Reading the latest 9-3 SportCombi review, one from the well respected Detroit News, is an exercise in frustration and satisfaction all at the same time.
The frustration? Well, GM and all their brands are pretty easy targets – particularly Saab. They’re big enough to take it, but they’re easy game. When it comes to parts sharing and design, Saab are always going to be perceived as the junior partner because of their relatively small size.
Saab’s quest for identity isn’t helped at all when 7 out of 10 journos make a point of regurgitating this rather than focussing on the car itself. Our hosts, Paul and Anita Lienert spend around 4 or 5 paragraphs reinforcing the thought that Saab ain’t what it used to be. Rehashed Subaru, Rebadged Chevy…..and the 9-3SC itself – Australian-built engine, some German bits, Japanese transmission. Only 19% Swedish content.
On and On and On. And then they make up for this with "Which doesn’t make the ’06 Saab 9-3 SportCombi a bad or undesirable vehicle."
Great. The frustratometer flies off the boil and once again you feel like you need to remind an automotive journalist that GM, Saab’s owners, are a global company and that sourcing parts from areas with expertise is what it’s all about when you’re a global company.
But this article doesn’t stop there. There’s a little more frustration left in this southern-Oz blogger and it’s reserved for Saab’s design team. Now, I love the 9-3 in all its forms, so don’t get me wrong here – OK?
Something that the writers raised did strike a chord with me and it’s been eating away slowly for a while – an area where perhaps GM doesn’t "get it" just as the authors didn’t "get" the whole global thing. Lets call it design character. From the Combi review:
It may not look or feel that Swedish any more, but the new Saab is competent, comfortable and entertaining. It’s just a bit too generic for our taste, especially considering the price tag on our well-equipped 9-3 Aero model was pushing $40,000.
Competent and comfortable are nice. Generic is not. I have relatively recent memories of Saabs with maroon velvet interiors. Green interiors. Some very funky design cues exist in past models and I’m hoping that in the new models that arise over the next few years, some attention might get paid to the design, layout and individuality of the interior space. It’s not a retro thing, but a modern application of older principles regarding color and layout. Not every room has to be a black room.
Over all, the reviewers get past their initial lack of originality and write up quite a thorough, balanced and positive piece of press for the 9-3 Sport Combi. Particularly the drive train, which gets a big nod from them in it’s 2.8 V6 guise. I’ve corresponded with a couple of people that have purchased SC’s and they seem blown away by them. I’m hanging out to drive one myself.
With such a good car, it’s a shame there’s still some journos that can’t get past the global thing. And with such a good car, it’s a shame that GM would leave a couple of corners cut. But that’s economics, I guess. Popularity will see issues fixed in subsequent model years and life will go on. Hopefully, as it does, the additions to the Saab lineup will be infused with the character Saab was once renowned for.
You can read the full review here: Saab Builds New Identity