Used Saab 9-3 SS review

Those JD Power and Consumer Reports findings on the Saab 9-3 have really put a bee in my bonnet.

Here’s my theory: at 320 or so ‘problems’ per 100 vehicles sold, that’s an average of just over 3 problems per vehicle. Correct? The JD Power study was done on three year old vehicles, so we’re talking one problem per vehicle per year, on average.

Now, the competition is doing better, so this obviously needs to improve. Whether the problems are substantial or not isn’t reported in the magazine articles, nor is the specific nature of the questions asked in order to glean the answers.

But assuming it’s fairly general, let me report that on my 1999 Viggen I’ve got a problem with the ACC display. I also need to replace my rear shock absorbers. The car’s seven years old instead of three, but that’s two problems in a relatively short space of time.

Does it effect my opinion of the car?

Hell no! And why?

Because it’s got so much personality and such great driving characteristics. It’s incredibly comfortable, looks great, does everything I want and is bloody fantastic to drive. It’s got heaps of room, great economy and yes, I like the fact that not everyone’s got one.

I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that a lot of 9-3 Sport Sedan owners would feel the same way.

That’s why I was pleased to bring the Web Wombat report on the 9-3 yesterday and it’s also why I’m pleased to bring you this write-up on the second-hand market – a review of a used Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan.

The 9-3 SS is now coming onto the used market in greater numbers as lease deals wind up. If anyone took those JD Power or CR findings to heart, they wouldn’t touch one with a 10 foot pole. I’d beg to differ. The 9-3 has been good to me every time I’ve stepped into one and providing I did my due diligence investigating, I wouldn’t have a second thought about stepping into one.

The author of this write-up, Stephen Price, wouldn’t have a second thought either. And he certainly doesn’t work for Consumer Reports….

Saabs are every bit as well built as BMWs and Audis, if not better.

Whether Saab can compete with that company is a matter of divergence for many. Personally, I believe they must. Price addresses them further:

In my book, the 9-3 is also sweeter-looking than the 3-series saloon, and the A4 with its gawping big mouth. I like the curved nose, the raked windscreen, the big chin and the handsome rear. Admittedly, there is a weird thing going on between the rear pillar and the boot shape – a touch of almost Japanese style blandness, perhaps – but it is the only discordant note in what is a well-poised, purposeful looking car.

However, not everybody agrees with me, which is why Saabs are cheaper than Beamers or Audis, and therefore make such an appealing prospect once they have suffered their depreciation and hit the two to three-year mark. Anyone who says they don’t have the same badge cachet doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Too right they don’t. I love my long-time mate, Colin, but you can’t imagine how happy I was when he emailed me a few days after driving my Viggen to see how he could get more torque out of his BMW 325. Those BMW folks can have all the cachet they want. I’ll stick with my low-down torque.

Back to the 9-3 Sport Sedan:

It is a deft handler, with a range of engines and finishes to suit most buyers. Trim, equipment and power levels tend to climb with the tags Linear, Vector and Aero. My personal favourite is the 2.0T Aero, which comes with leather interior, sports suspension and a set of nifty alloys with low profile tyres. Its 210bhp engine combines with the rest to produce a real hot hatch chewer.

The 9-3 SS is Saab’s biggest seller for a reason – it’s a damn good car.

Believe anything different from the likes of CR, especially without driving one, and you’re kidding yourself.

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  1. I like this quote.

    “However, not everybody agrees with me, which is why Saabs are cheaper than Beamers or Audis, and therefore make such an appealing prospect once they have suffered their depreciation and hit the two to three-year mark.”

    I always love when people say “Cheaper” instead of “Less Expensive”

    One could go as far as deducing that his comments were a mixed message. This is basically what he said in that comment.

    The Saab has the same quality as the BMW and Audi but is cheap.

    So that says that all of these vehicles are “cheap” cars. I wonder if they are also inexpensive as far as cost is concerned.

    It would have been nicer if the author elaborated on this for the reader.

  2. this guy is on the mark. i do believe that the a4 and 3 series have more popularity with the masses, which makes the 9-3ss more appealing to the “lightly traveled road” buyers. I just got a 2003 9-3 linear for a price i should be put in jail for. Got the car for half price of the original msrp for just being 3 years old. i love me car.

  3. Yeah, the competition is doing a little better as far as number of problems, but the total difference isn’t worth fussing about like swade indicates, and even the best cars aren’t perfect.
    Case in point:
    My stepdaughter wouldn’t consider a new 9-3 because of the CR reports, in spite of acknowledging its safety, and always teases me about my love for Saabs. She just bought a new Acura TL and was showing it off to me. It’s a nice looking car with flashy color (toylike) displays (no green). She decided to demonstrate its voice recognition to me. She says loudly and clearly to the car: “Station 22” to change the satellite radio station. A brief pause, and the car replies: “Air conditioning off.”
    After a laugh, she says she must not have been enunciated clearly enough. Again: “STATION 22.” The car replies: “Temperature 82 degrees.” More laughing.
    I try it with similar results and more laughing. She concludes with “Well, I guess they’re still working out the bugs on that.”
    I’m almost glad it wasn’t a Saab because she probably wouldn’t have been laughing.

  4. This section is asome! It’s point on I think what many Saabisti think and feel. We know… others don’t. How come the all dont drive Saab.

    Saab – State of Independence! Asome AD by the way.

    Saab invented the concept of rock-solid construction in mass-produced saloons – BMW picked up on it during the 1980, and Audi in the 1990s. Now that most manufacturers are capable of turning out well-built motors, the rest of the world has caught up, but there was a time when any engineer or architect worth his salt either owned, or aspired to own, a Saab 99.

    The 99 was the 1970s Saab, and the 1970s were a time when cars rusted and refused to start as a matter of course. I remember with shame my own family’s succession of disasters with such motoring triumphs as the Vauxhall Viva, Fiat Mirafiore and Renault 11; the latter always started, but felt as secure as knotted parachute.

    The 99, on the other hand, was like a pug-faced lump of solid steel – unbreakable, and worked every time. By the time I had money, the 99 had metamorphosed into the 900, a car so big and tough that it used to pick fights with its own reflection. An Austin Allegro once sided me on a roundabout. I was somewhat concerned when I saw his bumper, headlights, grille and radiator shear off with the impact. My 900 had a dent in the door.

    So don’tbe fooled into thinking that the Germans have cornered the market in quality, they haven’t. They just employ damn good advertisers. Saab sort of gets on with selling to people who know, with occasional grabs at the thirtysomething market with models like the cabriolet and the Sport Wagon.

  5. “By the time I had money, the 99 had metamorphosed into the 900, a car so big and tough that it used to pick fights with its own reflection.”


    how many torques did Colin decide to get in the end? 😉

  6. R Capper says Vectra in drag.

    Tell me which manufacturer does not employ common platforms and ends up churning so many variants and dupes the public into buying them? Take VAG as a case in point? On what basis would you use the MY06 VW Golf GTI over the same platformed Audi A3, the SEAT (Ibiza, Cordoba, Leon etc), Skoda and the lists goes on? You need to understand economies of scale before jumping to conclusions which are non-sensical.

    Why would I buy a VW Bora or Jetta as opposed to a VW Passat? And the Audi A4? I can go on.

    The fact that GM is using common platforms and grabbing parts of the common parts bin and launching world engines all has to do with economies of scale and leveraging the cost base. If VAG has done it to acclaim, why should GM not be given a breather to effect the same? And yet you hear no one saying I am driving and overdressed an hopelessly overpriced VW Golf GTI when piloting an Audi A3. Why don’t they point to the obvious common sharing of parts and platforms out of the common parts bin? Because the vehicles are dynamically different in terms of the target market. And guess what – so is Saab. A Vectra or Vauxhall will never be a Saab. Period.

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