Saab 9-3x vs Subaru Outback

People seem to be fond of dropping very quick, back-of-the-envelope comparisons into comments at the moment and invariably, those comparisons involve flowery language about how poorly a Saab compares and occasionally, how if Saab don’t do anything about it those people will be off to another brand as fast as their feet can take them.

That’s a generalisation, by the way. It’s not aimed at anyone and is a mish-mash of various lines that people take.

I will pick out one comparison that was made today, however, and deal with it in a little more depth. The reason I’ve picked this one is that the Saab/Subaru comparison is an oft-made one around here, so it’s highly relevant to tackle it.

This comparison involved the Saab 9-3x and the Subaru Outback.

Now, please bear in mind that I reckon the Subaru is a pretty good vehicle. In fact, I like almost all Subarus. My stepson has an Impreza and I enjoy the odd chance to drive it. I love boxer engines (hello, Alfa 33, Porsche 911, etc) and I like the fact that Subaru are perhaps the more outside-the-box Japanese manufacturer.

I will not, however, place them on the same level as Saab. A Saab might be more expensive but I think the listing below will show that you get a fair bit for your money and for the person looking for more than just a utilitarian experience, a Saab represents pretty fair value.

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I’ve used US specifications and pricing for this comparison because generally speaking, most of the people who make these types of comparisons tend to be in free-market Mecca.

A quick look at the two company websites shows that the Saab 9-3x sells for $36,975 plus dest, whereas the Subaru Outback starts at $23,195. Whoa!!! But that’s for the base model Suuby. The one we want to test is the top-spec 3.6R Limited model and that one starts at $31,495.

The Saab is $5.5K more expensive, but I’m not done yet. Just like many customers will do, I’m going to add the Premium and Comfort packages to the 9-3x, jacking the price tag up to $41,690. That’s a whopping $10K more than the Outback.

Before we start comparing, though, I’m going to have to hit the Subaru accessories list, just to get a few things that Saab include as standard. Things like body mouldings, mirror including compass and homelink controls. Unfortunately, there’s a bunch of things on the Saab 9-3x that I just can’t get, even as options (according to the Suuby website) so my pricetag tops out at $35,049.

So, after checking the various boxes, I’ve got a Saab 9-3x at $41,690 and a Subaru Outback at $35,049. That’a a difference of $6,641 though you might want to bear in mind the loyalty discounts that you could get buying the Saab if you’ve owned one before. These would narrow the gap.

Anyway, time to look at what we’ve got.

The Subaru does enjoy a power advantage, with 256hp vs the Saab’s 210. But you pay for that advantage at the pump with worse gas mileage (25/18 for the Suuby against 29/20 for the Saab).

You can get a manual gearbox in the Saab if you want it (and going by comments here, a lot of people want it). You can’t get a manual in the Subaru. An automatic is a no-cost option in the Saab and it’s a six speed auto. The Subaru auto is a 5-speed.

The warranty offered with the Subaru is 3/36,000. For the Saab it’s 4/50,000.

The Subaru gets an edge in cargo capacity with 71 cubic feet vs 59.5 but that hardly makes the Saab’s space non-useable. And to counter this, the Saab can tow up to 1,600kg behind it whereas the Subaru can only cope with 1,360kg.

Things you get on my specced Saab that I couldn’t load onto the Suuby even if I tried:

  • Active head restraints on the front seats
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Memory settings for the front seats
  • Night Panel
  • Profiler System
  • Chilled glove box
  • Rear 12V power outlet
  • Xenon headlamps
  • Cornering headlamps
  • Parking assistance
  • Self-levelling suspension
  • 3-point safety belts in the rear seats
  • Headlamp washers

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I’ve not driven an Outback for some time, but I did drive a brand new Subaru Forrester earlier this week and it didn’t leave a good impression. The doors felt light and insubstantial, the seats were not comfortable and in no way anywhere near as good as Saab seats.

I know that we sometimes rag on Saab for some of the interior materials inside the 9-3 but it’s all relative. Any 9-3 would have been better than the brand new Forrester I sat in the other day. I’m sure the finish of a premium model Outback would be better than what I experienced, but not that much better.

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The Saab 9-3x is more expensive than the Subaru Outback. That much we know. But comparing them on just a few dot points does the Saab an injustice. If I’d compared the two based on just price, leather and engine power then the Suuby would make the Saab look crazy.

But a deeper look reveals that with the Saab you do actually get more for your money.

Subaru have grown successfully over the years because they have a good product at a good price point. Many of the people who are looking for an Outback/ 9-3x type vehicle have a basic utilitarian concept of motoring in mind when they shop and the Subaru will do just fine for them.

The challenge for Saab is to target the buyers who want a little bit more from their utilitarian vehicle and prove to them that a Saab 9-3x is worth the extra money.

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