Saab Vs BMW

Richo sent me this picture – two Germs and a Swede – asking me which car looked better. Rhetorically, of course. That’s Richo’s Viggen in the front.

Click to enlarge


But looking at the photo, a few things came to mind:

a) How very contemporary the Vigegn still looks. It doens’t look out of place here at all.

b) How good the hatch shape can look given the right stance and kit. BRING BACK THE HATCH!!

c) How much Saab really need to keep that high performance model in it’s lineup. The 9-3 and 9-5 shapes are both good starting points, but there always need to be that high-spec halo model there in my opinion.

Here’s Richo’s notes about the photo, there’s more to all this than just opportunistic parking.


I drove the new 320i on the weekend….

A few things that struck me:

1. The cup holders (hahahahah) are both over on the passenger side, one kind of reaches over on a strange angle.

2. The window controls are so far forward on the door (moved from the centre console) that you actually have to lean forward to use them

3. When I was looking over my shoulder while pulling out I bashed my head on the door frame so I had to actually crane my neck in oder to get a decent look at oncoming traffic to safely pull out

4. The steering was a little weird. Usually when you take a corner the wheel kind of straightens itself but with the BMW I felt myself having to bring it back out of the turn. It meant more effort while driving and a less relaxing

5. The indicators are REALLY painful. They have this electronic half-on, full-on mode. So when you’re changing lanes and you just want to give 2 or 3 flicks I found the bloody thing would stay on and when I tried to flick it off I’d end up indicating the other way!!!

6. Try getting a CD to play… I was trying for 5 km and still couldn’t work it out. I gave up.

7. Road noise wasn’t as quiet as I had anticipated it would be.

8. I missed the kick of the Viggen

9. Seats are a weird shape, you feel bum heavy and the head rests feel like they’re going to make you head-butt the windscreen

All in all I think the previous version is more comfortable and nicer to drive

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  1. Agree, Swade! The old 9-3 still looks so fresh although the basic design is 15 years old. And I really like that colour more and more. It stands out and the cars just looks confident, compared to the boooring German silver that half of all BMW, Audi and Mercedes seems to have…

  2. But Richo have you driven the 335? Now, that is a car. take one of those for a spin & you’ll forgive a multitude of sins.

    I was given a 320 as a courtesy car recently and it was completely underwhelming. Couldn’t pull the skin off custard. For my money, the only companies who can get close to Saab with 4 pots is Subaru or Audi. Get in a BMW 6 cyl though and things get better.

    There is a wierdness factor with BMWs that I found at first but once you get one sorted out, its a great machine to drive.

    On another note – spent the drive home thinking about AWD SportCombis and whether its preferable to FWD or not…..and whether you’d go the aero or be happy with a sport-spec diesel……..hmmmm….Bring on MY2008.


    Follow the link, and get the good news! The Trolls can go on building Saabs in Trollhättan! About 100.000 cars are expected to be build on the Delta-II platform after 2010 (than the production of the current 9-3 will seize). They’ll build 9-1s and small Cadillacs.

    This has been said by GM Europe on a press conference in Brussels, so it seems Saab’s swedish future is safe now!

  4. PT, I did chat to my friend who has an E40 about my experience and though he’s a die-hard BMW fan he agreed with me about the new 320. He also said as you did, try the 335 it’s a totally different beast. There is no doubtin my mind the 335 would be quite an experience and I will be trying one out shortly however I just found the fact the 70k BMW was so ordinary quite suprising considering these form the bulk of BMW 3 series sales.

    Swade and I drove the pretty basic version of the Saab SportCombi at the launch day in Queensland and even if it was the same price i would be definately choosing the Saab above the BMW. As it is it’s 20k less.

    These then begs the obvious question. Why are BMW expensive 3 series sales nailing Saab 93 sales? It must have to do with perception of the brand. i believe the product is there, perhaps the styling needs a tweak but the basics are there.

    Saab needs to get out there more, to be involved in peoples lives more and be in their thoughts when considering a purchase.

    As strange as it may seem i think a range of very high quality, high-end push bikes (nountain and road) may serve the brand rather well. Make it a lifestyle message.

    Any thoughts?

  5. Stunning Viggen!
    I would love to see head-to-head numbers comparing those three cars (or any BMW & Audi vs. the Viggen).
    Anyone have 1/4 mile & top speed stats?

  6. I’d agree on the comments about the BMW (assuming this was an E90). It’s an impressive driving car, but BMW has added some quirks that don’t seem to serve much purpose… the turn signals are a terrific example of taking a simple device and making it needlessly complicated. Innovation for innovation’s sake, not for improvement’s sake.

    As much as I love my 9-5, there’s no denying that a 3-Series or a 5-Series handles much better. RWD is just impossible to beat.

    But I bought a Saab, not a BMW.

  7. I agree, Saab needs to do more of what used to make them special and less striving to be a mainstream brand. GM’s mistake was thinking it had bought a Swedish BMW, and not recognizing Saab for what it was.

  8. Andrew,
    About the handling, those of us in Northern rural settings who spend time driving in snow or on poor surfaced twisting narrow backroads in the hilly areas might disagree that RWD is impossible to beat. Just depends where the action is. Those weren’t FWD cars that Saab was beating back in the 50s and 60s with that little stroker engine. I never toyed with BMWs when I was young, but I made Corvettes and Corvairs give up the chase in the right settings.

  9. Ted Y:

    Certainly FWD has its advantages in the snow- I know this as I live in Michigan, USA!

    But BMW offers AWD, which is arguably better in the white stuff than FWD. Of course, you pay a lot more for an AWD BMW than you do a Saab, but I do miss the days when Saab wasn’t the cheap Euro alternative.

  10. “but I do miss the days when Saab wasn’t the cheap Euro alternative”:
    Me too. Saab used to advertise (1967 or thereabouts) that the base Saab was the lowest priced car in the USA. But it still had class and good build quality–and safety–and lots of fun. Sadly, those days seem to be gone forever.

  11. Richo, your comments about the bikes is valid. I have always thought that this is needed due to saab pushing its broshures with pictures of bikes and kyaks, I have thought it would be great if you could go into a saab dealer and buy the bike or the kyak or other sporting goods with the car, so you could actualy buy a whole lifestyle alternative not just a piece of machine to get from A – B.

  12. Fascinating thread. Another 2c worth from me…in no particular order…

    bicycles are a great idea. Works for BMW, Peugot, Porsche…. Could be a great initiative with Salomon and I would also look to team up with Suunto the Finnish company. Ive just bought an X6HRm model from them – very Saaby stuff in lot of ways. Check it out –

    In my opinion, the 4cyl beemers are not the real mccoy. I know that they’ve won the European touring car championship with a 4 pot but really, the retail 4cyl cars are just for people who aren’t into driving and are more enamoured with other features of the brand. Mostly image.

    The reason the Beemer 3 series outsell the Saab is not really about the car – although their steering is generally sharper & that does make a difference. Its about the whole package and really, a BMW dealer in general offers a lot more than a Saab one does. Selling into a premium market ( if not a luxury one) comes with a certain set of expectations about service and overall approach to the customer. This is not Daewoo where its a purely transactional sale. The lifetime value of a customer is what BMW etc is all about. The only reason Lexus exists is because Toyota knew that outside Japan, the masses would never really commit to a luxury Toyota, no matter how good the car.

    AWD – for around the same money as a 95/93 aero you can get a BMW X5 or X3 which is practical, goes like stink and offers a lot of metal for your money. Its not a lot more unless you go nuts with a 4.4/4.6 V8.

    BTW – the Audi & the BMW in the photo are from the previous generation so the Vig is in fact amongst peers there. it looks bigger somehow.

  13. “AWD – for around the same money as a 95/93 aero you can get a BMW X5 or X3 which is practical, goes like stink and offers a lot of metal for your money. Its not a lot more unless you go nuts with a 4.4/4.6 V8.”

    The X3 and X5 you get for Aero-money will most surely not go like stink, as it would be one of the base models. Besides, no BMW ever has offered a lot of metal for the money. Rather the opposite…

  14. Yes, you’re right they are the same generation. And the reason the Viggen looks bigger…is because it is! I out muscle both those cars easily!! 🙂

  15. Nice bike! Unusual but nice.

    WRT the value for money that a BMW X3/X5 gives – I’m just trying to make a point that even a premium brand like BMW has AWD available within the middle of their range. Its not a super premium that comes on top of their regular cars. in the 5 series its actually the opposite as there are many more models that are much mroe expensive than then 4WD ones.

    I’d agree that most beemers are quite underwhelming considering how much they cost but…… the exception is the two 4WDs, especially the X5. My second car is a 3.0l diesel X5 with the sport pack (wheels, suspension, seats) and believe me, it goes like stink. Same engine & drivetrain as the base model. Quite simply, I give up long before the car does.

    As for your Vig Richo – Trollhattans muscle car.

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