9-3SC vs BMW

If perception is reality, then BMW consistently build the best cars any given class.  This is what the automotive press would have you believe at least.  With 10-15 years of dominance, it’s going to take one hell of a group of cars to knock them off their perch.  Many a modern journo’s default position is BMW first, daylight second and everyone else last.

Of course, a lot of these reports are based on something slightly to the right of reality.  Unlike Clarkson, we don’t all live our lives on an airport runway.  Last time I looked, there weren’t any cones on the street where I live.  That’s why they have James May on TopGear – he’s the one that gets to test cars that our average punter might actually buy one day.

We have daily commutes to work or kids to drop off at sporting events and perhaps the occasional weekend run around the twisties.  Top speeds and upper eschelons of Brake Horsepower are somewhat pointless, even if they’re fun.  Give me something that looks nice, performs when I need it and most importantly, how I need it.

This test from Auto Motor Und Sport (in German) poses the Saab 9-3 SportCombi against a BMW 3-Series Touring Wagon.  It’s a condensed report online as you need to pay for the full report, which I’m not going to do.  If anyone’s got access to the full thing, then your input would be welcome in comments.

My ire was raised at first, when I read a complaint about torque steer.  This is the 4-cylinder version they’re testing and torque steer should not be an issue unless you’re really, and I mean really, giving it some stick.  Hell, torque steer isn’t even an issue in my Viggen in a daily driving situation.

Overall, the report seems to be reasonably reality-based and whilst they tip their hat towards the Bimmer (did you exect anything else?) the Saab does seem to carry itself well. 

AMS make the observation that the BMW is a more dynamic drive and the Saab wins the comfort and equipment stakes, and therefore suggest that the Saab would be better suited for touring and the BMW better for sporting applications.  The nomenclature implications are obvious. 

I’d suggest that any shortcomings they might see with the Saab would be easily forgiven by your average reality-based Saabisti.  The base price of the Saab is a little more, but the Bimmer has so many options available that are standard equipment on the Saab that I’d be hard pressed to see any customer paying less for a Bimmer that’s comparably equipped with the equivalent model Saab.

For those that are interested in the figures, both cars produce the same power output, the Saab is ever-so-slightly slower and thirstier.  But if I can take a cheap shot and be subjective in this objective German-oriented world –  it’ll drive exactly how I need it to and at the end of the day I could look at my Saab, then look at my neighbor’s BMW touring and say "I might have got home 10 seconds slower, but I got home in a car that doesn’t look like a bashed crab."

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  1. “I might have got home 10 seconds slower, but I got home in a car that doesn’t look like a bashed crab.”

    Oh Swade, you made me laugh tonight as I settle in to make some progress on my thesis. Thanks.

    I am in no way against BMW’s (My first two cars were used e30 325e/i’s). I agree that the two cars (Saab/BMW), while comparable, do meet two slightly different objectives. While my 9000 Aero is plenty sporty, the equivalent era M5 (e34) is a different beast, and a superb drive. Even an e34 535 with a stick and sport package is different than my Aero.

    Nice to see Saab not get bashed, like so many crabs on the beach at which the “Aggresive, Hammer-Swinging N’er-Do-Well’s” conference is being held.

    Thanks again for the site.


  2. I dont car what they say, here in Vancouver Canada a BMW 323i with 170bhp at full no-claims bonus costs $2980 a year to insure and a Saab 2.0T with 210bhp costs just $1550 for the same insurance. A Saab is WAY cheaper to run that a BMW so it wins all-round in my books!

  3. It’s always like that. Everything from Audi, BMW and Porsche is great until proven otherwise. Other brands have to prove themselves. I think it’s sad, because consumer could really benefit from unbiased reviews where the test cover every aspect of the ownership and not just engine power and the quality of the door knobs.

    BTW, just found some snippets in the news that PSA Group (Peugeot and Citroën) are going to introduce E85-vehicles across Europe next year.

  4. I’ve personally lost faith in objectiveness of German press. In the article BMW got way better points for boot space when in real life things are just the opposite. In a Finnish test BMW was rated well below the Saab. Main differences being cabin and boot space and handling. The beemer was ultra-sensitive to grooves (they said that driving over a painted line made it change direction!!) and questionable performance in “elk-test”, quick lane change.

    Ages ago when 9-5 was brought to market it was tested against 5-series, A6 and E-class in AMS. Main reasons why 9-5 did not win (margin was very narrow) were traction problems and lacking safety equipment!! That was in a time when no other car featured active head restraints etc.

  5. thx konsta for your last paragraph

    this is THE reason why you can’t believe “Auto-Motor-Sport”. And “Autobild” is a VW sponsored paper, and both papers are always saying:
    Dont forget, the german cars aren’t the best cars… Uuuppsss, i think there is a falure in my last sentence 😉

  6. 3er Touring versus 9-3 Sport: Kombi-Duell

    BMW 3 Touring and Saab 9-3 Sport Combi put together what a trendy combi has to be: Desing, Image and a leisure oriented
    stow-room. Wich one of the two 150 ps variants has the best allround features?

    Saab still places on the Turbotechnik. If the starting-up lethargy is overcome first of all, bowls first of the 2-litres corpulently. So much that the front wheels are often demanded too much with moisture on the road and to much power for the transmission. Besides, the impulse influence becomes apparent in a fidgety steering system. One searches the sporty trains which the name suggests with the sport Combi in vain. On the contrary: His thoughtful springs and the relatively gentle engine recommend 9-3 as long distances-Tourer.

    Nevertheless, wrong world, the BMW estate car carries the suffix Touring. Just he would have to be called sport Combi. His taut chassis never lets the wish arise for wide trips, rather after a crisp excursion to the country. Already on the first metres the deep seat position advances in the 3rd sporty feeling. The interaction human machine stands, commands and conversion interlock. Unfortunately, brakes of the 2-litres the chassis vigour of the Hecktrieblers.

    In the lower and middle area floppily, urges the four coil, primes from a vigourous hammering, to consumption-unfavorable caroling. Even the briefly graded six-step box can hardly hide the lukewarm passage. Indeed, she can be switched more accurately than the five-speed gearbox of Saab, however, the directness does not reach former 3rd gear.

    Pluses for him of 3rd with the security equipment in contrast to sport Combi the front seat passenger’s air bag can be switched off in the Touring and the tyre pressure from the cockpit supervised. Besides, there are the optional Bi xenon floodlights with curve light. Likewise relevant for security: The brake of the BMW can be better measured, delays more vehemently and brings of 3rd also on unilaterally slippery roadway certainly to the standing position.
    Besides, Saab 9-3 sports Combi needs bigger steering corrections. The precision of the BMW dominates here just as by the processing, the steering system and the whole driving feeling. With it he covers up his skinny springs, his floppy engine and his thin equipment and wins the comparison. However, to comfortable Saab the bonus of the more individual design alternative remains anyway.

    Test was done using a BMW 320i touring agains a Saab 9-3SC 1.8t. Both have 150 hp. Personally I don’t give too much to the stuff AMS says. A long as you have BMW oder Merc on your car and you are competing against a foreign car…you win. So…I allways take it with a bit of caution…There is no one that is really objective in such things.

    P.S.: This is a Web-Translation with a few big bug-fixes done by me…but I’m no interpreter. 😉

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