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Saab 9-3 SportCombi



  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I drove a 6-Speed Audi A3 2.0T and a 5-Speed Saab Sport Combi 2.0T back to back nearly a year ago and my impressions are as follows:

    The Saab was very comfortable and roomy with its extra size allowing it to be rather more practical than the Audi. That said, I like the looks of the Audi, inside and out, much more than the Saab. I'm thinking that the above two sets of impressions effectively work out to a draw.

    The above having been said, once under way there really is no comparison. The Audi engine feels significantly smoother and even though the Audi weighs in at nearly 100 pounds more and has a few less ponies, it feels significantly faster as well. Why? Probably the earlier torque peak and the longer stroke in the engine being combined with an extra cog in the gearbox.

    Then there is the handling aspect. During my test drives I managed to find two good freeway ramps that were about equidistant from the two dealerships. At identical speeds the Saab felt quite unsettled when compared to the A3 Sport, and when pushed, the Audi was capable of much higher ramp speeds. Of course this handling doesn't come without a tradeoff, namely ride compliance. Speaking strictly for myself, I like a firm ride so the Audi wins by default, however, for folks who don't want/need a canyon carver, the Saab would most likely prove the better choice.

    Best Regards,
  • Thnx for info. Guess Saab hasn't figured out suspensions like BMW and Audi have. Sounds like a dud, especially as their pitifully few local Saab dealers got so so ratings (closest one got a D) from the BBB.
  • dhanleydhanley Posts: 1,531

    I agree the audi feels faster. I think it's a combination of the lower torque peak and the almost nonexistant turbo lag. The 9-3's lag makes itself known in any sort of aggressive driving. Audi's 2.0T's lag is much more subtle.

    Maybe our test drives were different--mine was on potholed chicago roads, and i thought the audi covered that sort of imprefection better. But i wouldn't place money on it, i didn't do the drives back to back on the exact same roads.

    However, i did drive my bmw on the same roads as the 9-3 and i thought the 9-3 was definiely harsher.

    Yes, i do think BMW and audi have their suspensions sorted out better than saab does. Bear in mind saab has taken a FWD platform shared with economy cars, while the 3-series, for example, was designed from the first chassis drawings to be an RWD performance car.

    The reason to get a car like the 9-3 is because it offers a lot for the $ and there's nothing wrong with that. There's 0% financing for 60 months on the aero SportCombi right now, and you can easily get it for the invoice of $32,725. Lot of car for $550 a month.
  • what's interesting about the 9-3 is how much it shares with the Chevy Malibu and the Saturn Aura; all of 'em have epsilon bodies and somewhat similar suspensions.

    The Saabs come with the option of 16" or 17" wheels. One review elsewhere suggested 16's made the car more liveable on bad roads with only a small loss in handling. Anyone here have real life experience with this?
  • Okay,ya' got me. As far as the seats are concerned - agreed. Luxurioussssssss..... :P

    And I can't argue against IIHS's assertion that stability control could prevent thousands of crashes each year. Give Subaru a year or two, and I'd bet they'll have stability control in their lower-end models. That's a hedge though.
  • Unexpectedly back in the market for a wagon that will last a long time (30,000+ miles/year), be fun/comfortable to drive and makes me feel/be safe in winter New England driving. Last 3 vehicles: 99 Volvo XC70 (great drive, huge repair bills), 2005 Subaru Outback VDC (fun/great vehicle, felt a little small-ish as the miles piled up) and Acura MDX (nice ride, lots of toys, pleasant/comfortable but kind of dull - and, oh yes: what was I thinking on mpg??!!).

    Looking to get smaller/better mpg, but have expectations - again: fun,comfort, safety and some of the 'toys'.

    Hope to act soon. Right now, looking at leftover 2006 Volvo 70R (reliability/repairs??)...2007 Subaru Outback XT (lots of fun to drive, now has VDC and a few tech upgrades new since 2005)...VW Passat (reliability?)...9-5 Sportcombi (what-no side curtain airbags??)...and, 9-3 Sportcombi (biggest concern is lack of AWD - even with stability control, will it match the other awd models in the huge amount of winter driving I do?).

    All thoughts and experiences will be much appreciated.
  • robr2robr2 BostonPosts: 7,739
    I'd check out the Honda CRV and Acura RDX - both are designed as crossovers and have carlike handling.
  • Thanks, Rob. Drove the RDX. Liked the overall package (I admit I am spoiled!), but thought the ride was harsh. Will probably try again. CRV is less than what I am looking for.

  • dhanleydhanley Posts: 1,531
    I don't know what conditions you are driving though, but i manage perfectly fine in snow country with RWD and snow tires. And AWD doesn't help you turn and stop.

    Since you drive so many miles, MPG ought to be a consideration, and the saab is pretty good there, with 23/34. The rdx gets 11mpg worse on the highway, which i assume you do a lot of, putting on 30K miles a year...
  • MPG is, indeed, a concern, with the RDX.

  • Right now I own both wagons the 1.8 A4 Avant is at the end of the lease and I wanted the great deals on the Saab. The A4 has the sport package and quattro, the 9-3 is a little more basic but still has plenty of bells and whistles.

    I guess after 4 years the A-4 has been pretty reliable, there has been no major repairs except changing those real expensive 17 inch tires, twice. I love the A4, the interior is tight, no rattles, nobody does interiors better than Audi. The ride is smooth and the quattro takes corners like its on a rail. I guess the best way to describe the Audi is tight, it wraps around you nicely and after you've driven a few years, you can really understand and appreciate the handling and ergonimics. I'll miss the car when my lease expires.

    The new 9-3Sport Combi has an airy light feeling. Its not a sportwagon like the avant was. Handling is ok and the suspension is softer. The interior is very nice and my backside is older now, and it enjoys the nice soft leather as opposed to the firmer Audi seats. It's much roomier than the Avant. The turbo lag on the Saab is much better than it was. (Did I mention I had an old 9-3 too?) Off the line it's much faster than my Audi, and the turbo boost is great for passing cars. It is faster than the Audi, I don't know how it compares to the new 2.0. However there is one huge advantage PRICE. It's just as good as the Audi for much, much less.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I think you owe it to yourself to at least drive a new A3 or A4 Avant with the 2.0T, they are both more refined and far more capable than the older A4. As far as acceleration, my butt dyno indicates that the A3 2.0T is a tick or two faster than the Saab.

    Keep us posted. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • Saab at the '06 LA Auto show told me the Combis are built in Sweden.

    Its distant American cousins, the Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6 and Chevy Malibu, are mostly built in Fairfax, Kansas.
  • No bashing here either.

    I'm about to buy a new vehicle soon. I really like the look, drive, and features of the 930 Combi, but I'm reading bad things about Saab's quality. In fact, consumer reports said expected reliability is "very below average."

    This scares me away. Anyone have other research, reports, stories, testimonials, etc., that might reassure me.

    If not, then its probably an RDX?
  • rs9904rs9904 Posts: 15
    my 99 9-3 went 100k until I traded it in running great still.

    wifes has 04 linear (same car but sedan) has been very reliable maybe one warranty claim so far at 2.5 years 27,000 miles.

    i now own an 06 9-5 sportcombi. very good 1283 miles so far.

    Sport ride, the safest cars, great seats, great fuel economy and sport turbo engines.

  • esfoadesfoad Posts: 210
    We had a 2001 SE Convertible, 3 years one warranty claim. Now we have a 2004 Aero Convertible. So far, one warranty claim. About the same as my 2005 Infiniti G35. Saabs are wonderful for us. The best seat heaters on the planet, competent handling for everyday driving. I'm sure that if we mspent time on a track, there'd be better choices but realistically the handling is perfect for the street.
  • saabgirlsaabgirl Posts: 184
    In fact, consumer reports said expected reliability is "very below average

    My family currently owns two Saab 9-5s, which brings the total we have owned to four. I'd say that they won't beat Hondas (we also own one of those) on the reliability score, but disagree that their reliability is so irredeemably poor that buyers should stay away, particularly if they like the car and its price.

    One question I've always had about CR reports, especially reliability, is this: What counts as 1?

    For example, you have 1,000 miles on the odometer and in rapid succession a headlight bulb burns out and the serpentine belt fails.

    Is that two? One? 1.575? Or what? If you don't know how they assign values it's hard to tell whether CR's predictions are a useful guide for future performance or not.

    It seems to me that a reliability score should be based on a vehicles' propensity for dumping the owner at the side of the road and be built on a robust data base, not self reporting. In my opinion, cosmetic complaints may be very irritating to the person who writes a monthly check to the finance company, but do not rise to the level of reliability.
  • An interesting question Saabgirl.

    CR says they "weight" drive train issues higher, but won't say how much higher. Since I'm a subscriber, I was sent their survey and one of the questions is how many times to the dealer for warranty work... then they ask a series of questions designed to "categorize" the work.

    They do note they are reported "averages" and clearly state that a car rated above average reliability may cause a particular owner serious problems and that a car rated below average might be problem free for a particular person. They also note the "variance" associated across dealers whose service practices are not alike. My current car that I'm very happy with (RX-8) is nevertheless rated below average reliability. I've had warranty work once in three years when the clutch wore out (it was only rattling) but the dealer was my total advocate and took great care of me.... hence I'm inclined to buy Mazda again and recommend them... but part of my positive experience is the dealer.
  • saabgirlsaabgirl Posts: 184
    They do note they are reported "averages" and clearly state that a car rated above average reliability may cause a particular owner serious problems and that a car rated below average might be problem free for a particular person.

    Aye, there's the rub, methinks. The info is presented as predictive, but it comes with a big caveat.

    Personally, for reliability, I'd like to see a hard number that reports how often the cars dumped the driver at the side of the road a/o put the car out of service -- the automotive equivalent of placing a car on injured reserve. Then prospective buyers could simply compare numbers across brands and models and assess their odds.

    My hypothesis is that the number difference between a car that CR currently rates as "reliable" and one that it rates as "unreliable" might not be all that big-- but the forced ranking requires that someone has to be below average.

    Well, no, I dunno how the data would be collected to do this.

    I completely agree with your comment that the dealer can take a lot of subjective frustration out of "reliability" problems which would lead to better customer satisfaction scores. A little empathy, a loaner car and getting the fix right the first time go a long way to putting the "positive" back in the experience.
  • I just testdrove an auto 2.0T SportCombi and came away fairly impressed. I found the Saab interior very enjoyable and comfortable to drive in.

    I wanted to try the 6-speed manual but none were available. The automatic transmission mated to the 2.0T was very disappointing as expected. Automatics and turbo four cylinders do not mix. I am willing to give Saab the benefit of the doubt because the 2.0 turbo looks decent on paper. Has anyone else tried Saab's 2.0 turbo with a 6-speed manual? What are your impressions?

    The manual SportCombi with the 2.0T is very hard to find. If I want to buy one, I would most likely have to order one. Is it a lot harder to negotiate the price if I order a car? I am pretty sure that I can get a 9-3 below invoice if it was on the dealer lot.
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