Saab vs BMW

Jon C provides out latest look at driving a Saab vs driving….some thing else. But there’ more to it than that.

Jon actually started the whole idea for this “I drove a XXX and here’s why I’d still buy a Saab” thing. He emailed me a little while ago with a little bit of his story and the thought that it’d be good to hear more from the people that live with Saabs day in and day out – and love it.

So here’s his tale, about getting out of his Jag and looking for a replacement. For a while there he was swimming with the tide, but when he came up for air there was a 9-3 waiting for him – and he was surprised with what he saw.

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6 months ago I decided to change my car. I had driven a Jaguar X Type for 2 years and sold it due to the crippling running costs (it was 3 years old when I bought it and Jag parts ain’t cheap). I decided to look at anything and everything – I wanted to get this right. I discounted the Jaguar (too expensive and my friends laughed, saying it was an old mans car), Mercedes (too old man), Audi (too boring), Volvo (can you guess?), Lexus (too cheesy), Alfa (too unreliable), Volkswagen and BMW. I did not look at SAAB. I mean they are crap these days, right? Just re-badged Vauxhalls. Unreliable too…

I should state here that I love driving and I love cars. All of them. When I was growing up I loved the 205 Gti and Golf Gti but I was never into supercars , I wanted a BMW or a SAAB. The last SAAB I truly desired was a 9-5 3.0 V6 TiD. When SAAB dropped the engine and face-lifted the car I could have cried.

In the end I narrowed it down to a Volkswagen Passat Sport or a 318i SE Touring. In the end I decided to go for the BMW.

As the SAAB dealer was located across the road from the BMW dealer I decided to look at the SAAB 9-3. I wanted to be sure it was as bad as the reviews said it was. I was surprised – it looked good with a well finished interior and I even like the chrome trim. The equipment level was brilliant (the part leather sport seats were going to cost me and extra £1000 on the 3 series). I even liked the dealership and the salesman. For the first time in a few years I saw the SAAB 9-3 as an actual competitor to the 3 series. I held off on buying the 318.

I, like many others, had been brainwashed by reviews of SAABs as average, third rate products. Before I went to the bother of a test drive I checked out old issues of CAR magazine and do you know what? They actually liked it. I saw some positive reviews in Top Gear in magazine. I started to feel confident. I took a test drive and I liked it. Ok the handling could be sharper (and now I have had it for 3 months, I now actually think the handling is spot on) but it had the SAAB values I had loved – smooth, comfortable, safe for my 2 year old daughter and built to overtake on A and B roads. Quite quickly…

Then I checked the web. Story after story on SAAB central and various buyers guides, of reliability issues and negativity towards the brand from long time SAAB fans. TS caught my eye and what I loved immediately was the passion here for the cars. Jaguar think they have a loyal following? They should look at this site and think again.

So, with Car, Top Gear and TS in mind (and against my better judgement), I took on board the fact that people who complain get the most coverage and did the deal. It was a big leap of faith. I “moved my mind” but prospective buyers have to look for positive press and how many will do that? The BMW gets loads of positive press and in a lot of cases deservedly so – but SAABs are a lot better than reviewers often admit to.

This is why I mailed Swade. A few reviews from SAAB drivers on the things that matter and some reports of things that went well would have been great. I think sometimes we can get caught up in the negatives and forget to talk about the positives – I am guessing there are more than a few satisfied SAAB drivers like me out there somewhere I just think we need to say it more.

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I want to thank Jon for sending me his story, and for starting something new at this site.

If you’ve recently driven another marque and had some renewed thoughts about your Saab, then feel free to email me and let us all know about it.

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11 Comments

  1. It’s always nice to read truth about Saab. I sell them in the USA & I’ll admit that it is not a simple task. But customers always come back with positive comments and usually refer friends & relatives. We have other franchises at this dealership, one of which is Audi. When I was ready for my new car, I asked for opinions from the service people … I asked, which would you recommend? The answer was easy – “If you intend to keep the car a long time, get a Saab”. The others are a nightmare. Sure, the German interior fit & finish is superior & the names are ‘chichi’ but overall, the Saab can match any other. Well, at this dealership, we have access to a great variety, but, I own a Saab, the manager owns a Saab, and the owner & his wife each drive a Saab. Just thought I’d share that. Incidentally, if anyone out there is weighing fit & finish vs. safety & security should have their head examined.

  2. It’s always nice to read truth about Saab. I sell them in the USA & I’ll admit that it is not a simple task. But customers always come back with positive comments and usually refer friends & relatives. We have other franchises at this dealership, one of which is Audi. When I was ready for my new car, I asked for opinions from the service people … I asked, which would you recommend? The answer was easy – “If you intend to keep the car a long time, get a Saab”. The others are a nightmare. Sure, the German interior fit & finish is superior & the names are ‘chichi’ but overall, the Saab can match any other. Well, at this dealership, we have access to a great variety, but, I own a Saab, the manager owns a Saab, and the owner & his wife each drive a Saab. Just thought I’d share that. Incidentally, if anyone out there is weighing fit & finish vs. safety & security should have their head examined.

  3. I find the whole interior quality discussion to be quite perverse. Saab has never been about plush Benzoish interiors, but rather has always focused on rational Swedish design and sportiness.

    When I was shopping around for a car, the 9-3 SS’ interior was a huge advantage over the Audis and BMWs I test-drove. I could care less that it has 3.17 lbs. of extra plastic when driving the Saab felt a lot better than driving either of the Germans.

  4. He told: “The last SAAB I truly desired was a 9-5 3.0 V6 TiD”
    He is a lucky guy to don’t have this model. The 3.0 V6 TiD comes from Isuzu, it was originally designed for small trucks and lorries. The same engine was in Renault Laguna.
    This engine was really a pain in the ass for Saab.
    They often had to replace the complete engine because of a common failure: the cylinder bushings are fixed with industrial adhesive, but the technology was not good enough, and one of the bushings used to move down causing an unrecoverable failure.
    You can find lot of discussion about the mentioned problem on the european car forums.

  5. Thanks Ivan, another dream ruined! I should point out a 9-5 Aero would be my choice but with UK petrol prices I just can’t afford to run one. Switching to a diesel 9-3 halved my fuel bills from the 2.0 litre V6 Jag.

  6. Hi Jon,
    Sorry, if I disappointed you, but as far as I know almost 30% of the 3.0 V6 TiD engines suffered the mentioned problem and have changed.
    I heard about a joke in Germany.
    The story tells, if two 9-5 3.0 TiD meet driving at the road, the drivers showing one, two or three fingers to each other.
    It means they have the first or second or third engine in their car. :)))

  7. Our ’04 9-3SS was our first Saab (we had previously owned several BMWs and an Alfa or two). I loved the Saab right away and got on the net trying to find enthusiast Saab sites. Found Saab Central, Saabnet. com and Trollhattan Saab and added them to my “Favorites” visited almost on a daily basis at first.

    After only a few weeks, though, TS is the only one left.

    There was just so much negativity and whining about the little 9-3SS that it was complete buzz-kill. Our car, while not perfect, has been better than any of the Beemers we ever owned.

    The U.S. automotive press is no better – a uniform Japanese car bias is pervasive, and if it’s not the latest wiz-bang, gadget-laden Lexus sweeping the accolades, then it’s the latest iteration of the 3-Series… Yawn.

    Swade, keep up the good work man; you’re a breath of fresh air. We’re coming on 100,000 miles and looking at a replacement for the 9-3; I’ve still not warmed up to the new 9-5 style-wise, but you’ve just about got me convinced to track down a nice “old” Viggen!

  8. Well, here’s another prespective. I have driven Saabs for over ten years. The original 900’s and 9000’s were terrific cars – durable, safe, fun to drive. Yes, things would go wrong, but the engine, clutch and transmission laster forever.

    But the current GM-spawned batch are just generic crap.

    I went to BMW and find them to be far superior to the current rebadged Opel line.

    Bill

  9. Well, here’s another perspective. I have driven Saabs for over ten years. The original 900’s and 9000’s were terrific cars – durable, safe, fun to drive. Yes, things would go wrong, but the engine, clutch and transmission lasted forever.

    But the current GM-spawned batch are just generic crap.

    I went to BMW and find them to be far superior to the current rebadged Opel line.

    Bill

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