An Aussie take on Euro “Combis”

A timely article has surfaced at Carpoint. Given yesterday’s article on the 9-3 SportCombi (don’t call it a wagon!!!), I thought I might post this one as well.

Here in Oz, there’s several distinct classes of motor car. It’s been a learning curve for me in writing this blog to see that the US market, for example, looks at a lot of the Japanese manufacturers as being on a par with their European counterparts. Here in Oz, we pay a premium for European cars and have higher expectations of them, which tends to translate into holding them in higher esteem as well. There’s also the ‘local’ manufacturers, Ford and Holden.

Generally speaking, your garden variety of family cars consists of a choice between Ford, Holden, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, perhaps Hyundai could be considered in this group as well. Euro vehicles are considered upscale, more refined than their Australasian counterparts and built for a more comfortable and refined driving experience.

Thus is the premise of this Carpoint article, which examines the used European ‘wagon’ market here in Oz.

Why are European wagons so different? Wagons are not cheap to develop or build when they require extra strength in the roof and sides to allow the huge rear opening. In Australia, large fleet purchases like Telstra or a big sales fleet can make or break the profitability of a local wagon so they tend to be styled and packaged for maximum carrying capacity on an extended Fairlane or Statesman wheelbase. This in turn dictates heavy duty suspension, raised ground clearance and tough, long lasting interior trim. If you need a stable towing platform, power to spare, low repair costs, all road capability and huge luggage space, there is nothing from Europe that can match a local Falcon or Commodore wagon.

Because the European wagons are not geared to a commercial market, they can offer a more subtle and refined driving experience, lower fuel costs, compact packaging and the same feel-good factor as the sedan versions.

The article examines several offerings around 5 years old or thereabouts. One of which is the Saab 9-5 Sport Wagon:

Saab 9-5 Wagon 1999-02

Why? The Saab 9-5 Estate arrived with striking looks and clever packaging with a driver feel better than expected in May 1999. Saab made a point of presenting its back seat with the same angle as the sedan, essential as it was aimed at earlier 9000 liftback owners. The clever “must-have” 9-5 feature is the sliding load floor that will support 200kg and comes out to meet you for loading and unloading. The feature list is huge as expected with high quality trim, multiple airbags front and rear and outstanding Saab ergonomics.

Launched as a 2.3 S/SE with turbocharger and 125kW/280Nm, it came with a choice of manual or auto. A 2.0-litre low-pressure turbo version arrived with 110kW/240Nm in July 1999. Its flatter torque curve delivered better economy with performance that felt little different at low engine speeds. The first major facelift in November 2001 assigned new names including Arc, Linear, Vector and Aero to the various levels.

Prices? The earlier 2.0-litre version is a bargain starting at well under $20,000. The more powerful 2.3 versions are priced from $20,000 for an early one and will top $30,000 for the later models. The later Linear models start in the low $30,000 range.

Other marques mentioned include BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, Peugeot, Volkswagen and, surprisingly enough, Rover.

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