2009 Saab 9-3 XWD
2009 Saab 9-3 XWD. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by James Bergeron

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Saab Enhanced Driving School

Shannonville, Ontario – Driving is serious business; most people get their license when they are 16, pass the “driving test” which is more of a test of one’s abilities to follow the law than to operate a motor vehicle, and then never look back. The majority of the drivers on the roads today haven’t had any training other than a few quick lessons from their parents or a driving school.

Do you remember what to do if your car goes into a skid? Was it turn into the skid? Or maybe it was turn away from the slide? Across the hood, that’s a good one; wouldn’t that mean you always turn right?

Forget all of that. The best way to learn, or re-learn, how to drive, is to practice. Twice a year at Shannonville Motorsports Park in Shannonville, Ontario, The Saab Club of Canada offers an Enhanced Driving School to all members of the public that offers the opportunity to learn and improve driving skills in a controlled environment.

2009 Saab 9-3 XWD
2009 Saab 9-3 XWD. Click image to enlarge

You do not need a Saab to participate in the Saab school. What you do need is a valid driver’s license, insurance and a vehicle. You don’t have to want to be the next Michael Schumacher either; the school is geared toward regular people, driving regular cars, on regular roads. They also offer beginner, intermediate and advanced groups within the same school for those with more experience.

After I accepted my invitation to this event, I had a dilemma of sorts. I could not take my truck, although club President Scott Hutchings told me minivans are not a rare sight at their school. Still, I had to find a car.

Saab Canada was gracious enough to lend me a 2009 9-3 Turbo XWD for the day. It was a double-whammy for me: the ability to find out how the new 2009 Saab 9-3 handles, as well as the chance to learn from experts at the Saab school.

Instructor Derek Hanson
Instructor Derek Hanson. Click image to enlarge

The classroom instructor for the day was Derek Hanson, a man who started racing cars well before I was born. He’s a former member of Porsche’s racing program and many others.

The morning started out with a classroom session where the basics of car balance were reviewed. Hanson’s advice was, “Drive with feel – not with your mind.” Why is this? If you have to think about what to do next, it is too late; you will already be in the ditch or have had a collision.

Next were some skidpad exercises to get everyone familiar with their car and how it behaves at the limit. The Saab 9-3 I was driving was incredibly capable; with the stability control enabled, the car would not slide no matter what I did. With it disabled it would understeer at the limit, even with the most aggressive inputs I could muster.

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