Saab Vs Volvo S40

It’s time for another in the series of special road tests where Saab owners get some time behind the wheel of another brand and assess why the liked it, disliked it – and why they still prefer their Saab.

This one in from Jeff I.


So, my 1996 900S is in the shop right now. My car was leaking coolant at the rate of about a jug of Peak a week. It was apparently a hose that was nearly disintegrated (I can hear all you gearheads laughing at me for needing a shop to fix this). Anyway, this week I’ve been driving a 2004 Volvo S40 2.4i.

Now, let me say that I like Volvos. I seem to be the only person who reads TS that does. When my stepdad first got this car (it’s his I’ve been driving around), I absolutely loved it. It was the first car I’d ever driven that didn’t accelerate like a dead pig.

However, after driving around in a Saab, I’ve realized just how boring this S40 really is. It seems to defy the laws of physics, actually. The car can go from 50 to 80 in a heartbeat (which is good, because I’m a reckless driver and need to accelerate quickly so I can weave around and not get killed :p). My Saab can do the same thing. However, I can feel it in the Saab. In the Volvo, I barely notice a thing. I don’t understand where all that inertia goes when I floor it. Frankly, it’s sleep inducing. Also, that engine is LOUD. I like loud engines (I’m a muscle car freak), but not when I can’t feel the noise. My Saab’s engine is just as loud, but I can actually feel what’s making all that noise.

The car is an automatic (like mine), but with no sport button, the Volvo doesn’t exactly shift at optimum fun levels. I tried the manual shifting, but it’s too sluggish to really get into unless I’m just looking for a quick burst of speed for passing.

Stock photo.

As for the interior, sometimes I have to jab the hell out of the buttons to get them to work. Also, their layout isn’t really intuitive, so I have to look at them every so often, which is dangerous. I can tell which button is which on my Saab by touch, and they push in with a nice tactile click, as opposed to the mushy Volvo buttons. The seats are icky. They aren’t really uncomfortable, but I had to raise them pretty high to match my Saab’s seats, and then I had no room for my knees (and I’m a short guy). I guess that’s more of a dash problem then a seat problem. I did really like the tilting steering wheel, though, and I wish my wheel could do that. It only telescopes. It isn’t a big deal, though. I also like having two cupholders, I might buy an S40 when I need a new car because it has more cupholders than a 9-3 :p.

Lastly, I sometimes had to really strain to see out of the windows in the S40. The rear window is like one of those slits in a medieval castle that arrows are shot out of. One more thing, the car is painted an ugly gray that really looks like a dreary depressing sky right before a storm. I think S40’s really only look good in deep blue or black…but that’s pretty much my opinion on every car. So, thank God I get my baby back soon, I miss it so much. I can’t believe how much I used to like this S40, because I hate it now. Saab spoiled me.


It’s funny how Saabs can do that.

Like a number of other brands, I haven’t been in a Volvo for some time. Despite their design ‘resurgence’ I still wouldn’t pee on one if it were on fire. Except maybe the new C30, which has some potential.

All this Volvo talk reminds me of a story 1985Gripen told me from the 60th Anniversary event in San Diego back in February. Someone at the event was talking about their grand daughter going through toilet training. After one successful trip to the potty she stood and proclaimed “Look, Mum! I made a Volvo”.

That Mr Saab’s one naughty fellow sometimes.


If you’ve driven something recently and want to share your thoughts about it here – why you liked it and why you didn’t and more importantly, why you’d still love your Saab – then email me and let me know.

You may also like


  1. Well, for someone that pokes fun at Volvo, I like some of their cars. Again, a fan of the 1800, for sure. However, it not a great love for exactly your reasoning.

    And, you had to take it to the shop to get a new hose? Bwahahahahahaha!

  2. A hose?! It’s not like your burning it off, it’s just falling out…

    If you wanna escape the dead pig acceleration, get in an aero, ANY aero.

  3. Every time I hear the word Volvo, I think about what I read a while back:

    “Volvos- built to protect drivers from other Volvo drivers.”

    I see some truth in this- last night I rounded a corner into a parking lot to nearly hit some guy in his late 20s or early 30s who seemed perfectly content in maneuvering his car back and forth for no reason while I just sat and stared at him, blocked by his car. He looked at me and smiled..then kept on doing whatever it was he was doing. You’d think this guy should have figured out how to operate a motor vehicle by now…but I digress.

    And am I the only one that thinks the Volvo sedans’ sloping behemoth taillights are the most fugly pieces of crap to appear on a European import? They look like glowing shovels…

    It’s actually another safety feature by Ovlov- just pull one of those monsters off when you’re car is stranded, and you’ll have a gigantic signal to notify the rescue chopper where you are once your car breaks down!

  4. Just one thing regarding the C30… The rear is designed to have the looks of the old P1800ES. All thats fine with me… But were do one put the golfclubs??? The glas lid isn´t bigger than on an Aygo! If you want a cool smaller car and you don´t have the need to move anything other than your ar*e and a friend…. Go get the Mini Cooper. It´s cheaper and it´s a BMW product. Or if you doo need to transport stuff and more than yourself and a friend but still don´t need a large car… Buy a VW Golf or an Astra.


  5. I’ve already escaped the dead pigs in my decidedly non-Aero Saab and it just makes me want an Aero…and a turbo, dammit. Also, I definitely don’t trust myself under the hood of a car, at all. Past adding coolant and wiper fluid, anyway.

    As for getting into an Aero, that’s easier said than done when you can’t test drive them at dealers and no one around you has anything remotely like a Saab. Hell, the closest thing to a Saab anywhere around me is…the Volvo :p

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *