The following post has been submitted as part of the Problogger group writing project.
The Top 5 reasons why Saab should be on your radar.
1) Freaking Great Cars
This blog is totally and unashemedly a Saab blog. Why? Because it’s my firm belief that there’s few other vehicle designers and manufacturers out there who provide you with as much practical performance and utility as Saab.
Saab began as a vehicle manufacturer 60 years ago, in Trollhattan, Sweden. They were the offshoot of an aircraft company that needed some manufacturing options after the second world war. As they were an aviation company rather than an automotive company, Saab took a different approach to automotive design. Whilst they’ve become a bit more generic over the years, that heritage still carries through to today’s Saab cars (the car company is now owned by General Motors).
Saab owners are a very passionate bunch, and for good reason, too. They’re freaking great cars and always have been. Saab have always been front wheel drive, so they’re safe in all conditions. Despite the front drive, they still handle superbly and will give you more than your fair share of fun in the twisties. And there’s nothing like the turbo rush when you change lanes and hit the gas pedal.
Saabs have always been big on character, too. For a small company they’ve punched well above their weight with many automotive innovations and a great sporting heritage. The Classic Saab 900 is perhaps the most iconic Saab there is. It really set Saab’s turbocharging credentials in stone and it saw the beginning of one of Saab’s other icons – the Convertible.
Modern Saabs maintain all the hallmarks of their predecessors. They handle great for a FWD car, they’re turbocharged, offer great economy for their high levels of performance. They’re exceedingly comfortable and proven to be amongst the very safest cars your money can buy.
They also last forever: one owner in the United States recently ticked over his 1,000,000th mile on his Saab 900 – and received a new car in return from SaabUSA.
In 1986 and 1996 Saab did marathon events at Talladega Raceway in the United States where they broke multiple endurance and speed records, running standard cars straight out of the factory in Sweden for 100,000 continuous kilometers over a period of around three weeks at speeds averaging over 210 km/h (In 1996 the fastest car averaged 226km/h). They stopped only for driver changes and routine scheduled servicing with no mechanical malfunctions.
I’ve owned six Saabs so far and I’ll always have one in my driveway.
2) Show Your Individuality
With Saab growing out of a small company with an aviation heritage, it’s little wonder that they’re a bit different. Early Saabs had a very enduring style, which was fortunate as the company has never had a lot of money for radical re-designs. The first basic Saab design lasted from 1947 right up until 1980 and still looked classical when the last Saab 96 rolled off the production line. Well, to a Saab nut it did, at least. Compare it to a lot of its 1980 contemporaries and I think it’d still come off pretty well.
One thing that owners of both old and new Saabs love about driving their car is the fact that you don’t see your own car everywhere you go. They’re relatively rare. This might sound a little smug, but it gives you a great feeling to know that you’ve latched on to something that’s just fantastic and not everyone knows about it.
When people consider a European vehicle, there’s a very good chance that they’ll think of getting a German brand, or maybe a Volvo. These are all great cars, but I’d take a Saab over them any day. In a lot of ways it depends about how ostentatious you like to be. Saabs tend to be stylishly presented and contemporary, but a little understated when compared to other European marques. And that suits me just fine.
In that way, they’re the ultimate sleeper. They look good, but not hot. No-one’s going to know your capabilities until they’re watching your tail lights fade. And their wagons look cooler than most company’s sedans…..
In 2006, Saab showed what became the concept car of the year, the Aero-X. Whilst this car isn’t destined for production it does give an indication of the design language and innovation that Saab plans on bringing to the table in coming years.
3) Performance and Responsibility
Saabs are, of course, from Sweden. The Swedes have a long history of encouraging the best in the arts, science and humanitarianism. Out of this comes their respect and active embracing of environmental responsibility. The Swedish government recently committed to eliminating all dependance on fossil fuels by 2020 – an ambitious goal that may or may not be achieved. Even if it isn’t achieved entirely, the benefits that will flow from whatever progress they make will be great.
As a company with its roots based in Sweden, Saab are also active in promoting cars that give their owners great performance, but with environmental responsibility being a high priority as well.
Saab now have a system called BioPower, where the engine can run on gasoline or a fuel called E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). The engine management system detects the fuel mix and adjusts the engine performance accordingly. The advantage of using ethanol is that the fossil fuel emissions from the ethanol fuel are offset by the plants that are gown to provide the fuel source.
What’s more, the car actually performs better using E85. Thanks to Saab’s turbocharging and engine management expertise, they’re able to take advantage of E85s higher octane rating and extract up to 20% more power and torque compared to when it’s running on straight gasoline.
Saab recently unveiled it’s BioPower100 concept, based on a 9-5 SportWagon and with an engine that runs on 100% ethanol and develops 300hp from its two litre engine. Talk to a car nut – 150hp per litre of displacement is pretty impressive – and again, it’s from a renewable fuel.
Aside from BioPower, Saab’s also have a great range of gasoline and diesel engines that give great real-world performance. Turbocharging means that most Saabs on the road, being the four cylinder variety, are capable of developing the power of a six cylinder engine on demand (and boy, I love demanding it!), whilst retaining the economy of a four.
There’s two prominent automotive manufacturers in Sweden. Saab and Volvo. (There’s also Koenigsegg, but if you’re able to get one of those, why are you reading this?)
Saab have always had a more sporting image than Volvo thanks to their rally success in the 1960s and 70s. But one thing shared by both companies is a total commitment to safety.
The current Saab 9-3 is a 5-star rated vehicle when it comes to safety and the Saab 9-5 has consistently been rated as the safest vehicle in Sweden by the Folksam insurance group, the biggest in the business there.
Saab have developed a lot of safety features over the years. They initially installed dual brake circuits on their early cars to ensure that in the event of a brake failure the car would still have one front, one rear and one left and one right brake working properly. They pioneered door reinforcement to protect from side impacts and have always been early adopters of safety systems like airbags, brake systems, stability control systems etc.
They developed the Moose Test. Enough said.
Whilst they still retain a great driver focus and fun driving experience, Saab cars are amongst the safest your money can buy.
5) The Future
The final reason (for this post anyway) that Saab should be on your automotive radar is that the future’s looking very bright.
Next month (June 2007), Saab will unveil its updated 2008 9-3 model, which will see some cosmetic restyling but more importantly, the addition of all-wheel drive to the lineup.
The future sees a new 9-5 coming in the next few years and the addition of and AWD crossover vehicle and a new, smaller car. Unlike some previous attempts at these sectors, these new vehicles are going to be Saab-developed from the ground up based on architectures provided by GM.