Driving (and making sense of) the Saab 9-3x

Whilst chilling out in Trollhattan a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of driving a Saab 9-3x for a few days. There were a lot of them being driven around Trollhattan at the time and they made for a great sight on the road.

I should bring up some recent news from Trollhattan at this point, where the local dealership is talking about the recent demand for the 9-3x. This comes from TTELA and was translated by ctm (thanks!):

Great interest for 9-3x at home

Since the Trollhättan built Saab 9-3x was launched a few weeks ago, it quickly found its place on the market as a family car that can withstand tough conditions and has a higher IMG_2281.jpg ground clearance than the standard 9-3.

Lennart Andersson is the sales manager at Saab Ana in Trollhättan. He is delighted and describes the customers interest in the new model as substansial.

– Absolutely. We delivered they first one already two weeks ago, after the launch weekend. And there are many who wants to look at it, he says.

According to Lennart Andersson, the interest for the model can clearly be compared with launches of previous Saab models.

– To date we have sold about 20 cars, he says on Monday afternoon.

10 cars a week, from one model at one dealership. In Saab terms, that’s pretty good going. And having driven the 9-3x recently, I can see why.

Ever since it came on the scene back in 2005, I’ve said that the Saab 9-3 SportCombi was my favourite Saab in the current range and the one I’d buy if I were looking and able to buy a new car. So do we say that’s changed completely or just shifted a little if I afford that status to the Saab 9-3x?

I can’t put my finger on it, but this vehicle just works.

It’s extremely comfortable to drive, looks great, and the changes they’ve made to the car are seamless. It feels just like driving a normal SportCombi (as it should), but one with a serious utilitarian streak.

Dave and I took it just north of Trollhattan (I think it was north) to a little spot popular with walkers and cross country skiiers and whilst we didn’t do anything that one would consider a serious test of the car’s clearance or roadholding, we did enjoy giving the XWD system a run with some fun on the dirt.

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This track’s a long circular dirt road and we cruised it at a steady 80 km/h and felt nothing but rocksteady the whole way. We slowed a few times trying to induce some oversteer but the XWD system just wouldn’t co-operate. That might be bad news to the Clarkson’s of this world, but for those who want stability and surety, the system delivers beautifully in the 9-3x.

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My car (I like the sound of that) had the 210HP 2.0T BioPower engine and a six speed manual gearbox. Rowing the gearbox with the right hand instead of my usual left was an adventure, but one I quickly got used to and I had a ball with the car by the end of my time with it.

The twin exhaust system is subtle but has a nice growl when you plant the wellies. It’s a great piece of standard kit. And speaking of standard, the tougher plastic body panel parts, titan fibre interior trim, alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, integrated roof rails, heated seats and raised body-levelling chassis all make for good standard kit, too.

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I don’t want to get on the wrong side of 2006+ Saab 9-3 owners, but in the Saab 9-3x, the 9-3 interior finally makes sense. I’ve been critical of the 9-3’s interior materials before and I still think anyone who forks out the money for a 9-3 ought to save up a little extra for the Hirsch leather dash (FWIW, Dave’s got the Hirsch leather in his Turbo X and reckons it’s worth every penny).

The interior of the 9-3 makes sense in the 9-3x, however.

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This is more of a workman-like car and Saab have dressed it with a more workman-like interior in which the basic black of the 9-3 dash looks to be right in place. The seats are trimmed in a leather and cloth combination that’s warm, comfortable and of course, retains all the Saab comfort you’re used to.

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At the end of four days I was pretty sad to hand the 9-3x back to the good people at Saab.

Many people say that Subaru is the new Saab, and I guess you can say that the 9-3x is Saab doing a bit of a Subaru.

They’ve done it mighty well if you ask me. I’ve spent some time in Suubys (like all day today) and the 9-3x has all of the surefootedness, all of the utility, much better looks, comfort and ride. It asks a premium over a Suuby but that’s because it’s a better drive.

I just hope Saab get to push this one hard in the marketplace. Given the opportunity, it really will win a few hearts and minds.

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Wednesday Snippets – EOM edition

CAR Magazine (the print edition) has a good story about the whole Saab sale affair, though of course it doesn’t take into account recent mumblings about EIB loans and the like.
It does have an optimistic view, however, highlighted by this little graphic I’ve reproduced below.
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Thanks to PT for the scan!
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The Norwegian news service Aftonposten did a survey with a difference recently.
It wasn’t long ago that we read from a German survey that Saab owners are the most passionate about their brand, and it seems from this new survey that we exhibit that passion in practical ways.
Owners of these cars wash their cars the most often:

  • Saab
  • BMW
  • Audi
  • Volvo
  • Ford

Owners of these cars wash their car seldom:

  • Suzuki
  • Skoda
  • Mitsubishi
  • Toyota
  • Renault
  • Hyundai
  • Opel

Thanks Edonis! And it’s a timely reminder that my Monte is filthy and needs a clean, too 🙁
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Being the 30th of the month today, that means we’ll have a whole bunch of statistics coming out by the end of the week.
I’ll kick off by revealing that I think this might be the first month that I know of where the site has averaged over 100 comments per day. There were 3,007 comments for the month when I looked earlier today, and there’s still a few hours to go before we tick over in to October.
Huzzah!
It’s been a very significant month for the site and more importantly, for Saab, and tomorrow’s stats posting will include a listing of the most important articles for the month. There really was some important stuff there.
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Whilst talking comments, and in the interests of transperancy, I have to add with some regret that I’ve recently had to ban one commenter. This decision was not taken easily and was only made after numerous attempts to reconcile problems via email were unsuccessful.
It’s only the second time I’ve had to do this in five years of blogging, so thanks to everyone for making TS/SU a good place to hang out (for fellow readers) and a good place to manage (for me).
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The Saab 9-X Air was at the museum when I visited recently, but must have been shipped north immediately afterwards as it’s just completed a visit to a Saab dealer in Umea. northern Sweden.
I’m sure all the design school kids got a kick out of that! And out of the Saab snacks tht were served.
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State of Nine offers new international shipping service

If you live outside of the United States, you’ll know that shipping goods from there can be expensive. If, however, you can combine shipping items, it’s often a much more affordable cost relative to the value of goods purchased.
Site sponsor and Saab accessories specialists, State of Nine, realise that whilst they offer great shipping rates inside the US (with shipping being free of charge for many items) shipping can be a barrier for some international customers.
That’s why they’ve teamed up with Bongo International…..

Bongo provides parcel and mail forwarding to international customers.
You simply set up a US mailing address through Bongo, have your items shipped there (taking advantage of our great US shipping rates), then tell Bongo when to ship you your items. You have the versatility of shopping at as many stores as you want, and then having everything ship to you at once, drastically reducing your international shipping costs. This process can save you up to 82% off of international shipping rates.
Our customers are always looking for better options to shipping our unique products internationally and we are happy to offer this new service to our loyal Saab customers.

So if you’re an internet shopper, you can get your Ebay, Amazon and State of Nine purchases all forwarded to the Bongo address in the US, and then get Bongo to forward the one shipment to you at a time of your choosing.
Check here to check out Bongo and their services a little more.
….and click here to check out State of Nine’s great range of Saab accessories, including a great range of Hirsch Performance gear for your Saab.

Swade’s theory of used car value

This may turn out to be a pointless distraction, but I had to get it down on ‘paper’ while I was thinking of it.
Yesterday I got a call from the buyer of my former MX-5. He was driving the car up to Newcastle, which is a pretty long trip, and got stuck. The car was running like a dream, which I was always confident it would, but after a stop for some lunch the immobiliser grew a mind of its own.
The immobiliser’s indicator light usually flashes or remains ‘on’ to show that it’s either functioning or disengaged. After their lunch stop, there was no light and no response when he pressed the remote control. That would be OK if it stopped working with the car still being able to start. Unfortunately, it stopped functioning with the car immobilised, hence he was calling me to see if there was another kill-switch or similar device (which there isn’t).
I’m not sure what the outcome was, but I assume they managed to get it going again as I haven’t received another call. It may have cost them some money, though, as they had to get some sort of roadside assistance even before they called me.
All of this brought to mind a theory I’ve had for some time. A theory about used cars. The theory is this:

A used car will be worth X dollars, given its model, age, mileage and condition. If you spend less than X dollars on purchasing this car (i.e. you get a perceived bargain), there is a very high likelihood that you’ll make up the difference in repair or replacement of problem parts.

In the case of the Mazda, I really believe it was worth the $9,500 I had it advertised for when I first started selling it. I dropped the price by $1,000 after I purchased the 99T in order to facilitate a quick sale.
I’ve found that my theory of used cars has an almost karmic quality to it, in that it’s rarely failed to prove itself even with cars in great condition (such as the Mazda). The only car I’ve genuinely got at a cheaper price than what I saw as market value – and haven’t had anything to repair urgently – is my Monte Carlo. And maybe my Alfa 33.
Other than those, I’ve owned about a dozen cars over the years and this theory has always proved true.

Koenigsegg Group may not get full EIB loans

When Bard Eker let slip some comments earlier this week, it sounded like there was trouble because of some backroom dealings involving Mark Bishop and a cast of other shady characters.

Eker claimed he was mis-quoted and we covered the topic extensively here at SU, but maybe the urgency of his concerns was more related to this issue of EIB loans.

First reported in DI.se and covered also by Reuters, we learn the following:

Ailing Swedish car firm Saab, being sold by General Motors [GM.UL], may not get the full 4.3 billion Swedish crown ($612 million) loan it has asked for from the European investment Bank (EIB), daily Dagens Industri wrote on Tuesday, quoting an unnamed source.

The loan is key to plans by luxury car maker Koenigsegg to buy Saab, but the EIB is doubtful whether some of the group’s projects to develop environmentally friendly technology are within its remit for lending. The EIB could lend Saab much less than the car maker wants, the paper wrote.

“There are questions about whether a number of development projects fit with the EIB’s rules for lending,” the paper quoted a source with insight into the process saying.

As you know, these EIB funds are crucial to this deal going through. Koenigsegg Group signed a share purchase agreement with General Motors to purchase Saab but one of the conditions attached to that agreement with the successful application for this loan.

What happens to the deal if the amount is reduced is a question I’m a little fearful of contemplating at this point in time. It’d be difficult for the deal to proceed and with a GM deadline of December 31 hanging over Saab’s head, well, things wouldn’t look good.

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Even if Koenigsegg get the loan guarantees and the loan that they’re after, it could be some time before the funds come through.

From SvD and translated by ctm:

Since Koenigsegg Group submitted its loan application for 400 million euros, the European Investment Bank, EIB, has worked on evaluating it. In about three weeks time, on October 21, the EIB will make a decision – yes or no. But this applies only at further detailed negotiations. This means that Koenigsegg Group and Saab may have to wait for the money until next year.

– “The Board may, in October, give its approval for a continuation of detailed negotiations on financial contracts, but I can not say how long it takes before any money can be paid out. It can take months,” says Eva Srejber, Vice President at the EIB.

And then there’s the ever-present Joran Hagglund from the Ministry of Industry:

According to Jöran Hägglund, the business plan has been stress tested on several occasions, which means testing it under different economic conditions. But he would not respond to what stress tests have shown so far.

The EIB demands that any loan will contribute to better environmental technologies and road safety. Currently, the EIB looks at the business plan and makes a thorough review. The government believes it is important that Saab can be competitive in a number of markets in order to guarantee the loan.

– “Our starting-point is that we will be finished with our work and make an agreement with Koenigsegg [Group] before the bank makes its decision three weeks from now.”

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Christian von Koenigsegg remained cautiously positive yesterday, saying that talks remain positive on acquiring the loans and guarantees, and that their plan is still to finalise the deal by the end of October.

When it’s reporters talking amongst themselves and theorising, I don’t mind taking them on and trying to maintain some perspective and positivity. But the amount of smoke emanating from Sweden right now would tend to indicate that they are treading a very fine line.

Out the back of the Saab Museum – part 1

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Sweden was a day spent with Peter Bäckströom looking around the Saab Museum.

I was accompanied on this visit by Dave R from the UK and we started the day with a great chat session, joined by Saab’s former PR guru, the now retired Christer Nilsson. Following a quick lunch, we got to drive a few of the museum’s cars (more on that later) and of course, the incredible ride we got in the Saab Sonett.

After all that, we headed into the museum itself, though not through the front entrance as the general public does. One of the things I asked Peter was whether we could have a look around the back 🙂

Saab have a great selection of cars in the museum itself, but there’s also a whole bunch of interesting cars out the back. Not all of them get out into the display area, but they’re held by the museum due to their uniqueness or their significance in Saab’s history.

Here’s a look at a few of them. We didn’t take the covers right off. There’s not enough room. We didn’t look at everything there either as there just wasn’t enough time.

Take a peek:

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There’s a Saabo caravan there, but the reason for the photo was the yellow van you see to the left.

This is an electric vehicle based on a Saab 99 that was crafted into a postal van for trial use. The reasons for it’s demise are unknown to me, but given that it was probably over thirty years ago, one could surmise that the range wasn’t quite useful enough.

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You’ve all heard of the Saab variable compression engine, right? This is the test mule in the museum.

The engine is in a black Saab 9-5. Word is that despite its impressive performance and economy characteristics, it was never developed to a stage where it could be considered refined enough for mass production and sale.

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Here’s one you mightn’t have heard of.

The 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X was Saab’s official launch vehicle for all-wheel-drive technology. Had they developed it further, the technology under this Saab 9000 could have seen AWD Saabs launched a lot sooner.

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This Saab 9000 was an ergonomic study of sorts, with traditional controls for steering replaced by a joystick in the center of the car.

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This car isn’t considered historical enough just yet.

This is the first Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan to come off the production line. In years to come your kids will be revering this car just like we revere the last Saab 96 that came off the line in 1980.

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Peter tries to get the first and last cars off the line where he can.

This is the last Saab 9000 to come out of the factory, which was made to Peter’s specifications. It’s got all the Anniversary goodies fitted and looks absolutely brilliant. This is one I could see making it on the main display right now.

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Looks like a Saab 900 from the back, right? In actual fact it’s a Saab 90 – a 900 at the back and a 99 at the front (and inside).

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This is a reproduction Saab 99 racecar they’re currently in the midst of restoring. The paintwork is unbelievable.

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One of the things that’s so great about the Saab museum is that the cars are kept as working vehicles. There’s a couple of volunteer mechanics, ex-factory technicians, who come in and keep as many of the cars working as possible.

The display cars are in very good condition, though they’re not pristine. This is a deliberate decision. The cars all have a story to tell (Peter knows them all) and to take away those marks, etc, is to deny the history of the individual cars.

They’re kept running and cleaned up where any damage is caused that takes away from the presentation, but other than that they are allowed to live a life and show that life to the public.

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Notice anything different about this red 99? Maybe the next photo will give it away.

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Yes, it’s a Saab 900 test vehicle. The extended section was needed to accommodate the longer front end of the 900 compared to the 99.

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Another couple of photos of a special Saab 99. This one’s an estate wagon. Thank goodness they made the Combi Coupe instead.

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This interior belongs to a very early Saab 99 that the museum has recently acquired. I’m not sure that it’s particularly significant, but it will be a great example once it’s restored and ready for display.

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Christian von Koenigsegg speaks: Eker, the Saab deal and BAIC

It’s good to see Christian von Koenigsegg in the media today, especially given the recent articles out of Norway that cast some doubts over the whole deal.

CvK has done a brief interview with Sweden’s SvD news service, which has been translated for our benefit by ctm.

In the interview, he talks about the work they’re doing, the speculations, the group and a little about the partnership with Beijing Automotive.

Enjoy…..

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“Saab a major sacrifice”

Far from a finalized deal. Christian von Koenigsegg, CEO Koenigsegg Group, denies the rumors of trouble in the group of investors that are to take over Saab Automobile from GM. But the protracted affair is starting to affect the CEO.

– “It is a great sacrifice of time, money, resources, and brands,” he told SvD Näringsliv.

It is evident that the past so enthusiastic entrepreneurs behind Koenigsegg Group no longer manages to always keep up the positive attitude. This weekend Bård Eker, the Norwegian businessman and owner of the Koenigsegg Group, went out in the Norwegian media and talked about an ongoing ownership split in the group that could threaten the whole affair. But according to Christian von Koenigsegg, who talked with Bård Eker, he is misquoted in the newspapers.

– “There is absolutely no fight amongst the owners in the Koenigsegg Group.”

Bård Eker said that ‘if not everything is in place by Wednesday, we are out.’ But where he or the newspapers got Wednesday as the end date is something Christian von Koenigsegg do not know.

– “What we’ve noticed with this deal is that it is very media intense and arouses a huge interest. We can not go out and talk about the details on a daily basis. We need to focus on our deal,” he says and believes that it leaves some room for speculations and misunderstandings.

There are still a number of parallel processes running. Among other things, there is the important loan of just over 4 billion SEK from the European Investment Bank, EIB, in about three weeks time. First, however, the National Debt Office must provide a loan guarantee to the EIB.

– “Both the bank and the Debt Office receives constant information from us and Saab on what happens, and we respond to their questions when they request more information.”

Although there are many milestones left, Koenigsegg Group looks at them as formalities. Christian von Koenigsegg stresses that all parties involved have the same goal of bringing the deal together at the end of October or early November.

He, who previously sounded so hopeful and so positive, is a little bit more stressed today but do not think the Koenigsegg Group will pull out of the deal.

– “I would not say. But then we have the situation that the conditions have to be sufficiently interesting for us to make the deal. It is a great sacrifice of time, money, resources, and brands,” he says, but points out that they have come a long way so far and that conditions are ‘reasonable’.

Have the conditions changed lately?

– That I would not say either, but it is a negotiation between different parties and everyone have to agree. It is a process that requires a lot of resources,” he says, adding that they are on the track.

The loan that Saab needs from the EIB is mainly intended for new environmental technologies. Without going into details about what environmental technologies the company will develop, Christian von Koenigsegg says that it is an important part of the business plan that the group has presented and that is now being evaluated by the EIB.

Koenigsegg Group has signed a letter of intent with Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings, BAIC, on having them as a minority owner of the Koenigsegg Group to cover up the missing part of the capital needed. But the size of BAIC’s interest is still unclear.

– “We have not gone out with a precise number. It is important to note that they are minority shareholders. They can not control Koenigsegg Group in any way, but they are a partner with the rest of us,” says Christian von Koenigsegg, who do not want to say if BAIC has covered the 3 billion SEK previously missing according to estimates.

– “The fact that 3 billion SEK is missing does not come from us. We said that we saw a bit missing in the business plan which was around 30 percent and we saw the need for multiple parties to solve it. And the parties were GM, Koenigsegg Group, and the government – but the government declined, and then we found the third partner in the BAIC.”

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Thanks again to ctm!

Saab and Sony Ericsson at the Frankfurt Motor Show

SonyEricssonSaabComp.JPG Here’s something I didn’t know about prior to it happening and it looks like something that would have been a bit of fun, too.
Saab and Sony Ericsson teamed up (theoretically) to do some interactive work between phone and car on the Saab 9X BioHybrid and Saab 9X Air concept vehicles (video here and here).
Last week they also ran a competition at the Frankfurt Motor Show, where people were asked to share their view of Saab using pictures taken on a Sony Ericsson C905 Cyber-shot phone.
Ok, so they’re cell phone pictures and lack a bit of color and contrast, but some of the results are pretty good.
There’s a site set up specifically for the competition and you can view the results here.
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My thanks to Alexandros for the heads up!

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