Saab doesn’t have anything in the class of the BMW 335i Convertible. Let me say that right from the outset. This is a car that at base price costs over A$120,000 and the highest priced Saab here in Oz is around A$90,000 – for a V6 Aero Convertible. So we’re talking a step up in price right from the get-go.
Around lunchtime today I had the opportunity to jump into the 335i Convertible for a quick spin. When I say quick, I mean it in both senses of the word.
First up, I only had 45 minutes to drive it. The car was on a schedule and after I was finished with it, it was going to be test driven by none other than Australian cricket legend (and still holder of the beer drinking record between London and Sydney – 46 cans) – David Boon.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, this car is quick. You don’t get the full effect on the video below, but this twin turbo 300+ horsepower engine can really get up and boogie. The peak torque (400Nm) is available at around 1300rpm so it’s all pretty instant, too. Previous BMW 6’s that I’ve driven have been about as exciting as a mouse farting. You really needed to push the things to get some response from them. This engine lets you play in the same range that a Saab engine does and it’s quite a bit of fun feeling the thing move.
There’s several great things about the 335i Convertible. The way it looks isn’t one of them. It’s not too bad from the front, but it can’t claim the most attractive side or rear quarter profile there is.
Perhaps it’s one of those things with tin-top convertibles….they’re not quite sure whether they’re coupes or convertibles. The 335i Coupe is actually quite a nice looking vehicle but it seems to lose something in the transformation.
This is a much better angle on the car:
There’s two things I learned on my short drive today:
1) BMW have hit a bulls eye with turbocharging. The engine does a great job of kicking it when required and just dozing in traffic. The note was nice but not so substantially different that I’d be getting crazy about it. For me, it was just good to get in a BMW that felt familiar in the way it pushed down low.
2) Saab really are going to have to lift their interior quality. As far as the layout of the BMW interior is concerned, I could take it or leave it. It didn’t overly excite me, nor did it offend at all. The great (and very noticeable) thing about it, though, was the quality of the materials used and the choices available. Before taking my drive today I had a wander around the showroom and grounds, and the variety of dash trims offered in the BMW range is quite impressive.
This is a premium product we’re talking about and in my mind, Saab is supposed to be a premium product, too. GM might argue that at the price they’re forced to sell the 9-3 for at the moment that they can’t afford to use better materials.
I’d argue that they can’t afford not to.
Bottom line – this is one heck of a nice car. Obviously in just 45 minutes I didn’t have the time to really get used to the driving and handling dynamics of the 335, but from the little chance I did get you could tell it was a very solid drive. There was the slightest bit of cowl shake on one of the rougher sections of road on one occasion, but other than that it was smooth as silk.
That being said (and me being a bit of a tightarse with big spending), for the money that 335i costs I’d still be quite happy in a 9-3 Aero Convertible. It’s got that traditional ragtop appearance (seeing a tin-top in the flesh I’m more than happy to retain the ragtop) and the money I save on it could go towards a carbon-leather dash from Hirsch. I guess the people that can afford this type of car aren’t necessarily too worried about price, though.
The BMW is an excellent drive, but the iConvertible from Saab’s still a reasonable comparison for my money. No Tony, I’m not going to change.
The following is a brief video from the drive. It’s hand held and just quickly edited. I took the drive with Tony Breckenridge, who up until recently was the Saab sales guy here in Hobart. He’s recently taken the job as Sales Manager for BMW Autohaus Hobart.
I’d like to thank Tony for the opportunity to take the car for a spin. It was a great experience in what is without doubt an excellent driving machine.