Haters Heart Saabs (finally)

When it comes to reviewing Saabs, neither Consumer Reports or Car and Driver have had much to say in recent times that was positive.

Maybe they’re both getting their water coolers from the same supplier, as both were relatively positive about different Saabs in the last week or so….


Consumer Reports’ blurb is less of a test and more of an impression. They’ve done a group test (sub req’d) of “upscale sedans” that included the Saab 9-5. All cars in the group they rate as ‘recommended’ vehicles (their main beef is with the 9-3) but the 9-5 apparently rated at the bottom of the group.

This didn’t stop CR writer Mike Quincy from showing the 9-5 some love in a CR blog entry:

I know my colleagues are going to bust a gut laughing at this one, but my pick for this month is the Saab 9-5. I realize that it’s one of the bottom-rated models within this category (and it came in dead-last in this test group), but for some reason the old 9-5 still speaks to me. Maybe it’s the steering feedback or the thrust of the turbocharged engine… I don’t know exactly why I like it. Or, perhaps when I was in college, a Saab was THE car to own – and I never came close. I like the way the 9-5 looks, and I fit well in the seats.

Most of the other cars are faster, handle better and a few get better fuel economy. But I find that the Lexus ES350 has no soul, the Nissan Maxima is boring, the Lincoln MKZ does nothing for me that the cheaper Fusion doesn’t do, and I’m MUCH too young to fall in love with the Buick Lucerne (but its V8 engine is a gem). I really like the G35. It’s so clearly an engineering marvel-–I spent a great deal of time driving our RWD model back from North Carolina–-but when it came time to pluck a set of keys off of our car board, I kept reaching for the 9-5. Personality goes a long way with me, and what the 9-5 gives up in performance to the G, it more than makes up for it with character.

Yeah, I had to do a double-take to. An assessment from CR that wasn’t based on number-crunching and analysis.

Good to hear. As Samuel L said in Pulp Fiction:

Personality goes a long way…


Car and Driver have been out testing $40,000 (or so) convertibles. There’s a fair margin either way of that mark in this test with the Eos having a base price of around $28K and the BMW coming in around $20K more than that, but all are 4-seater ‘verts so somehow it’s all OK. There’s tin tops and soft tops in the group.

The Saab in the group was a 2.0T Convertible, priced at around $37K. They say they asked for a V6 but couldn’t secure one from Saab. There is a school of thought that the 2.0T is an engine that’s better suited to the 9-3 anyway, so maybe they did OK regardless.

The other cars were a VW Eos, Ovlov C70, BMW 328i and Audi A4.


The 9-3 Convertible rated pretty well in the end, placing in the middle of the group. If you have the time, check out the PDF test sheets for each of the cars. First, the Audi is as slow as wet week once it gets past 60mph and second, why do they run these test cars on 90 and 91 Octane?

I bet the Aero would have outbraked the Audi, and it’d still be around $5K cheaper, too, but now I’m being petty.

C&D liked the comfort of the 9-3s front seats and the suspension, summarising the car as a youthful spirit in an ageing body. I can’t help but think about the fact that the 9-3, even in Aero form, is priced around $5K less than the BMW and Audi in this group (around $10K as-tested). Surely there’s a margin for some better materials there (yes, I have a bug in my butt about this issue).

Do I need to tell you who they rated at #1? Really?

You can read the article from the start here, or go straight to the Saab page.

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  1. About the CR thing, it kind of goes to show that not everyone is going to be into Saabs, that they’re a niche brand, and the pleasure is in the intangibles with them. I think they’ll always be laughed at by the general public, but a select few will just “get” them. As long as that few is enough to keep the company in the black, I’ll be happy.

  2. Swade, I figured you had already blogged on this. I think this is an absolute success story. A three (really four) year old Saab (which they automatically don’t like) with an automatic, the lowest engine, and a soft-top, against a brand-new Volvo designed by a company whose parents give it lots of money, with a convertible hard top, a five speed transmission, and the top equipment level and engine (which, by the way, tops the Saab’s smallest engine by a whopping eight horsepower), and C&D give the Volvo a great big yawn. Sure the Audi beat it, but the Audi’s brand new, has a nicer interior, etc. I’d say, with an Aero engine, a manual transmission and a few options, we’d be in second place, right behind the brand new BMW. I chalk this up as a definite win for Saab.

  3. That Consumer Reports blog really sums up well how I feel about my ’06 9-5 as well. Yes, I know that on paper the 9-5 is an aging platform and that there are other cars that have more horsepower and electronic gizmos for the MSRP. But, first of all, I didn’t pay MSRP – not even close, actually with end of the year incentives and the GM employee discount. So for the price the other cars tested in the CR test are no where in my price range. Second, those other cars do very little for me. Yes, the G35 is great looking, but I think the interior is very souless, IMO, and I hate the blue and white gauges. Lexus, Nissan and Buick – they don’t speak to me in any way. I just feel comfortable inside my 9-5 – the styling is different and not bulbous like so many other cars out right now, everything is perfectly in reach when driving, the seats are sooo comfortable on long trips, the gauges and lights are mostly monochromatic and easy on the eyes, and that 2.3T turbocharger rush with just a little bit of torque steer is AMAZING and surprising to other cars on the road who just see a black four door Swedish sedan.

    I’ll take my 9-5 anyday over those other cars. Now, if someone offered to give me a 335 coupe, though, I probably wouldn’t turn that down 🙂

  4. Did anyone else notice that the 9-3 Convertible that C&D used was a 60th Anniversary?

    Note the test sheet, a 2.0T with an 8-speaker 6-disc changer stereo, etc, and not to mention it is Ice Blue. (But why is Sirius marked and not XM?)

    Still, no nod on the up’d package in the write-up.

  5. I still can’t get over what a great deal the 9-5 is when you buy a used one… the depreciation is steep, but you can EASILY pick up a low mileage ’05 for $20,000 USD with the certified pre-owned warranty. That’s cheaper than, say, a Mazda 6, and it’s WAY more car for the money.

  6. The article said that they tried to get the Aero but, Saab could not provide it to them so they took what they could get. I was just reading the magazine yesterday.
    I REALLY hope they get rid of those cheap looking seats. I forgot how cheap they look until yesterday reading the magazine. look at the BMW’s and then look at Saab. I think if Saab is going to be successful against its’ competitors it must not have such glaring inferiorities. People will look at them and say that is why they cost less.
    I also must say that the MY08 looks sooooo much better. I never thought that the latest 9-3 carried the Saab heritage look. It looked good but, not great. MY08 is a real eye-catcher… hopefully more eyes from non-fans.

  7. Yes, they cost less because they put more money into making the seats comfy rather than making them look good. Personally, I’d gladly make a few aesthetic concessions like that to save 10k.

  8. I don’t think that the Aero would hav bumped Saab into second place. As I recall, there were a lot of points separating 2d from 3d.

    I was interested to see how poorly the Eos did — on paper at least, given the price difference, the Eos has the potential to turn the category on its head.

  9. Interesting to see the EOS in this company and beating the Volvo. I have to say I laughed at the tester citing the MX5 as a reason for the popularity of folding hard tops. Mercedes and Peugeot started the modern obsession with hard tops way back in 2000. Customers were asking the premium makers – if a 206 has a folding roof why hasn’t mine not got one?

    Anyway to tie in with the MY08 9-3 and how it looks, feels and runs. If you make a car with fantastic handling but a crappy interior the press will love it. Example: Subaru Impreza. If you make a car with crappy handling but a fantastic interior the press will love it. Example Audi A4. A gross generalisation I know but I hope you all get the point. SAAB needs to get this right in at least one or both areas.

    However I some times think journalists are looking for things to knock. But then look at the Car and Driver test. SAAB were unable to supply the car tested – not exactly a way to create good will wit the testers. Imagine a food critic being told the house speciality is off. That said I have to say the review from C&D was pretty spot on and reflect my own views on the 9-3.

  10. Swade: what octane fuel do you expect them to run on? I think Car & Driver is headquartered here in SoCal and the highest octane we can get is 91 “premium” unleaded. Do you think they should have run them on “regular” unleaded (87 octane)?

  11. Octane gets measured differently in the US/Canada compared to Europe (and Australia?). 91 in NA is roughly 95 in Europe.
    See the wikipedia article on “Octane rating” for details.

  12. Bernard: Good catch.

    I agree with the CR blogger, and I’ve said it here before — the G35 is the only car out there now that really has personality like the Saab.

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