Open Season: Saab 9-3 Aero 2.0T
Swede dreams are made of... Agnetha from Abba?
I've got the Saab gene, I think, having spent formative years in a V4-powered 95 estate and now the OH and I share a 2000 9-5 2.3t estate with Goose (the dog) for walkies and the like. (It's much more comfortable off-road than the PH long-term Land Rover Defender, although a little less 'go anywhere'...)
whenever they first appeared I knew I was going to like the latest one too, having requested a test drive for 'Open Season'. The surprise (for me) was how 'together' it felt on the road.
It's not a new machine, based as it is on a 2002 model that was effectively updated by a comprehensive facelift in 2008. But Saab convertibles have always stood the test of time from a style standpoint - for those of us with the gene, at least.
The Arctic White 9-3 Aero from the Saab press fleet that turned up in the PH car park the other week looked crisp and aggressive, with the latest TX Design Pack featuring dark accents around the grille and lower intake, side skirts, a neat boot lip spoiler topping-off a diffuser-style rear end, matched to some suitably Saabilicious 18ins alloys.
Fabric roof up, the headlining looks luxuriously padded, well finished and of good quality, but a quick dash up the dual carriageway revealed the limitations of Saab's NVH investment. There's a fair bit of wind noise (mainly coming from around the rear side windows) even at 60-70mph.
Our car arrived with the 210hp, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and 5-speed automatic combo, which features paddly/flipper-type things on the steering wheel. It's jaunty rather than rapid, offering 0-60mph in 9.0secs, but that does feel a little faster with the roof down. The gearbox shifts pleasantly on its own too, and there's little benefit to be gained from playing with the flippers. Sadly the engine has a thrashy drone in its upper reaches, but at least it's not intrusive thanks to some proper bulkhead insulation and the wind roar you get in any convertible with the roof down.
And if your 'thing' is more about motoring in the classical sense rather than the pure driving dynamics that more hardcore PHers might be looking for, the Saab really can deliver - especially on a chilly winter day when the excellent cabin heating keeps your tatties toasted as you take the air on that favourite country route. (Alternatively you could take your new convertible to Abbott Racing and have some proper fun with it.)
There's a lot of thoroughly competent, prestigious and more up-to-date convertible action available at that price, from out-and-out sports cars to more cruisey numbers with four seats. Think Audi A5, BMW Z4, 1 and 3 Series, Nissan 370Z, Merc E-class and SLK, Porsche Boxster, Volvo C70... well, you get the picture.
You probably need the gene. For those of you that haven't got it, there's always Agnetha.