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."