From my inbox, a story and a question from Andy T:
Up until about six weeks ago, I was waiting patiently for my lease to expire on my ’05 9-3. Come March, I was ready to pony up for a MY08 Saab, and entertain the possibility of the European Delivery Program.
Then, slightly over a month ago, I took the car in for its fourth “Low Coolant Level” refilling. It seemed odd to me that a two-year old car with 22,500 miles on it would need so much coolant, and it finally seemed odd to the dealer, as well. They said the car might need a new engine, but don’t worry, it’s under warranty. They said the process would take about two weeks. One day shy of four weeks later, I had the car back with a fresh engine. The dealer basically said, “Yeah, a few ’05 models were cast with porous engine blocks. Stuff just happens.” I didn’t feel reassured.
So my problem is this: This is my second Saab (had a ’99 9-3 that got funky at about 45,000 miles). And now this almost new car needed a new engine. I really do like the car and the brand, but everyone has always told me about Saab’s legendary problems. Now I’m expanding my search and have seen early photos/reviews of the Volvo C30, which comes to the U.S. in October. It’s obviously going in a different direction than the 9-3 Sedan, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself to buy a third Saab when the first required a new transmission and the second required a new engine. That said, I’m not interested in American, German or Japanese cars. Which in America, doesn’t leave me with many options in that price range (unfortunately, Aston Martin and the good Jaguars are too rich for my blood).
Alas, I’d like to open the conversation up to the dedicated readers of this blog. The Saab is still the only car I’ve owned that I enjoy driving (not counting my ’75 MGB). But should I trust it next time around?
I don’t know much about porous engine blocks, but I can’t imagine that’s a problem they’ve had that they haven’t ironed out. Yours was fixed, which indicates that a) they were happy to look after you, and b) they know about the problem – again, I can’t imagine that one would slip past the keeper on a revamped model. And despite your service guy’s flip-off, I can assure you they’d take that problem very seriously at Saab in terms of manufacturing issues. I couldn’t believe it’d be any other way.
Without wanting to emulate your service guy’s seeming indifference, stuff does happen with mechanical items – from all brands – and your transmission problem was likely one of those things. Transmissions go sometimes, though I don’t think Saab have a reputation for those. Not that I’ve heard of at least. That sort of thing could happen with any make of car, even a *gasp* Toyota.
The MY2008 Saab 9-3 is definitely worth testing. I’ve raved on a fair bit about it over the last month. It’s not just because this is a Saab blog and I’m an enthusiast. It’s because the car is really, really good. In the absence of the TTiD, the main improvements that I think US customers will notice, aside from the XWD when it comes, are the sound insulation and ride improvements. It’s a much quieter and somewhat gentler ride, more refined (if I can use that vaguest of terms) but it’s still got that sporty edge to it when you want to push it.
Then there’s all the other things the new 9-3 brings to the table – the new look (matter of taste, but I think it’s brilliant), practicality, economy-power combination, safety, equipment levels, etc etc.
What you end up getting really is up to you, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend trying out the 2008 9-3. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t, I can guarantee that.
On a side note, my travelling companion and guide through the 2008 9-3 press event, Par Brandt from Auto Motor and Sport, mentioned that the C30 has met with a more lukewarm response than what many might expect. He actually called it ‘tail happy’, which stunned me to be honest, but apparently Volvo didn’t quite get the chassis down right like they would have ideally wanted to.
A lot of the hype over the C30 was based on its looks and the fact that it’s a totally new car in a new segment for Volvo. I haven’t seen too many road tests on it yet, but will be interested to see if others thought the same way.
Folks, Andy is asking for your input, so comments are open – off you go.