Can you help? Saab Convertible 2.0T vs V6

This is not the Saab Convertible Quijote's thinking of buying

Quijote currently owns a Viggen over in the US but is looking to update to a fresher Saab drop-top. His options are:

  • A 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero Convertible (V6, 250hp), or
  • A 2008 or 2009 Saab 9-3 Convertible 2.0T (4cyl, 210hp)

Some other factors to consider:

The V6 is actually cheaper to insure than the 2.0T, which will offset most (if not all) of the extra fuel the V6 might use.

Quijote’s a little put off by the faux-aluminium trim that can accompany the Aero models, especially on the steering wheel.

The 2.0T is around 15% cheaper to buy than the Aero.

——

Quijote wrote to me to get my thoughts on the purchase. Here’s what I sent back:

I’m always partial to the 2.0T. I’ve not spent much time in convertibles, to be honest, so I’m probably not the best person to ask. I loved the 9-5 2.0T, however, compared to the V6. The V6 was much more powerful but I felt the 2.0T was more enjoyable to drive. One of those with a tuning package would have been perfect (never happy!)

You really need to drive both for yourself and see what you think. I can definitely see the attraction in the V6 and I enjoyed driving a 9-3 V6 quite a lot when I first tested one. Instant power and very smooth. But personally, I’m used to smaller, more nimble cars and the V6 is a heavy engine to have up front.

I should clarify my thoughts on the 9-5 a little. The V6 was much more powerful than the 2.0T, that much was very clear. I loved the 2.0T based on its potential, according to my own judgement, on it being a more fun car to drive.

With a Hirsch or Maptun tune on it, the 2.0T would deliver plenty of power. In standard trim it was quite OK, but not outright fast.

What the 2.0T had over the V6 was lightness. The four cylinder version of that car felt a lot more driveable to me. It really made the car feel a lot smaller on the road than what it actually was.

The 9-5 was a wonderful illustration of just how much a difference weight and lightness can make in a car.

Of course, we’re talking 9-3 Convertibles here, not the Saab 9-5. As I mentioned to Quijote, I’ve not had a whole lot of experience with Saab convertibles, so I figured it might be good to open this question up to people who do.

Have you had experience with both the 2.0T and the V6? Do you have some advice to offer on which one is more fun to drive?

Personally I’d be going for the 2.0T with some pepper added from my mate Fredrik at Maptun, but that’s just me. What say you?

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39 Comments

  1. I have a 2006 aero v6 convertible and a 2007 9-3 2t wagon. Both are great cars, but the vert is fabulous to drive particularly on longer drives up the coast. The 2t is probably slighter better in the city, more nimble and much better fuel economy.

    My wife prefers the vert if that is any sort of signal…..

  2. Having owned a 2.0T I would have to say go with it. Its fairly economical andhas a TON of power in reserve for when you need it. I suspect that the V6 engine would probably change the handling as said engine would be a lot heavier than the 2.0T. I believe the V6 is too much engine for a 9-3 as its scary fast in the 9-5!

    Whatever you choose you will be happy.

    1. I was surprised at this as well. Out of curiosity, I had them quote a NG 2010 9-5. Its only a couple dollars more each month compared to a 9-3, and nearly $400 cheaper each year compared to a 2010 A6, E350, and 528. Quite off considering the relative difficulty in obtaining 9-5 parts…

    1. That is probably it! They see the word “turbo” and think it means the owner drives fast and recklessly.

  3. Complicated. For years I would have agreed with you Steven, now I’m not sure. Hot four cylinder in every Saab I own. The V6 never really did anything for me until we installed Maptun software on one. Made it actually fast. Still not sure if the weight and complexity of the bigger engine are worth it in the long run. The four cylinder has turned out to be a good engine now we have known them for ten years. Don’t make the decision without driving tuned cars, depending on where he is over here I might be able to help him arrange that!

  4. I’ve driven a V6 sedan and it didn’t seem much faster, if at all.

    V6 owners can comment on this: it always seemed to me like the tight packaging of the V6 would lead to extremely high underhood temperatures, which in turn leads to premature failure for rubber and plastic bit in the engine bay. Have you found that you are constantly replacing cracked vacuum hoses, coolant lines, etc?

    It really comes down to which one you prefer. The V6 leans more towards the Cadillac Eldorado end of the convertible scale, whereas the 4 is more towards the Lotus Elan. Obviously, they’re not as different as the Cadillac and Lotus, but you get the idea.

  5. 2.0. V6 engines tend to get leaks. From working at a Saab Dealer service manager told me to stay away from the 6 when looking at possibly to buy a 9-5 SC. He has 25 years of working for Saab. Besides you can tune the 2.0 , endless possibilities ….

      1. That was true on the V6’s in the older 9-5 combis (e.g., 2000 – 2008), but I don’t think the V6’s in the recent 9-3 Aero models suffered the same issues. (Different GM V6 engine.)

        1. If I remember correctly, I had a 2006 9-3 Aero V6. The cooling system did get leaks. I had to get mine repaired. S-U had a few articles on recalls and warnings on that engine after I had my cooling leak.

          Regarding heaviness and handling of the Aero, it is my understanding that the chassis is tuned tighter on the Aero. Vehicle weight is similar. The Aero ride is harsher. My son never liked the ride in the back seats of my Aero models, be it 9-3 or 9-5.

          My wife had a 9-3 ‘vert 2.0T circa 2008 model year. That was enough engine for the car, and I didn’t get to Maptun it.

    1. Had the same advice from a good friend who is/was a SAAB Master Tech.

      Also told me to stay away from ALL 9-3 SAABs, due to multiple computer failures, as compared to the 9-5. But probably NOT the advice wanted here…sorry.

      1. I’m sure a Master Tech sees things differently (having to work with cars that get problems) but there are definitely 9-3’s out there that have never had computer problems. We’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles without any computer trouble but maybe they don’t put that many in diesels? Ignition coils have never been an issue either 😉

  6. I have driven both but never owned a convertible. I aggressively drove the V-6 over a weekend at the Aero Academy, sponsored by SAAB at Road Atlanta. It is a very impressive car if you want performance. Go for it.

  7. The V6 is what I have in my 9-3 estate – with the Hirsch upgrade and dynoed at 302bhp :o)

    It is a fabulous engine, sounds great, the torque curve is immense and virtually flat from 1800rpm to over 5000rpm. However, it IS thirsty. I average about 25mpg. My equally powerful 9-5 Aero averages about 28 in similar use. The B207R in the 2.0T will do about 33-35mpg, but doesn’t have the same character as the V6.

    Note: Fliptop’s in England so those MPG’s are a little different to US MPG’s. – SW

    Health warning on the V6 – coil packs are fragile and the rear bank is hard to change, and apparently there is an emerging problem with them relating to the timing chain stretching – it’s not as strong as the chain in the old B2x2/4/5 series. This causes cam position sensor issues which screw up the variable valve timing system.

    I’ve heard quite a few coil pack complaints. A real issue and given the Saab Parts situation, you might want to seek some assurance that bits are available. – SW

      1. Interesting about the coils because I recently installed stiffer Viggen convertible springs on my 2001 Hardtop Viggen in 20 minutes flat. I always carry a matching full size spare, a toolbox complete with aluminum racing jack and a spare DI Cartridge where the donut use to be. So now the car has perfect balance.

        In light of the spares situation are not after market coils available, like Eibach, Bilstein, etc.

  8. Is Quijote going to sell his Viggen Vert? I hope not. I have enjoyed reading in the past his love for that car and it would appear, from his past entries, that he has had a lot of accomplishments with his “VV”.

    I, too, have a VV. I, too, have thought about an ’08 Aero Vert and looked at them. I am still considering adding one to my collection at some point. Having test drove a few ’08 Aero Verts, I can say they are a completely different “animal” from the VV.

    I would suggest that Quijote contact Dan at State of Nine for an opinion. He is a wonderful person and I know from experience, he would give Quijote a thorough review of his experience with his ’08.

    Best of luck to him!!!

  9. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for the feedback thus far, I’m looking forward to the insight that future readers will post.

    Another thing that concerns me is the speed & performance disparity I’ll notice when moving on from a BSR software tuned Viggen. Even a Maptuned 2.0T would be playing substantial catch up to my BSRed Viggen, right? Whereas I think a Maptuned V6 would have similar, if not better, performance than my BSRed Viggen? I also understand that while a Maptuned 2.0T may be slower on paper, the NG9-3 chassis would do a much better job putting down that power compared to my Viggen, which we all know its OG 900 derived chassis struggles greatly with so much engine.

    Thanks again folks.

  10. I would go with the 2.0 Having owned 3 Saab verts. the 2.0 offered the best all around fun, style, and affordability. I also have heard of leaking issues with the 6…. I had afew problems with my most recent Saab vert. front springs, water in the trunk spare area after rain, gas gauge needle doing a dance intermittently, however, most all of these issues were resolved by a Saab Master Technician. Go with the 2.0, do the Map Tune and enjoy the overall experience of the vert. It can’t be beat. Best of luck to you.

  11. You are exactly right about the better chassis of the newer car. The v6 engine is very smooth and fast. But it is very thirsty, and the coil packs are an issue. Also, as these cars get older they will require some maintenance that is really pricy due to the fact that there is very little room to work and many components need removal for access. Price out a water pump on a v6 or a coolant thermostat — very pricey.
    The 4 cylinder is a very durable engine, and very easy to work on. And I think it has about half the number of moving parts.
    I was able to keep up with a modded Viggen with a completely stock 2005 aero sedan – 4 cyl automatic — especially as we went faster. My friend driving the Viggen was working his butt off but I was just cruising — and I don’t think the v6 would have been much better except for acceleration. The 2 biggest flaws of the v6 are thirst and the stuff job packaging.

  12. I have an 08 2.0T vert and I say go for it. It is a lot of fun to drive and has plenty of power. My only complaint was the non aero body kit. I actually really like the front end and brushed metal interior on the Aero. If that’s not a concern for you go for the 2.0T. Is it the same color as the aero?

    1. If you’re currently driving a BSR’d Viggen (happily) then a tune (be it Maptun, Hirsch, or VTune to mention) is an absolute necessity. Both engines seem strangled otherwise (I exaggerate some; but once you drive a tuned version you know what I’m on about!). New midpipe 2nd (Genuine Saab inexpensive for North Americans, otherwise Ferrita); 3rd (V6 especially) intercooler …and 19T Turbo :). I’m currently 50% in a 2008 Turbo X (V6; XWD; VTuned Stg0; Auto+Ferrita+intercooler ) and the other half in a 2009 2.0T SS (auto; Maptun Stg1; FWD –not Aero) and love them both (differently) tuned. Gas mileage is (on avg.) 12.9 L/100 km) on Turbo X vs. 8.0 L/ 100 km on 2.0T. I find the chassis/suspension somewhat ‘floaty’ on Vector 2.0T compared to Aero/Turbo X (though <$1000 of springs and shocks — perhaps Maptun [Bilstein/Eibach] kit or Koni/Vogtland from Genuine Saab in US of A — would put that to bed). Hirsch splitters give the Vector/Linear front end a big visual boost! Admit I've never driven a V6 FWD (and find the torque steer, even in the tuned 4 to be a handful compared to what I was used with BMW; non-existent in X). Coils on 6 are often cited (though I've not experienced yet on X) but available inexpensively from Genuine Saab (aftermarket) for $45 a pop. Don't know how to cure those underhood temps though…In short: 4cyl, tuned Vector with new springs/shocks gets my vote :). Oh, and get your hands on a proper steering wheel (the Vector one is IMHO spaghetti thin…ANA Trollhattan has Turbo X steering wheels on sale now :))

      1. But you have ridden in my V6, NTP, and I doubt you observed significant torque steer in that? Maybe just a little, and that was with its winter boots on. My 400bhp+ 9-5 Aero on the other hand… 😉

        1. Ah yes–but I was the passenger :). I still find that ‘tug’ through the wheel disconcerting (on even a lower stage FWD) when pedal metal-ed. I’m afraid I’m still saddled with some residual BMW DNA!

          The Turbo X (XWD) is just so bloody easy to drive, it’s spoiled me.

          [Side note: Haven’t heard about stretched timing belt on 2.8 over here…and there are several instances of Turbo Xs that I’m aware of (not mine) with 100, 000 km + . Hardly a scientific sample I know…]

  13. Aaah, so you really will let go of your Viggen?
    I understand that you have spent quite some money on it over the last years. Unfortunately you will have to reckon with, at least, $1000/year for any older car. If your problems are engine related then you could consider dropping a new or re-manufactured engine in.

    Anyway, you mentioned it before yourself, after the Viggen any standard Saab will be a disappointment. The sheer brutality of the power delivery is very addictive and not matched by a standard Saab. You will have to tune the bejezus out of any Saab to get the same ‘rush’. Keep in mind that the Viggen engine has been modified to deal with the high torque and thermal issues. I don’t think you can get the 2.0T anywhere near the same performance in a reliable way. The V6 is a bit better in that respect but you hang a lot of weight on the front axle.

    Just my 2 cents…oh yeah, if you’re not too attached to the Saab brand, you could also get a Porsche:)

    1. I’m nearly 6’5″, fitting comfortably in a Porsche is not an easy feat unless we’re talking about the Cayenne… (barf). 🙂

  14. I have a 2008 9-3 Convertible, 2.0t, and it is, hands down, the most fun car I’ve ever owned. First, you would be amazed at how much power and speed you can get out of those four cylinders. Just yesterday, I pulled out on a time when making a left turn into traffic. You know when you hit the gas, there is something substantial behind it. Despite that, the car is quiet, with the exception of the zzzzzz tuning that I love in a SAAB. The handling is superb- there is nothing I love more than taking it on the windy country roads we have outside of Cleveland with the manual mode activated and sport button turned on. It is surprisingly roomy in the front, but in the back, well, not so much. And, I have not had a single issue with it, with the exception of an overly sensitive window that was reprogrammed by the dealer. The fuel economy is pretty decent- I usually average 21-22 in the city (there are tons of lights and stop signs in my area), and over 30 on the highway. I will say this- I have owned it for almost two years now, and I every time I get out of the car, I find myself muttering, “I love this car.” That says it all. Good luck, and enjoy. You can’t lose!

  15. 2007 through 2009 2.0T engines are starting to develop issues with intake valves and guides on higher mileage engines. Rough running cold, but will clear up warm are some of the initial symptoms. Heads are being swapped or repaired in some cases.

    I still have never gotten any confirmation on timing chain stretch on the 2.8L V6 engine. It is a common issues on the 3.6L engine used in many GM cars – but this is a lubrication issue due to extended oil change intervals and poor quality oil being used by customers. Most Saab owners are simply using 0w-40 Mobile One which meets the needs on that engine.

    With that said – I love the V6 in my ’07. Sounds great is a lot of fun. Love the off the line acceleration. The Aero option has better seats, handling if you don’t mind a stiffer ride, and is just a great powertrain.

    Still pondering what I will replace it with down the road… Great car.

    1. I have a friend in Scotland with a Maptun stage 1 Turbo X who has suffered from a stretched timing chain on his B284R. Expensive job to fix…although he is used to that having had his share of expense trying to tame ~500bhp in a 9000 Aero 😉

      Apparently there have been more cases of this in the US and Oz where there are more users of the engine, not just in Saabs?

  16. If it helps, I have both cars. I have a 2006 9-3 2.0T and also a 2006 9-3 Aero.
    I prefer the Aero. The handling is better and the ride is smoother. It’s nice to have the extra power, and I don’t mind paying a little more in gas. The 2.0T is a great car still. Its advantage is handling in the snow, if you ever drive in it.

  17. I have a MY00 Viggen 3dr (bought with Hirsch Stg1 250bhp) , a MY05 2.0T 9-3 Aero Sport Cabrio (bought stock 210bhp, now Hirsch Stg1 230bhp) and a MY01 9-5 sedam 2.3t ( 185bhp all stock, but the engine block is from the viggen).

    When I started using the stock 2.0T the difference to Viggen was quite big – the throttle response was laggy, mostly on the lower end. I’m double clutching just for fun, and the blip on throttle on 2.0T was not always producing the same response. After putting there Hirsch the response is quite good.

    The tuning was done during the Octoberfest in 2011, where I had a change to drive the untuned 2.0T on the way there, test a 1.9TTID Aero Sportcombi, a basic 9-5NG 2.0T Linear and then my freshly tuned 2.0T. Both the stock engines felt better response-wise than untuned 2.0T. After tuning it was another story 😉
    When I compare it to the 2.3t 9-5OG we have, its still more Viggen like in the response. I guess its the different way throttle information is transferred.

    BTW I guess that 2.0T in all 9-5NG are the new version (planned for Griffins too) – twin-scroll exhaust and direct injection. So that might explain the better feel from the heavier 9-5NG …

    I tested the V6 only in a TurboX SportCombi and got the feeling it was more nose heavy. On the same turn where I know that the Viggen is slightly oversteering on limit – or better loosing the rear grip (with Quaife ATB diff quite usual 🙂 The TurboX was slowly going out, although one could feel the XWD fighting it.
    I also had a short test drive with full spec 9-5NG Aero Turbo6 and never had this feeling.

  18. I’m late to the party here but my 2 cents is based upon having driven both types but not owned a 6 cylinder. I appreciate how nice the 6’s are to drive but always found the 4 cyls peppy enough for me and am a bit nutty about highest possible gas mileage always.

    I’ll also add that more than 1 Saab mechanic over the years told me that they thought the 6’s were more expensive to repair versus the little 4 cylinder engines and perhaps more problematic in some vintages.

    With that said, I think either choice is a good one.

  19. Oh, what a wonderful problem to have. 😉

    I’d love the V6, but I’d go with the 2L turbo. It is easier to service and therefore cheaper to service. It is lighter which makes the handling better, although that is not as important in an open car where the sound of a V6 can be the important selling point. 🙂
    And lastly; it’s a turbo.

  20. Note to all – I’ve noticed a few people point out that the 2.0T is a turbo, implying that perhaps the V6 isn’t. The V6 is also a turbo, with the twin-scroll turbo setup.

    Both cars are turbos, so there’s no advantage in terms of turbo vs non-turbo.

  21. A month too late to the party, but still …

    Your choice should also be depending on the condition of the cars you find. One can be better than the other, but if it wasn’t serviced properly, it makes no sense to buy it.

    I have the 2007 V6 (hirsched to 275hp/400Nm) and love it. Quixote is considering between two 200hp+ petrol engines, so why not to have more power if available. For the country roads it’s very fine to have enough power and with the soft-top down it has a great sound too. I’ve heard, the V6 are more reliable (Holden engine), but no data for it.

    There are also cons : it’s more thirsty and has a bit of torque steering. One has to learn where are the limits. Partially adjustable with Powerflex bushes and other things. Maybe since the V6 is heavier, you will get shorter tyre lifetime. Also in the city at 50 kmh/31 mph, if you don’t want to go below 2000 rpm you have to drive in 3rd gear, in 2.0 probably in 4th.

    But even with all this I would prefer the V6. It gives you back all the disadvantages outside of the city and in the moments, when you driving for fun and want have the power.

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