Saab Oz – Get together yo sh*t!!

Ok, this may be the first in a short series of rants over the next few days.

Regular commenter and all round dude, PT, sent me a link this evening to a review of the Saab 9-3 SportCombi here in Australia. It’s appearing in the Fairfax Press’s car paper: Drive. The reviewer reckons the car’s pretty good for the money and makes some pretty fair and favourable comparisons with the competition:

There is a small but growing sales trend towards European prestige wagons that the SportCombi taps into. It also means a five-door rejoins the 9-3 range, although in previous generations a hatchback was the preferred body shape, and “Combi” refers to that heritage.

For Saab to be riding the wave of a class on the up with fresh product is a novelty. The glacial pace at which it has ground out new-generation vehicles has been the cause of a sales slide here and profitability woes worldwide.

The Australian division has latched onto the SportCombi with alacrity, launching the entry-level Linear 1.8t with an attractive price and specification level. At $45,400, it undercuts the base-model Germans easily. But the Citroen C5 and Volvo V50 both start cheaper.

For Saab to be getting some positive press here, where wankermobiles truly do abound, is a great thing.

The problem? The reviewer has picked it in one:

There is another SportCombi model, the Aero. Powered by a Holden-built turbocharged V6 engine, it starts at a rather more imposing $72,400. For that you get 184 kW and 350 Nm.

The 1.8t doesn’t produce those figures. But it’s not because it has a 1.8-litre engine. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, but designated 1.8 for marketing reasons. The “t” signifies it’s been mildly turbocharged to produce 110 kW at 5500 rpm, and 240 Nm between 2000-3500 rpm. There is a 2.0t (it really is a 2.0-litre) in the 9-3 sedan range with another 19 kW and 15 Nm.

It might have been worth considering here because the 1.8t feels the pinch of the SportCombi auto’s 1539-kilogram bulk. It’s not slow, just not athletic.

The 9-3 SportCombi is only available in two models here in Australia. The Linear at around A$45,000 or the Aero at $72,400. You can get either the 110kW adequate transporter or the 184kW beasty.

There’s no in-between.

There’s almost $30,000 of wiggle room and no middle ground for the aspiring driver that can’t quite pony up for the Aero.

So what does Mr $60K do when he wants something different, practical and safe for his family and there’s no legit Saab on offer? He goes to the German showrooms and boom, another sale lost. At $60K, surely there’d be room for offering the 150-odd kW engine now present in the Vector SS, i.e. the old Aero engine.

And while I’m at it, why not offer the 129kW option as the base engine rather than the 110kW. I feel quite sure it’s the same engine with a software upgrade to get the extra horses running. 110kW in a modern Saab doesn’t truly belie it’s sporting heritage, and as the writer notes it’s left the heavier vehicle slightly underpowered. That’s a recipe for unhappy customers and reduced repeat business.

My bet is that the 129kW engine gets offered as a next-gen base upgrade around October, but pity the poor punter who’s spent his money already and feels ripped off as he pushes the car harder than it’s designed for in order to get the performance he figured he was buying in the first place.

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  1. Nice to see you come out swinging Swade. We could also go on about the lack of diesel, biopower & Hirsch…..but lets keep some focus here.

    The 06 vector spec IS available in the 93 sedan here -which interestingly comes in 4 specs. Perhaps its a supply chain issue? …..Swades intelligence says no…and to me it smells like reasonably cynical marketing that continues the theme of milking the Saab cow without giving it any grass to eat.
    With the additional news yesterday that GM Aus has been forced to offer full refunds to 300+ customers who bought under the dubious ” Employee Pricing – you pay what we pay” scheme. Apparently they didn’t pay what employees pay – they paid more. Why am I not surprised? Its all part of an unfortunate pattern that doesn’t inspire much confidence at all. I guess they really do see their future as the Australian arm of Daewoo.

    On another, international, point:
    Still cannot understand the logic of the 1.8t on a 2.0litre car either but BMW, MB and others have also lost the plot in this regard too so I won’t go on about it. Obviously there’s something in automobile marketing la-la land (that I’m missing )which stipulates that you cannot call a car what it actually is.

    BTW – appreciate the character reference – will keep that one framed for future domestic negotiations.

  2. Whatever happened to the term HORSEPOWER and FT/LB TORQUE?

    KW and NM means absolutely nothing to me and probably to 90pc of the world. Canada has been metric for nearly 30 years and we still use hp and ft/lb.

    MAN are Saabs expensive in Australia!

  3. There was also too another review 2 weeks ago in the Saturday Car section of the SMH focusing on the “comeback of the Station Wagon vs 4 Wheel Drive”. This article clearly highlights the reverse trend when 4WD displaced Station Wagons and it cites precisely a new VW, a Peugeot and our beloved Saab as examples of good buys. Whilst the editorial is very positive on the Combi, everything goes to waist when the options vs prices of the Combi come against the VW and Peugeot. Thank God no other European variants were mentioned. The sheer facts were the same as Swade’s analysis but gets worse. Both opposition top models can be bought for about $20K less than the Combi Aero and both run 3.0l V6 of respectable KWs and Nms. No wonder the re-sale prices of all Saabs plummets so severely and rightly so. I wrote this before and will do it again: Saab OZ is more of a hindrance than part of the solution. PT are you ready to move down to Melbourne yet ???

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