The southern annular mode (SAM) has a well-established impact on climate in the Southern Hemisphere. The strongest response in surface air temperature (SAT) is observed in the Antarctic, but the SAM's area of influence extends much farther, with statistically significant effects on temperature and precipitation being detected as far north as 20°S. Here the authors quantify the ability of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, phase 3 (CMIP3) coupled climate models to simulate the observed SAT, total precipitation, sea surface temperature (SST), and sea ice concentration responses to the SAM. The models are able to simulate the spatial pattern of response in SAT reasonably well; however, all models underestimate the magnitude of the response over Antarctica, both at the surface and in the free troposphere. This underestimation of the temperature response has implications for prediction of the future temperature changes associated with expected changes in the SAM. The models possess reasonable skill in simulating patterns of precipitation and SST response; however, some considerable regional deviations exist. The simulated precipitation and SST responses are less constrained by the observations than the SAT response, particularly in magnitude, as significant discrepancies are detected between the responses in the reference datasets. The largest problems are identified in simulating the sea ice response to the SAM, with some models even simulating a response that is negatively correlated with that observed.