height adjustment.
The seats have also been designed to provide easy entry/exit for rear seat passengers, moving forward on their runners up to 243 mm. On manual seats. this is done by simply lifting the solid aluminum lever on the outboard corner of the back-rest which then folds down, allowing the entire seat can be easily pushed forward. The movement is spring-loaded and requires only a light pressure of seven kilos, equivalent to pushing a drawer closed at home.
For electrically-adjustable seats, the process is completely effortless. The seat automatically moves forward once the lever is lifted and the seat-back folded down. The forward movement is exceptionally fast, twice the speed of the normal fore/aft adjustment, and the seat can move through its maximum travel in just seven seconds. This is a useful refinement unique to the segment. For safety reasons, the seat will stop moving if the lever is released at any time. A neat memory function automatically returns the seat to its previous position once the back-rest is raised.
Rear entry/exit is also greatly facilitated by the adoption of integrated seat-belts, used by Saab for the first time and eliminating the need for attachment to a B-pillar ‘belt tower’. Integrated belts are easier to use and more comfortable for the wearer. They are always optimally located, irrespective of the seat position, and less prone to any flapping in open air driving.
The seats also incorporate Saab Active Head Restraints (SAHR), a proven way of helping to prevent serious neck injury in the event of a rear-end collision (see Safety section for details).
The improved handling dynamics of the new Convertible are reflected in its ability to offer a near perfect driving position for the vast majority of drivers. The multi-position driver’s seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and height, provide a wide range of adaptation.
The main instrument panel gently arcs round the driver, as in the Sport Sedan. 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 gear shift lever is just a hand span away.
The main dials - a large speedometer, with a compressed scale above 140 kph, 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, a color that Saab believes is the most restful choice for night driving. In contrast, warnings are displayed in amber or red.
Also located in the main instrument panel are twin adjustable air vents and audio or infotainment system controls with, according to specification, a 5.8 inch, high resolution monitor screen displaying particularly clear graphics.
The Profiler function, fitted as standard, offers great scope to tailor a wide range of functions by selecting pre-settings according to personal preference. It is particularly easy to use, with selections highlighted via a single, rotating knob linked to on-screen prompts.
The operation of the automatic air conditioning system, including air distribution, fan settings, the heated seats and heated rear window; the clock/alarm; speed scale illumination and, where fitted, the anti-theft alarm, parking assistance, rain sensitive wipers and an engine block heater can all be tailored in this way. The single button for operating the Convertible’s roof is also located in the Profiler control panel.
Saab’s unique ‘Night Panel’ feature, which allows the driver to switch off all main instrument illumination at night (except for the speedometer) is, of course, standard fitment. This removes visual ‘clutter’ and potential distraction, providing a more restful driving environment.
The Saab Information Display (SID) is positioned high up, in a binnacle at the top of the fascia, near the base of the windscreen. For safety reasons, this is as close as possible to the driver’s natural field of vision so that information can be seen without any head movement or much eye re-focusing. The SID shows, for example, local time, outside temperature, radio settings, warning signals, and information from the Profiler function and the car computer.
It also displays direction arrows from the satellite navigation system, when fitted. Again for safety reasons, new Convertible drivers are less likely to be distracted by having to look away from the road to check route directions on the main screen.
A small console in the center of the header rail above the windshield accommodates an interior light and two reading lamps. The rail itself is seamlessly padded and color-matched, contributing to the sedan-like quality of the interior.
The slim but thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel complements the Convertible’s sporty character. On all variants except Linear, it carries buttons for the audio system and, optionally, also the Sentronic automatic transmission gear shifting buttons.
The central console below the main instrument panel is inclined slightly towards the driver and sweeps elegantly down between the front seats. It accommodates the air conditioning or automatic climate controls, more minor switchgear, the gear shift lever, ignition switch, handbrake and a large central storage area with a smaller, roll-top compartment and cup-holder below the e 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. On the other side of the console, mirroring the integrated handbrake, is a Smart Slot detachable sleeve for further storage of small items. In true Saab tradition, the ignition switch continues to be located alongside the handbrake. It is entirely electronic in operation, the previous reverse manual gear lock now being replaced by an automatic, electronic steering column lock.
In common with other Saab models, the interior can specified in a choice of two ‘Forms’, or design themes, both Scandinavian-inspired for a distinctive, modern feel. The names of the forms – Linear and Vector - are derived from the world of architecture, each creating its own atmosphere inside the car. The style and design of the seat upholstery is unique to the Convertible.
Each form can be specified in a ‘light room’ (parchment) or ‘dark room’ (gray) color scheme, including seats, door panels, rear side panels, the lower front fascia, the headlining and other main trim items. The carpet remains black in both cases.
The line-up starts with ‘Linear’, a line or base element in architecture, although the trim is hardly basic as the seats are upholstered in the innovative, water repellent Hydroblox textile with the bolstered side panels covered in leather.
‘Vector’ is more progressive and performance-focused, the mood changing to ‘industrial high tech’. The leather seats have contrasting black panels in the cushion and back-rest. The gear shift molding and steering wheel are now trimmed in matt chrome.
‘Aero’ is, of course, the ultimate performance expression of the new Convertible. Here the interior is similar to Vector and the exterior specification includes aerodynamically-tested spoilers and flared sill extensions which help reduce lift forces.
Heating and Ventilation
All variants are fitted with highly efficient, Saab developed air conditioning systems, either manually (AC) or automatically controlled (ACC), which have been adapted for the specific needs of a convertible. This includes, for example, ensuring a smooth engagement of the ACC system when the roof is closed under hot conditions and re-tuning control software, taking into account the different thermal properties of the soft-top and the smaller side window area.
Saab engineers are constantly seeking to raise the efficiency of air conditioning systems, often balancing conflicting needs, such as ensuring quick engine warm up in cold conditions while also providing an adequate supply of warm air for the passenger cabin. For more consistent performance, Saab favors ‘energy balanced’ rather than sensor-controlled automatic systems. This means there are no sudden eruptions of the fan, of example, when a door or window is briefly opened.
Both AC and ACC systems draw air into the interior through an extremely efficient, electrostatically-charged filter which can extract dust, pollen and particles as small as 3 microns in size.
The manual air conditioning is operated through familiar rotary controls, whilst the automatic climate control can also be programmed via the Profiler function. It operates on a ‘dual zone’ basis, allowing different temperatures to be selected for the left or right hand side of the car. This can be useful when the driver, for example, may wish to keep alert by having a slightly cooler setting.
The Saab ACC system also automatically shifts to manual control when the roof is open and reverts to automatic control, including all the previous settings, when the roof is closed. It is a feature unique to the premium convertible segment.
In open-top mode, a choice of 11 (0 –10) heat levels is offered, with a maximum outlet temperature as high as 65°C. The driver and front passenger can still each select a different heat level to suit their own preferences. In this mode, airflow distribution is shared between the driver and passenger, although the system can be set so that, for example, air from the floor outlets is hotter than the output from the windshield defroster.
The heated front seats are now included within automatic climate control, which will start and progressively lower the seat heating as the interior warms up. This function and other ACC settings, such as the fan and air distribution, can also be selected through the Profiler customization menu.
A final, thoughtful feature is the air-conditioned glove box. A useful place to store a cold drink to prevent it getting warm, or a bar of chocolate to stop it melting.
Storage and Convenience
As you would expect in a car from Saab, the new Convertible offers some useful storage and convenience features.
There are two good-sized door pockets, a large, lockable glove box (air-conditioned) and pouches at the front of the cushions on electrically-adjustable seats.
The multi-functional central console incorporates coin slots and a main storage compartment which includes a 12 volt outlet for a battery charger and an optional analogue sound AUX input socket suitable for an MP3 player or a Laptop, for example. The smaller roll-top compartment is fitted with a cup-holder.
The Smart Slot, opposite the disguised hand-brake, provides convenient storage for items such as credit cards, pencils and a small wallet or notebook. A CD disc holder, cup-holder and ice scraper are available as accessory items for this feature.
Another superb accessory item can probably be described as the ‘world’s most advanced cup-holder’. It follows in the tradition of the cup-holder in the front of the Saab 9-5, which automatically swivels out through 90 degrees from a vertical position.
For the new 9-3 range, the Saab team was also determined to create something special as a dashboard cup-holder. The result is ‘The Butterfly’. There are two separate movements in different directions, one for the base and one for the retaining hoop (the ‘wings’ of the butterfly), both hinged from one arm.
The new 9-3 Convertible benefits from one of the most powerful electronics systems to be installed in a series production car (see Body and Systems section for full details).
Fiber optics are used to provide a high-speed platform for the car’s extensive ‘infotainment’ (communication, information and entertainment) functions, a development of cutting edge technology first seen on the Sport Sedan. It is utilized by all three audio system options and, where fitted, the integrated GSM telephone, which features voice control, the GPS navigation system with DVD reader and the OnStar telematics service (US market only).
This network is capable of handling all likely future requirements in the fast-developing field of 'infotainment' and e-services, making it easy for owners to fit upgrades.
With the launch of the new 9-3 range, Saab becomes one of the first auto manufacturers to introduce Bluetooth™* wireless technology, which uses a short range, high frequency radio link to replace cable connections for mobile devices, such as Laptops and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and peripherals.
The integrated GSM telephone is equipped with a Bluetooth-qualified radio transmitter/receiver operating on the globally available 2.45 GHz bandwidth. An effective range of up to 10 meters allows the convenience and flexibility of wireless connections in and around the car, making it possible to use a Bluetooth headset which is particularly useful when driving with the top down.
The acoustic requirements of a convertible have been carefully examined. For example, the range of volume adjustments for the automatic, speed-sensing control has been increased, including the programming of a slightly wider base response. The microphone for a hands-free phone is also installed in the driver’s side A-pillar for convenient use in open top conditons.
*Bluetooth is a trademark owned by Bluetooth SIG Inc. and used by Saab Automobile AB under license. It is named after Harald Bluetooth, a 10th century King of Denmark, who encouraged improved communications between his subjects.
There is a choice of three modular ‘infotainment’ systems, which can be easily tailored to suit individual requirements.
The Saab Audio system includes an RDS radio and a Premium 150 sound system, which incorporates two amplifiers giving a total of 150 watts playing power through seven speakers. A single-slot CD player or an in-dash CD changer are available as options.
The Saab Infotainment system adds a monochrome display, with menu functionality for easy use, to the Premium 150 audio and Saab Infotainment Plus includes a large 5.8-inch color display and a GPS/DVD-based navigation system. Available as options for both systems are a single-slot CD player or an in-dash CD changer and a Bluetooth™-prepared integrated telephone with keypad, including voice recognition, an SMS capability and, for Saab Infotainment Plus only, a WAP browser.
Both these Saab infotainment systems can be upgraded with a Prestige 300 audio, offering 300 watts playing power through 13 speakers.
Satellite Navigation and Telematics
Saab has taken particular care in making it as easy and safe as possible for new Convertible drivers to follow route guidance instructions. Direction arrows are shown on the small SID screen positioned on top of the fascia, which can be viewed with minimal eye line adjustment. This is in addition to voice prompts and the color display screen in the main instrument panel.
The same care has been taken by Saab in specifying the software for its DVD-supported GPS system, including graphics, map data and voice instruction, as there was no ‘off-the-shelf’ system that met Saab’s requirements. The whole of western Europe is covered by single disc and presets provide easy activation of route guidance to stored addresses. For example, guidance home from any location in Europe can be immediately available at the push of a button. a particularly useful feature.
.The General Motors ‘OnStar’ telematics service is available to users in the United States. Utilizing an AMPS phone and GPS tracking, OnStar provides a range of services including: 24-hour access to an emergency support center, an automatic alert following airbag deployment and stolen vehicle tracking. More than 100 ‘concierge’ services are also included, such as: route guidance, roadside assistance and carrying out numerous information, booking and reservation requests. The OnStar support center can even assist in locating the car in a crowded car park by activating its lights and horn!
New Saab 9-3 Convertible
Exterior Design and Aerodynamics:
Sporty Scandinavian Design
“This is a completely integrated design, both inside and out. The flow of the lines and the simple forms are free from unnecessary decoration. They give the Convertible a strong, sporty look that has a timeless appeal.”
Aamer Mahmud, Chief Designer
Well-proportioned, ‘bespoke’ design
Sporty styling with Scandinavian design flair
Coupé looks (roof up), roadster-like looks (roof down)
Fully automated soft-top sets new standards for class
Unique ‘Surround Trim’ delineates passenger cabin
Unique ‘CargoSET’ self-expanding trunk features
Competitive 0.34 Cd with reduced lift forces
The impressive looks of the new Saab 9-3 Convertible radiate power, sporty performance and great strength; all elegantly packaged with a Scandinavian design flair that ensures the lines are clean and flowing, but never cold or clinical.
As an indication of the success of the overall design, this is an open top car that looks like a unique model in its own right, free from any awkward styling compromises. Furthermore, the car looks just as good, top up or top down - effortlessly exchanging the looks of a sporty coupé for those more akin to a roadster.
The automatic soft-top operates entirely at the push of a single button. It incorporates three innovations and new performance standards for the class, including its speed of operation and means of deployment.
Saab has been a leading player in the premium convertible segment since exhibiting its first open top car as a design study in 1983. It has been a driving force behind the growth of the segment by demonstrating that a car built for the pleasures of open air driving can also accommodate four adults as a practical, all year round means of transport.
The new 9-3 Convertible breaks new ground for Saab in being developed as a separate but parallel project to the Sports Sedan. Many of Saab’s design team, including chief designer, Aamer Mahmud, worked on both projects in tandem.
“This process meant that we were able to avoid solutions that could have prejudiced one or other car,” says Mahmud. “We were so confident in our work that we moved straight from sketches to full scale models. Throughout the process we could easily compare the sedan and the cab.”
Testimony to the essential ‘rightness’ of the final design is that the Convertible and the sedan share the same frontal bodystyling, even retaining the same rake angle for the windshield and A-pillars.
Compared to its predecessor, the new car gains 51 mm in overall width and 70 mm in wheelbase. Reduced front and rear overhangs mean the overall length, at 4635 mm, is also slightly shorter.
The well-balanced proportions and more purposeful stance endow the car with a strong, sporty character that echoes its fun to drive appeal. The swept back, frontal styling, with the grille and integrated headlamp/indicator units steeply angled back, is a striking evolution. The rearmost corner of each unit is 450 mm behind the centre point of the bumper. This ‘arrowhead’ shape also matches the traditional wraparound proportions of the windshield.
In profile, the clean wedge line is typically Saab and, top down, the shape is no longer interrupted by a tower to mount the front seat-belts. The styling of the rear deck is particularly neat because the pop-up roll bars and retractable rear head restraints are beautifully streamlined by twin fairings, giving a subtle hint of the Convertible’s sporty character. The tonneau cover is, of course, flush fitting. The innovative CargoWing accessory rear spoiler, which folds out to carry skis or a snowboard, is to be available later in the model year and adds surprising functionality to the rear deck.
Top up, the car assumes the persona of a coupé, an impression reinforced by the extremely smooth, taut lines of the soft-top and its step-less integration with the windshield header rail. The whole body appears more low-slung and closer to the ground. Reduced wheel-arch clearances, with the negatively-cambered wheels located well to the outer edges of the bodywork, contribute further to the more purposeful stance. In Aero guise, the styling is taken one step further with the addition of 17-inch wheels and discreet side sill and bumper extensions which are flared at the wheel-arches.
The rear of the car features large light clusters, unique to the Convertible, which are set high to balance the overall proportions. They wrap around each corner, incorporating a triangular shape and horizontal clear/red lens fields, both Saab signatures. For better visibility, the heated glass rear window is 25 per cent larger and the trunk lid opens through 120°, even with the top up, for good trunk access.
A new design feature, never seen before in Convertible styling, is the introduction of a distinctive, mono-colored Surround Trim, highlighting the transition zone between the car’s exterior and interior. It is a U-shaped line that extends rearwards from the base of each A-pillar, incorporating slim panels along the top of the doors and rear side trims and most of the tonneau cover.
This line integrates the front and rear passenger areas, protecting and visually uniting the only top exterior surfaces that ‘come inside’ when the top is up. The Surround Trim is picked out by a ‘crackle’, matt black paint finish but can also be specified in an exterior color choice of steel gray or lime yellow.
The new Convertible’s soft-top and tonneau mechanism features three innovations: CargoSET automatic storage well retraction, a two-step tonneau action for quicker soft-top deployment and a light-colored interior headlining. It is undoubtedly one of the car’s most impressive features.
A well-engineered roof is essential for good weatherproofing, insulation and noise refinement. It must be strong, snug-fitting, quiet when up, quick and easy to operate, good looking and extremely reliable.
For the new Convertible, Saab has specified a completely automatic, ‘state of the art’, soft-top operation, requiring no manual involvement beyond pressing a button. The roof is hydraulically-powered, with automatic self-latching to the windshield header rail, and deploys fully in just 20 seconds with the engine running, making it comfortably the fastest in its class. It can be reliably operated in strong winds and, in an emergency, can even be raised while on the move at speeds up to 30 kph (20 mph).
The materials for the triple-skinned soft-top are also improved, with the addition of a thicker, fleece middle layer for good heat and noise insulation. The outer skin is made of an extremely tough, canvas/butyl(rubber)/canvas, weatherproof, woven fabric and the inner textile skin forms the interior headlining. There is an exterior color choice of black or blue.
To save weight, the soft-top’s frame, the swivelling braces and the large padded front rail which connects to the windshield header, are all made from magnesium. To ensure robustness, steel is used only for the soft-top's pivoting side brackets.
Great attention has been given to effective sealing in order to prevent drafts, water leakage or intrusive wind noise. A small gutter has been sewn into the side of the fabric to prevent any water droplets dripping down on to the seats when a door is opened. Excellent sound insulation means that occupants can listen comfortably to the audio system or chat easily with the top in position at speeds up to 200 kph (125 mph).
Looks in this class of car are even more important than functionality and the new soft-top has a much tauter and smoother appearance, more like that of a fixed roof on a coupé. This has been achieved by the use of six, instead of five, swivelling braces (or bows) on which the fabric is mounted. As the distance between each brace is reduced, there is less sagging of the material and, once in position, the whole soft-top is finally tensioned by locking braces at the rear, instead of the front, which helps stretch the fabric even tighter.
Interior looks have not been overlooked, either. With the roof up, convertibles are often criticised for being rather gloomy or claustrophobic inside because of the usually black headlining. Saab has now addressed the issue and the new 9-3 Convertible is first on the market to offer a light color, either beige or light gray.
The operation of the tonneau cover - made in aluminium to save weight - is another Saab ‘first’. Automatic soft-top systems have previously required the tonneau cover to be hinged at the rear. For quicker roof deployment, the Convertible's tonneau now features an extremely elegant, two-stage operation, being completely raised horizontally and then moved rearwards, parallel to the top of the trunk.
Whilst it is an action that is intriguing to behold, it offers real benefits. Tests have shown this to be a quicker and more efficient means of allowing clearance for deployment of the soft-top. Pulling the tonneau down flat, instead of hinging and latching it closed, is also a more robust operation that contributes towards improved reliability and better seating and sealing.
The final innovation is a practical feature: raising the roof automatically raises the capacity of the trunk. The CargoSET (Self-Expanding Trunk) feature directly links the soft-top’s rearmost hinge mechanism to the flexible, ‘concertina’ storage well in the trunk. When the roof is in position, the well is therefore fully retracted, releasing useful additional storage space. It is a simple mechanical action that eliminates the need to manually hitch up the well with straps or rods. When the roof stowed, there is still enough room in the trunk to accommodate two golf bags.
The design and operation of the new Convertible’s soft-top is a masterpiece of precision engineering. As an indication of the demanding requirements involved, the roof, which is more than two meters long when fully extended, locates at the windshield header to a lateral tolerance of just ± 2 mm, equivalent to a remarkable 0.001 per cent margin of error!
Real World Aerodynamics
Few designers, stylists and aerodynamicists work more closely together than those at Saab. Whilst they may sometimes have conflicting requirements, they share a common goal in developing the product characteristics that are those of a true Saab. In the field of aerodynamics that means optimizing performance for real world conditions, in the same way as Saab has developed its ‘real life‘ safety strategy.
The first question about the aerodynamics of a new car always relates to its coefficient of drag. Important, of course, but in everyday driving conditions it is seldom a major factor for long enough. It is a point often made by Chief Aerodynamicist, Håkan Danielson and his team. Their mission was to produce a shape that cleaves the air as efficiently as possible, giving good high speed stability, excellent weatherproofing, low wind noise inside the car and optimised fuel consumption. Simply quoting a Cd value hardly does their work justice.
For instance, the team spend a great deal of time testing for yaw behavior and stability in cross-winds at different speeds and angles. They also need to know how a car behaves when passing or being passed closely at speed by large vehicles. How much and where any grime builds up on the car. Questions that are best answered by testing in real road conditions, outside the laboratory.
The team were, of course, involved in developing the aerodynamic behavior of two cars - a coupé and roadster - although, apart from perfecting the design of the Convertible’s ‘windblocker’ screen, they focused most of their efforts on closed top performance.
The Convertible’s roof-up drag coefficient is a class competitive 0.34 but, probably more important, the team has made major strides in improving high speed stability by keeping rear lift forces low and consistent.
The team concentrated their efforts on achieving a smooth airflow over, around, through and under the car, paying particular attention to points of flow separation at the rear in order to reduce the size of wake turbulence and improve stability. The shaping of corner radii and curvatures at the rear of the roof and the side of the car were particularly important.
The team naturally focused their attention on the behavior of the Convertible’s roof, particularly its effectiveness in resisting ‘ballooning’ at speed and in its seating on the side windows. As there is no monoside upper door closure for the Convertible, the team had to minimise the effect of the windows being ‘sucked’ outwards, by the difference in outside and inside air pressure, with undesirable consequences for wind noise. It is actually the same effect that causes ballooning or flapping.
At the front, the rear edge of the hood lid ‘kicks up’ to smooth the passage of air on to and around the windshield. Its traditionally deep curvature also reduces the acceleration of the airflow as it approaches the A-pillars, which have a flattened radius where they connect to the windshiled to minimise airflow disturbance and wind noise. The bottom edge of the door mirror casings is also extended rearwards by 5 mm to help reduce the likelihood of road grime build-up on the mirror surface.
Good airflow management even plays a safety role. The ‘wraparound’ rear light clusters have an optimized corner radius that gives a distinct separation for airflow from the side of the car. Careful shaping of the angle actually helps the air ‘turn the corner’ first before it separates. This creates a flow over part of the light clusters, helping to reduce the build up of road grime, which can impair the visibility of the lights.
Airflow is also designed to keep the windows of the car as free from grime as possible. For example, the door mirror casings have a small spoiler-like profile in the bottom surface to reduce contamination of the side windows.
Underneath the car, airflow management is becoming an increasingly important area for ‘fine tuning‘ and the aero team concentrated their efforts where the return is greatest. A small spoiler ahead of the front wheels has been carefully shaped in the wind tunnel to reduce drag and the forward lower link of the rear suspension has also been aerodynamically shaped to reduce wind resistance and minimize the accumulation of road grime on the wheel rims.
Airflow under the hood, within the engine bay and at the bottom of the front footwells was also closely scrutinised. Shielding of the ‘exhaust’ air from the cabin air conditioning reduces disturbance where it exits behind the rear wheel-arch.
As evidence of the close liaison between the aero and design teams, it was possible to test up to 70 different body variations in one fifth scale during a single eight hour shift in the Stuttgart University wind tunnel, where most of the optimization work was carried out. This is only possible by having a modeller on hand and a number of moulds prepared in advance. In this way, a large number of suggested changes can be investigated quickly to meet aerodynamic targets.
After this work was completed, the team moved to full-scale testing on a rolling road. Further wind tunnel work was also carried out at the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) in the United Kingdom and in Detroit in the United States, for wind noise suppression.
Advanced CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modelling now replaces a great deal of laborious work in the wind tunnel and also allows faster, more effective communication between project team members. For example, CFD played a vital role in the visualization of airflow and speeded up optimization work in the wind tunnel.
CFD was also the main tool for managing internal airflows: in the engine bay to control heat build-up and in the passenger compartment for best possible comfort.