RE: Shed of the Week: Saab 9-3 Aero

RE: Shed of the Week: Saab 9-3 Aero

Friday 2nd March

Shed of the Week: Saab 9-3 Aero

Fast, discreet, and seemingly well cared for, too - this Saab ticks a lot of boxes!



What would the average PHer like to see in their perfect do-it-all used car?

Some things - lots of power, a manual gearbox, and a decent badge on the bonnet - are obvious enough. That stuff apart, the 'perfect car' recipe can often end up becoming a series of contradictions. We'd all like comfort, but not at the expense of handling. We'd probably quite like a dash of style, but not at the expense of practicality. We fancy something that's proved its durability, but that also has a non-galactic mileage. And finally, in lieu of the Lottery win normally required to achieve such a rich mixture, we want a stupidly low price.


That's the point at which the bubble usually bursts with a wet, soapy pop of disappointment, but today's Shed could be a unicorn of hope standing proudly in a barren landscape of broken dreams. Or something.

The Saab 9-3 Aero was quick enough in standard trim, when its 2.0 turbo four had 210hp and 221lb ft and possibly the biggest rpm gap ever between peak power (at 6,000rpm) and peak torque (at 2,500rpm). Despite that, in untweaked form it posted a 0-60 time in the low-seven second bracket.

Our Shed has had a 40hp remap boost, which you would have thought would have been more than capable of dropping its 0-60 time to the mid- or even low sixes. That's if you can push the gearstick around with enough authority as it's not exactly Type R slick.

In terms of handling, the '02-and-on Saab 9-3 represented a big dynamic jump over the previous Cavalier-based model, built as it was on the Saab/GM joint-venture Epsilon floorpan with multilink rear end and passive rear-wheel steer.


As the vendor suggests, there's nowt much wrong with the 9-3 when it comes to fast touring. Not only can you achieve perfectly acceptable mpg figures on a long run, the boot is usefully big and the bodyshell is strong.

The one 'perfect car' attribute that went unmentioned earlier was reliability. That's a big elephant in the room for anyone contemplating the purchase of a used GM-era Saab. This specimen comes with a reassuringly short list of previous owners and a reassuringly long list of replaced bits, including recentish brake parts and clutch. The only thing not mentioned is any form of service history, which is a shame but at this price - £750 - not a deal breaker.

Problems can crop up with 9-3 door and boot locks and some of the other electrical systems. Under the bonnet, the secondary air injection pump (SAI) got itself a bit of a rep. It was designed to shove air into the exhaust manifold in order to get the cat up and running more efficiently from cold. Shed prefers a simple boot up the cat's jacksy after it's had its saucer of milk, but each to his own. In any case, Shed thinks that the SAI pump might have been dropped on post-'03 models so you might be all right with this '04 car. If it does still have one, a new pump will be under £200. Used ones are under £100.

With sludge-prone Saab turbos you do need to keep a weather eye on the oil, changing it on a more regular basis than you might be used to. Every 5,000 miles would be about right. Again it's good news on this particular car as the owner has taken pains to run it on the recommended synthetic oil. The cams are run by chain rather than belt.


9-3 steering columns can get a bit notchy, and you might also notice a few rattles and squeaks from the trim, dash and seats as Saab's cabin build wasn't that brilliant during this difficult time in its history. The memory function on cars with electric seats has a habit of going AWOL, and the same goes for the tyre pressure monitoring system.

There it is then, all that for a measly £750, a price that includes a near-full MOT, a set of Saab roof bars for your canoe or MB, and a couple of spare alloys with winter tyres on - just the job for a late night flamey burnout when you've got something to celebrate. Like buying this car, for example.

You're not getting the 'private' reg number, but at the risk of poking the kraken, who cares about that anyway? Mrs Shed gave Shed a private number once. Unfortunately, he called it, and the rest is history.

Here's the ad.

2004 SAAB 2.0 AERO Petrol - 5 Speed Manual - 250BHP
115k Miles
MOT Untill End Jan 2019
Only 3 owners, pre Reg1st owner 10 years, then me 4 years
My 3rd SAAB
Dark Blue, with Half Leather Trim
Private plate to be removed, 
Excellent Condition
Maptune Stage 1 - 250BHP, with Tuning Box, can restore original Map back to 210, and erase error codes if neccessary. See Maptune website. This cost £450, 
Quick car pulls very well, but also can return upto 38mpg on last European Holiday over 800 miles.
Replaced parts as follows.
-Windscreen June 2017
-Clutch @85k, by Volsa in Derby (SAAB/Volvo Specialist)
-Rear Brake Calipers, Vented Discs, and Pads 2015
-Coil Packs & Plugs Nov 2015
-Fully Syn Oil Used.
-K&N panel filter,
-Fuel Filter 2015
-Steering Universal Joint
-Front O/S Wheel bearing Jan 2018
-All tyres Avon ZV7, all still plenty of tread.
-2 Spare Alloys with winter tyres (Continental) Past best but still legal.
-1 Spare Tyre
-Aircon recharged 2016
-2 Working Keys
-SAAB Roof Bars

Features:
Cruise control, Elec Win x4, Elec Heated Mirrors, CD player, Height Adjustable drivers seat, heated front seats, Split climate control.

Well Cared for car, sale due to newer Auto, would keep if had the space.

Only Neg points:
-Drivers Heated seat not working
-Scratch on rear near side. not too noticeable as on body fold line.
-Occasional, slight Clonk from n/s/f, sounds like drop link or spring, have looked but can't see anything, but past MOT, 
Very reliable Honest Car, recommend viewing

 

Author
Discussion

Valgar

Original Poster:

824 posts

65 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Utter bargain! Can you go faster on 4 wheels for £750?

Scottie - NW

780 posts

163 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
These are a pile of st.

My brother had one from when it was 3 years old, a 52 plate.

The handling was appalling, it felt like there was no connection between steering wheel and road, no feedback at all.

Every few weeks a different error message appeared on the warning system, it never ran out of ways to give new warnings you had never heard of.

Needed expensive components replacing regularly.

From the forums this seemed typical.

Very little to recommend it frown

drgoatboy

800 posts

137 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
seems like a billy bargain to me. I've been toying with a Saab as a daily hack for a while, ticks a lot of boxes. Top shedding!

Ian-27xza

42 posts

23 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Gread shed!

I ran one of these from 40,000 miles upto 180,000 miles. The remap really opens these cars up and adds a slug more torque across the rev range.

The SAI issue can be remapped out, no HW required - just disconnect the SAI and remap the car to take out the EML - £100.

The sludge issue only affected the previous generation 9-3 1998-2002.

Dale487

642 posts

53 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Great old school (ie sub £1000) SOTW - proof you don't need the higher budget to find an interesting and potentially less ruinous (than some) car.

At £750 could you have found another car for the same money for a 2 car garage? (being sensible I'd keep the other £750 to sort the suspension knocking out and keep the rest as a contingency).
Advertisement

FWIW

481 posts

27 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I’ve got the SportWagon version of this, also with remap. It’s brilliant; quick and comfy.

Turbobanana

985 posts

131 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Shed said, "a decent badge on the bonnet ".

What's one of those?

mrpenks

182 posts

85 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I should like this: 200bhp plus for £750 with MOT and decent history.

But I don’t. Anything SAAB from the mid 90s on is ruined by the GM link (and parts bin) in my mind.

TheAngryDog

7,406 posts

139 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Scottie - NW said:
These are a pile of st.

My brother had one from when it was 3 years old, a 52 plate.

The handling was appalling, it felt like there was no connection between steering wheel and road, no feedback at all.

Every few weeks a different error message appeared on the warning system, it never ran out of ways to give new warnings you had never heard of.

Needed expensive components replacing regularly.

From the forums this seemed typical.

Very little to recommend it frown
Totally different experience to the one that has been in my family since 2010.

Cambs_Stuart

233 posts

14 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Looks like a bargain. From some of the threads on the readers cars section SAABs seem to be more rust proof than other GM offerings of that era.
SAABs have always had very comfy seats too. for £750 I'd say it's a perfect winter hack with some cash left over just in case.

85Carrera

1,529 posts

167 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Scottie - NW said:
These are a pile of st.

My brother had one from when it was 3 years old, a 52 plate.

The handling was appalling, it felt like there was no connection between steering wheel and road, no feedback at all.

Every few weeks a different error message appeared on the warning system, it never ran out of ways to give new warnings you had never heard of.

Needed expensive components replacing regularly.

From the forums this seemed typical.

Very little to recommend it frown
Agreed. The wife has a convertible one which for some reason she loves. Utterly horrible car to drive.

Maxus

532 posts

111 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
That is incredible value for money. Ad looks and reads very well. I had a succession of V6 versions of these some time ago. Really nice car to travel in.
Worth it for the seats alone.

Integroo

2,060 posts

15 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I posted this in the Bargains Basement thread, it really seems a bit of a bargain, and were it closer I'd have it. It was pointed out that the consumables were last done in 2015 and no sign of much been done since, so perhaps it would need some money spent on brakes and suspension, but for £750 ...

Dale487 said:
Great old school (ie sub £1000) SOTW - proof you don't need the higher budget to find an interesting and potentially less ruinous (than some) car.

At £750 could you have found another car for the same money for a 2 car garage? (being sensible I'd keep the other £750 to sort the suspension knocking out and keep the rest as a contingency).
You could get an MG TF for £750, even maybe one that has had the head gasket done!

georgezippy

181 posts

125 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I have an earlier shape (2002) hatchback Aero which was a sheddy £1000 a couple of years ago.
It needed a good service and some minor bits and pieces but generally has been reliable. The only expensive bit was to replace the clutch when it started slipping, which was my fault as it happened just after the remap. whistle

It's about time these were SOTW, Massive boot, comfy electric leather seats, accelerates like a mentalist, high 30s MPG on a mixed driving longer journey (it does require 99RON), tyres are £80 (Pirelli). I would agree with earlier comments about handling, it's not very good. Suspect it's got another year or two in before the boost level blows something up, not sure there's a faster car for less money with purchase and running costs all taken into account.

Olivera

2,912 posts

169 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
A quick shed, but in most other ways it's a dreadful performance car.

Harveybw

33 posts

24 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Top Shed. I had a convertible one a few years ago, and whilst it would shake like hell through the body and wasn’t the most dynamic, it was great. Fast in straight line, and was fun dealing with the torque steer!

My experience was totally trouble free also. In my mind, built like a tank.

legacy4cam

40 posts

100 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Really like these ...FiL has one that just gets used and abused, albeit Auto which blunts it a little. Still 30mpg , fast, spacious and comfy enough. What do people who complain they don't handle drive day to day.... plenty of grip, little body roll and sensible wheels/tyre. Possibly a little harsh on the potholed tracks we call roads, but they handle well enough , in my opinion.

Few oddball spares, steering columns and so forth, but there are work-arounds on the forums and so on. Rusty wheel arches on most I see in salty Scotland.

Good Shed.


BFleming

641 posts

73 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I did a trip to Spa in on of these last year. Well, same fundamental shape, but it was the 2.8 XWD job. Fast, comfortable (as long as you're sitting in the front - rear legroom is dire) and not disastrous on fuel. Good shedding this week!

j4m

1 posts

8 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Had my 53 plate aero for almost 3 years & been really happy with it, especially the reliability.

Only thing that's gone wrong was the alternator (which took the original battery with it) but other than that, it hasn't missed a beat.

I think it handles absolutely fine, no body roll & sticks to the black stuff well.

Only thing that irks me is the gearing - 1st & 2nd are way too short for my liking.

I'd definitely recommend one based on my experience so far. Reliable, cheap to buy & to run - it's a no brainer in my eyes.

J4CKO

24,331 posts

130 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I had one of these with a BSR remap and it was plenty quick enough, enough to give a tuned Escort Cosworth a shock, he stopped for a chat biggrin and a PHers Chimaera. Not the most charismatic unit but did the job.

They are tough but have niggles, squeaky suspension and key issues I saw but the engine was unburstable, gearbox also but not very nice to use. The clonk on this may be a spring moveing on the platform on or the drop link, its all dead easy to do if you are ok with a spanner.

Brakes are heroic, the 2003 models were anyway, the downgraded them for later models.

Handling was fairly effective but not much fun, a bit wooden all round, the Swedes trying to ape the Germanic thing and just whacking on some concrete springs, stiff dampers and thick anti roll bars was not what was needed, most un Saab like and even the S Line Audi tyre suspension at least has some give, the ride was crap, jarring, the shell was very stiff on these as well.

Stereo was rubbish, CD changer used to do impromptu Normal Collier remixes (ask your parents wink) and despite being one of the higher end ones still maanged to sound crap and make the shonky interior rattle.

Seats were very good, decent space, good boot.

Despite the interior they were well built, think where the equivalent Vauxhall had pressed steel they had aluminium components, they dont seem to rust, they were Vectra based but quite different being shorter with entirely different chassis tuning, the Vectra for example didnt involve spinal injuries biggrin


Always thought, particularly in Aero trim they were a looker.



£750 for a 250 bhp car, that is a bargain, just check when it boosts the clutch doesnt slip ! looks like its had one.

Best shed for a while I would say.



Edited by J4CKO on Friday 2nd March 11:32