With an all-new 9-3 generation still two years off, Saab has given its entry-level model a welcome freshening as well as a minor name tweak. Appearing first in Geneva and arriving in the U.S. this summer, the 2012 Saab 9-3 Griffin Convertible, Sport Sedan and SportCombi boast a number of subtle but effective cosmetic variations to their exterior and cabin trimout while gaining a welcome bump in output and operating efficiency.

To add a bit more upscale presence, the 2012 Saab 9-3 Griffin gang gets a more dramatically contoured front fascia that borrows fairly heavily from the senior 9-5 line. A restyled grille and bolder air intakes are flanked by new "ice-block" headlamps while foglamps become standard issue on both the 2.0T and Aero variants.

Various bits of bright trim have been redone and new griffin emblems adorn the front fenders. Sport Sedans add a standard decklid spoiler and all models get new wheels, 16-inch alloys on the 2.0T and 17-inch rims on the Aero and XWD version with optional 18-inch upgrades available.

Inside, the 2.0T versions of the 2012 Saab 9-3 Griffins get new Titanium metallic-effect trim on the dash, doors, console and other moldings while Aero versions replace it with faux-graphite bits. A brushed-metallic effect alternative will be offered for both. Grey fabric inserts add an elegant touch to the black or parchment leatherette seat coverings and Aero models feature a new irregular ribbing pattern and contrast stitching.

To complement their visual enhancements, the 2012 Saab 9-3 Griffins enjoy a nifty underhood upgrading program. The current four-cylinder 2.0T engine gives way to the more potent E85-capable iteration from the new 9-5. With direct injection, variable valve timing and a twin-scroll turbocharger, it makes 220 horsepower versus the current engine's 210 corral count and bumps peak torque output from 221 to 258 lb-ft, which should impart a bit more accelerative intensity to the Griffin-spec cars whether paired with the standard six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed autoshifter. While U.S. EPA specs are still pending, Saab indicates that the engine swap is good for about a four-percent gain in mileage on the Euro cycle and a commensurate drop in CO2 emissions.

Expect pricing and further details on the 2012 Saab 9-3 Griffin gang to be released closer to their on-sale date.

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