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Wednesday 19th January 2011

Open Season: Saab 9-3 Aero 2.0T

Swede dreams are made of... Agnetha from Abba?



The last Saab Convertible I drove was a 9-3 in the late '90s and, in spite of a wobbly scuttle and unsophisticated chassis set-up, I couldn't help but like it.

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'...)


And having lusted after Saab convertible models since 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.


It looked nice on the inside too, with the white exterior theme carried over onto the door top trims, and the rest of the cabin trimmed in black leather titivated by a bit of carbon-fibber on the centre console. With the upright fascia giving that classic Saab feel to the cabin, it's a secure, comforting place to sit with the roof up or down. The fit and feel of interior plastics and switchgear passes muster too, although this is an area that Saab will need to look at with the next generation car - reportedly due in 2013 - if the 'premium' aspiration is to be maintained.

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.


But this being Open Season, it was roof down-motoring we wanted to explore, and here the Saab rewards. OK, this is no sports car, and trying to make it behave like one quickly exposes the limitations of a powertrain and chassis configured for more 'everyday' performance.

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.


The ride is mostly pliant and comfortable, and the steering sufficiently pointy to reward purposeful drivers if not the committedly sportive one. But the thing that most surprised me was the near absence of scuttle shake, even over some properly pot-holed tarmac. The Saab Convertible is a solidly engineered thing nowadays, it seems.

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 fly in the ointment aside from a driving experience that veers towards acceptable rather than exceptional though, because with the optional extras of Leather Sport Interior trim, DVD sat-nav with touchscreen, plus the good-looking TX exterior design pack, the whole lot 'as tested' adds up to a mighty £39,502.01 on the road.

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.





Chris-R
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bob1179

Original Poster:

13,735 posts

95 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
Ahhhh Agneta... cloud9

Nice review, though I'm suprised the basic car dates back to 2002. I've always had a soft spot for Saabs, I'm looking forward to seeing what the new version looks like when it is unveiled in 2012/13.

smile

M666 EVO

888 posts

48 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
I'd love to get the top down on that myself...

I'd like to take the SAAB out too!! rolleyes

James Dean

1,142 posts

51 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
Very nice.

Something I thought about earlier this week, isn't Saab the only ones who've managed to make good looking clear rearlights?

anything fast

976 posts

50 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
who's uglier? The car or the chick from Abba? wink wink

joking aside IMO not a pretty car.. like most modern saloon based cars a big fat arse with the lights way too high up.. A cabrio should be a bespoke car rather than the hacksaw job most saloon cars end up with. A cabrio should be special.. and yes we will have all the arguments that its a proper 4 seat car, blah bla blah, wind in the hair, blah blah blah.. well whats wrong with opening a window or a sunroof.. Bloaters like this just dilute the idea of a ragtop... IMO buy a used S2000 or a used Merc SL and for the money you save (off the list price of a new saab) buy a cheap run about to carry your brood of kids..

Or if you are a massive fan of old vectras and always longed for a Cavalier Mk2 Cabrio.. ta da... heres your dream car! tongue out

J4CKO

11,479 posts

86 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
0-60 in 9.0, I have the saloon, manual with a remap and its a lot quicker (between six and seven to sixty) than that, must be a lot heavier and the auto isnt helping either.

I quite like the convertibles, a bit less gauche or obvious than a BMW or Audi, but then, to be fair they just arent as good and thats from an owner.
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Kazlet

278 posts

57 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
yikes £39,500 roflroflrofl

Smartass

174 posts

78 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
When you consider you can pick up a pretty good one for a lot less than £10k you've got to wonder who's still buying them.

I've got the gene but it manifests itself in a passion for "proper" old 900s.

J4CKO

11,479 posts

86 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
Smartass said:
When you consider you can pick up a pretty good one for a lot less than £10k you've got to wonder who's still buying them.

I've got the gene but it manifests itself in a passion for "proper" old 900s.
Those who like it and have the money, they are out there not everyone is worried about ultimate ability, 50 mpg, massive performance, residuals or it being German, they just like the look of it and buy one.

I think in Cabrio form they are kind of classy in a way that BMW's and Audi's are not, not that those dont have some kudos, obviously but they are so common the Saab is a kind of "why" car, like Maserati's, defies most logic but they buy them anyway which gives them a bit of mystique.

39 grand is a bit enthusiastic though !

David87

3,231 posts

98 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
You would literally have to be mental to spend £40k on that. It's a really old car now.

cronk-flakes

3,464 posts

139 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
Doesn't stop the Swedes. Due to the increased cost of foreign cars, these sell rather well.

diluculophile

45 posts

137 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
I've got a soft spot for Saab, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can produce under new ownership. In the meantime, let's hope they don't collapse because no-one will buy this kind of thing. Old-tech, slow and expensive. Plus those rear lights are nasty, and those wheels must rank among the ugliest I've ever had the misfortune to lay eyes upon.

ellisd82

661 posts

94 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
erm...unsure on this one. Think it needs different wheels for a start and the interior is basic to put it politely, especially at just less than £40K!

KM666

1,374 posts

69 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
James Dean said:
Very nice.

Something I thought about earlier this week, isn't Saab the only ones who've managed to make good looking clear rearlights?
i agree reminds me of those 'cystal' rear light u used to see the proper mini's sporting or a scirocco

Garlick

40,600 posts

126 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
Here are some pictures from when I had the car over Christmas, just to show that Open Season continues in the snow smile







I got it a bit dirty.......

Very warm with the roof down and side windows up though. Heated seats are super-hot

nickthestig

1 posts

47 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
Saabs, i could never see the sense in buying one...........

Until i ended up having one off my uncle at a good rate and then the ownership storey began......

It is the kind of car you have to own to appreciate, the supreme comfort and the interior is a generally nice place to be. The engine is gutsy in the midrange and although does not sing like a BMW 6 pot makes motorway driving a doddle. The handling is not bad either, better than any vectra, the saabs use Sachs suspension and different ARB's. I have updated my dampers and springs to bilstien shocks and eibach springs to replace the knackered old ones and the car is pretty solid now.

It has even been to the ring and i managed a 9m30s lap on my 5th attempt so not too shoddy for only the 175bhp mid pressure turbo.

In all they kind of get under your skin and are something different from mondeo man

boredofmyoldname

22,654 posts

85 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
I consider the 93 convertible to be a car very much like the Alfa Spider, I want to like it. It just never quite ticks enough boxes when you get up close to one.

Still on the to do list though.

TUS 373

3,461 posts

167 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
I had a 2003 9-3 Aero Saloon. Without doubt - the WORST car I have ever owned. Build quality (read rattles, computers that didn't communicate with each other meaning that one day you could access Climate Control, next day couldn't) would have been a joke, except I owned the bloody thing. Kept in 6 months then sold it on. Major disappointment compared to the 9-5 I had before it, which was way more a quality car. Any person spending nearly £40K on one of these (because the roof comes off - wow!) needs psychiatric help. Don't be seduced - utter tat.

Slade Alive

784 posts

45 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all
Three spoke alloys, clam shell bonnet, nose down stance, high back quarter, wrap around front sidelights, you can still see the 3dr 99 roots. Saab have always been great at not following the pack.

buzzer

2,337 posts

126 months

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Wednesday 19th January 2011 quote quote all


Hope they have fixed the bulkhead cracking issue that's a big problem on the earlier models....yikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikes

Just google "saab 9-3 bulkhead cracks" readit





Edited by buzzer on Thursday 20th January 11:30

cookie1600

532 posts

47 months

[news] 
Thursday 20th January 2011 quote quote all
'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'

Exactly why SAAB owners keep buying more of them - to be different from all the rest!
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