It’s been a little while since we’ve had an owner’s vehicle comparison.
These get filed under the category: I drove a XXX and here’s why I’d still buy a Saab…
This one’s from Rogan, a relatively new commenter here on the site, and a recent acquirer of a very neat Saab 9-3 Vector in basic black.
Click the images to enlarge.
I was given a first car when I got my licence, a 1989 Ford Probe GT, but told that I would be on my own if I required anything better. My first experience with Saab was in 2004, when my Dad (Age 50, Nuclear Physicist, totally in the Saab demographic) picked up a 2004 9-3 Arc with a 5-speed. I thought it was a great car, but not what I’d want to drive when I was able.
What I wanted was pretty much the same as every other teenage boy all across the world does: the Subaru WRX. Not having actually driven many cars, I thought that absolute performance was all I would ever need, and the WRX with 227 HP and AWD certainly delivered. I was infinitely jealous of my friend, when he picked up a silver 2002 WRX sedan.
Finally, after working as a computer tech and Opera usher for what seemed like eternity, I was able to take the plunge on a new car. At this point, I had driven my dad’s Saab, my friends ’02 WRX, and a ’02 WRX Wagon and an ’04 WRX Sedan. The choice would be obvious for any other boy my age. So why did I choose the Saab?
First of all, let me tell you straight off the bat, the WRX performs. If you just want to get in a car and drive like your pants are on fire, you absolutely can’t go wrong with the WRX. The car accelerates blindingly quick and handles like its on rails. In just high-performance driving dynamics, I’m sorry to say it but I think it beats the Saab. Somehow, I realized that this wasn’t all-important in a car. The wagon wasn’t an option, as any teenager in the US would understand. The sedan’s seats can’t fold down, so its useless in terms of practicality. And either way you go, the WRX is extremely ugly in my opinion.
The interior isn’t a great place to be, since it is essentially a souped up econobox. There are lots of cheap plastics and cheap fabric. The boost gauge is an option, and it’s bolted on to the side of the steering column. The shifter feels like it will bend if pulled to quickly. There are no power seats and no trip computer, so it was even a downgrade in some ways from my 1989 Ford Probe. Really, the only good things about the interior were the seats (which were good, but not as good as my Saab) and the 80W 6-Disk CD Changer (which is blown away by my Saab’s 300W 6-Disk unit).
When driving around normally about 95% of the time, the Saab feels much better then the WRX, much smoother and much better low end power. You can still get the car to move quickly when you don’t feel like high-performance driving and you just want to waft yourself home. The car itself is beautiful in black with the body kit and 17″ split-spoke rims, and gets me plenty of attention in the school parking lot.
It’s relaxing when it needs to be and very fast when I want it to be. The car doesn’t have quite as much grip as the WRX, but it handles much more smoothly and with less body roll when your not right on the limit. It doesn’t accelerate nearly as quickly at the low end, but its much smoother. Once in third gear, the WRX would be a fairly small spec in the rear-view mirror.
The level of equipment I have in the Vector is ridiculous. A car that I bought for less than a new Toyota Corolla gave me leather, heated and memory seats, six-disk CD, trip computer, aluminium trim, six-speed manual, 17 inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, and the list goes on and on.
In the end, the 9-3 was a pretty easy choice for me. My only complaint is the occasional rattle, but since it’s used and it’s an ’03, I’m not sure if I really even have the right to complain about that. AWD would be nice, but they’ve already gotten that under control, haven’t they.
In the end, I guess I’ve realized that Saabs are performance cars for real people. People that have lives other than their cars and need the car to suit them to. If my Saab was a person, it would defiantly be one of the most tolerant, willing and cheerful people I’ve ever met. The car can perform, and I can still throw my skis or mountain bike in the back. I can get 23 mpg in the city with the car, unlike almost any other performance car.
I love the Subaru WRX. It’s a great car and it has awesome performance. The Saab just betters it in almost every conceivable way. If it weren’t for my dad owning a Saab, it’s something that I would have never realized.
I think Saab could get a lot more younger drivers if they get out there and advertise. Saab vehicles aren’t a niche market. Saab just needs to get out there and let people know about their products. GM needs to support them in this area. Some of my friends couldn’t believe I had bought a Saab that wasn’t a hatchback, because they didn’t know such a thing existed!
I’m glad that Saab resale value has been bad enough up to this point to allow me to get into such a phenomenal car. I realize how little I paid for a 5 year old car that this awesome, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be able to pick a Turbo-X for the same price in six or seven years. On one side, I hope so, but on another side, I hope that Saab can get out there and make people “get the point” of Saab, so resale values won’t be so poor.
Anyway, I consider myself extremely lucky for knowing how great Saab is, and I hope there are many other drivers like me who follow in my footsteps, realizing what really makes a good car.