I rarely read The Truth About Cars anymore. I still have it on my RSS feed and I’ll check out Farago’s articles from time to time as he’s definitely the best scribe there. Unfortunately he seems to spend more time in the engine room and less time at the keyboard nowadays.
There’s an article over at TTAC called “Wagons HO!” and if RF’s true to his word then it’s exactly 800 words about the place of the ‘station wagon’ – both historically and in the present day, where the demise of the SUV is seeing the wagon rise again.
800 words. And not one of them is ‘Saab’.
Not one of the 500 words or so in comments is ‘Saab’ either.
And all this in spite of the fact that Saab have the second best selling entry-luxury wagon in the US – the 9-3 SportCombi.
The Combi, in Aero form, more than matches it’s competition on price, performance, specification, utility and safety. It does the same in it’s other forms as well, but whenever they compare it they’ll use the competition’s highest spec models, so I may as well use the Aero here.
The Combi’s recently had reviews like these:
Hit the gas pedal and voila, the car tracks straight, albeit with a whiff of wheelspin. You can thank the engine management system for this, which can only be described as brilliant…..Saab, I suppose, set out to create a car that was the anti-BMW. In that respect, it has succeeded, and its a pretty darn good anti-BMW at that.
As a card-carrying Saab zealot who’s owned four of the Swedish-to-the-core cars, I approached the company’s new compact model, called the 9-3, with skepticism: It’s built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6 sedans. Surprise — this is the best Saab I’ve ever driven.
We confess we had doubts about the sport part. The suspension is on the soft side, and this, plenty of suspension travel, ads up to more body roll than we associate with sporty rides. But we were pleasantly surprised by this wagon’s high cornering speeds, brisk directional changes, and accurate steering.
I expect a good sport sedan to feel light and nimble — to drive smaller than it really is. Lively acceleration and responsive handling are hallmarks of the best sport sedans, cars like the BMW 3-series. I don’t generally expect that sensation in a station wagon, even one with the word “sport” in its name, but the 2006 Saab 9-3 SportCombi wagon delivers the goods.
Saabs remain an acquired taste — but I guess I’ve acquired it. True, the SportCombi doesn’t have available all-wheel drive like competitors Volvo V50 and Audi A4 Avant. Nor does it have rear-wheel drive like the BMW 330xi, so at the theoretical handling limits the car suffers by comparison. But in the real world, few cars under $40,000 are so lovable, likable, practical and cool.
….The SportCombi manages to be a driver’s car without sacrificing any of its well-balanced usability. In fact, it’s just that usability I most liked. With a tailgate that opens extra wide, optional roof racks and a 60/40 ski-hatch pass-through in the back seat, it’s a natural for hauling skis, kayaks or bikes. Even the front passenger seat can be folded down for extra cargo. The Swedes like their outdoors, and it shows in their cars…..
With its lower weight, the SportCombi has as much zip with its four-cylinder as the Highlander does with its V-6. The SportCombi seats five people quite comfortably, has a cushy ride and offers decent cargo capacity. But it still handles more like a sports coupe than any SUV or traditional wagon. The car actually is so much fun that you can easily forget you’re driving a practical vehicle that can haul the kids and their soccer gear all over town.
Saab’s 30 years of experience with turbocharging really pays off with this high-performance 250-horsepower power plant. The highway manners of the new model get good marks and prove that sometimes “less is more” as Saab engineers often have stated.
But the winner here, the least cockish car that money can buy, is actually the Saab 9-3 estate you see above. If you put a Hummer H2 or a Dodge pick-up truck at one end of the scale, then this is at the other. It’s not a Hawaiian Day-Glo tank. It’s a special forces sniper. Quiet. Unassuming. And invisible. Until you pull the trigger.
We carved up a few Swedish back roads in an Aero model with a manual transmission, and the hunkered-down wagon gobbled up asphalt. The ride is sporty, but not jarring, the steering offers excellent feedback, and the ReAxs system works transparently to give the SportCombi a glued-to-the-ground feel in high-speed sweepers………While horsepower numbers impress your friends, torque is what you feel in the seat of your pants, and the V6 has lots of it.
All this from all these sources, most of which are amongst the motoring press’ most respected.
The Truth About Cars needs to make sure it’s telling The Truth About Cars.
And perhaps Saab need to rush the AWD version just so some more of these guys will take this car as seriously as they should.