A little Christmas gift

When I give gifts at Christmas, I generally don’t give the person something menial. I don’t give socks, for instance. Not that I’ve got anything against receiving socks. It’s tedious having to go out and buy them, so perhaps the gift I’m really receiving isn’t the socks, but the relief from having to go and get more. But I digress.

Whan I give a gift, it’s something that I, as a friend or family member, want that person to have. Because I think it’ll bring them some happiness, or expand their horizons a bit. It’s a lofty goal and it doesn’t always work out, but it makes things interesting.

When I wrote a post called fuel economy is from the devil last month, I knew I’d upset a few people. It was a spur of the moment thing. I was annoyed about a couple of comments that damned Saab to hell purely for the sake of a couple of mpg’s. I thought about it for 5 minutes out on the back steps (getting a breath of ‘fresh air’) and then came inside and wrote about it.

The underlying point behind the whole post was that for me, driving my Saabs is all about the act of driving, which is one of my most favourite pastimes. Engaging in this most favourite activities in a Saab delivers more enjoyment in more situations than I can imagine any other car delivering.

It’s about versatility. Utility. Performance. Comfort. Safety. It’s about the combination of elements that Saab have been building into their cars for years.

To me, the point of ruling a Saab out or encouraging someone else to do same because they might be one or two mpg’s short of some other competitor (whilst simultaneously being several mpg’s ahead of others) means you can’t see the forest for the trees. Saabs have competitive fuel economy but they’re about so much more than that. Maybe the reason they don’t do as well as they should in reviews is because it takes an owner with some miles under their belt to understand the full panorama that is Saab’s offering.

My one little Christmas gift to you today is a pointer over to Pierre’s latest writings at the Charles River Saab blog.

Pierre takes the theory a few steps further and with similar reasoning in mind. It doesn’t make a marketer’s life any easier, but a Saab isn’t about a unique selling point. A Saab’s qualities are hard to measure with numbers because they hinge on the total package, they way it entertains, endures, protects.

For me, it’s reassuring to know that a guy I have so much time and respect for “got it” – even if I annoyed him at first 🙂

Enjoy. It may not be what you wanted for Christmas, but hopefully it’s a surprise that you might find useful.

68 thoughts on “A little Christmas gift”

  1. Merry Christmas Steven, and thank you for your excellent work with this blog! 😀
    While it probably is in the middle of the day at your place in Tasmania, here in Sweden it is time to go and get some sleep… 😉

  2. Swade, thanks for that little article and many thanks for making my internet experience that much mor einteresting. All the best to you at Chrsitmas and for all of us in 2011. 🙂

  3. Yes Saabs United is the giftt that keeps on giving, 5 times a day on adverage.
    Have a Saaby Christmas everyone!

    (P.S. typo in the 2nd paragragh )

  4. What a very nice christmas gift swade (and thanks to pierre also).

    That’s really what its all about…all cars need to be repaired, all cars depreciate. We drive saabs for
    reasons that are sometime hard to articulate. Here’s the comment I left on Pierre’s blog:

    I enjoyed your posting. I’ve tried many times to describe my like for saabs with my friends at work. They always mention things such as resale value, honda reliability, costs for this or that.

    I’ve seen them pay the same prices at their dealer as I do at mine. But their cars are very “un-enjoyable”.

    My Saab saved my life also one icy day. To me it is worth more than the sum of its parts or costs of repairs.

  5. Fuel economy IS important, very (nearly deadly) importent. Do not ever try to fool yourself by saying that it is not that important. I changed my car from an V70 T5/210Hp to an 9-3 SS/175Hp and saved about 20% in fuel cost, that´s important (then I became a Saab fan later on thanks to the car itself).

    If money isn´t the problem the fuel economy might be less important but that´s no guaranti. Wealthy people can be very efficient and pick the alternativ with less fuel consumtion. The 9-4X in europe is unsaleable without an Diesel. Why….guess!

    We in this comunity se things our way (The Saab way, me to) but that´s not important enough for the car maker(S). They must sell cars that can atract people for alot of money in a market of very good contender. Competetive in figures is mostly important (not to a fan) but to allmost everybody els. To ignore that then it´s dangerous.

    I know that the point was in good intention and by the way Merry Christmas to you all. Hope not stepping on anyones feet/toe here.

    • For most people, there is usually other stuff where money can be saved. Personally, I do not drink nor smoke. In Norway, those two activities make a noticable impact on one’s wallet. Here in Sweden the impact is much less, but it can still be measured. 🙂 Imagine buying cigarettes, light them on fire just so you can pollute your lungs. It is worse than burning money! (not meant as a criticism of Steven’s habit, it was just offered as an example of my frugal thinking)

      If all goes according to plan, I’ll be heading north in two day’s time. About 1800 km one way. Part of my motivation by driving rather than take an airplane, is that I am driving a Saab. I enjoy this activity. I strongly suspect I would not make these plans had I been driving a Toyota.

      4000 km… Imagine how much gasoline (well, ethanol in my case) I could have saved merely by relaxing at home.

      From Saab’s POV, of course they should strive for ‘best in class’ when it comes to mileage. And you are right, their future probably depend on it.

      From my, the enthusiast’s, POV, I just could not care less. 😛 I do keep an eye on how much soup I put into my Saab, and I cringe every time I see how much it costs, but this is the car I chose and I would choose it again. It needs a certain amount of fuel to work the way it does, and there is nothing I could have done to change that.

      That said… I did shy away from the V6. I have had some buyer’s remorse on that. I am thinking that had I removed satnav and the HUD, I would have been within reach of affording the V6. I have some serious doubts as to the usability of the satnav, specificially when it comes to map updates (and maps for countries far away, like Turkey). In addition, I believe my speedometer shows 10% too much, rendering the HUD less than useful. I now need a standalone GPS to show me updated maps and the correct speed. (worst case scenario if I am correct about the speedometer)

      • Passion costs: Snus, Suzuki TL1000R is on the fun account!

        In a Saab it´s pretty fun to drive, no question about that and I wouldn´t prefer another brand for the job but in my case in summer time. I´m driving an motorcycle and not even a supersport car can match that machine. It is unnecessary but a priority that without a thought come first in my mind. In a car it´s easier to think about costs even if it´s fun to drive.

        Nearly all the mil I spend on that (sport bike) in pure plessure and of coures unnecessary but a priority in my case. “We are out of milk” and I gladly take the bike, that´s not the case with the car I´m afraid. I´m lucky enough to have two vehicle wich is fun to drive. Full trottle drive on a MC is the same as eco driving in a car(gas costs), what would you pick in country roads. I live with both the alternative and know the answer (in my case). A big engine in a car is always greater costs but Maptune your 4 cyl Saab and you have both economy and the power. That´s great with Saab, the sheap tuning and enormous improvement of torqe ( still to come in my case).

  6. What a great piece. Thanks for the gift!

    Summed up why I drive a Saab too. Not about any one thing, but rather ‘everything’.

  7. My gas mileage usually run 5 to 10 mpg above the EPA rating. My 2008 9-3 is currently getting 24 mph city and 36 mph highway. This is with BF Goodrich g-Force Super Sport A/S H/V tires, which are not low rolling resistance tires. For me the gas mileage is a plus.

    Merry Christmas.

    • “My 2008 9-3 is currently getting 24 mph city and 36 mph highway.”

      The city figure is pretty good but the highway average is very slow. have you checked the right-hand pedal isn’t stuck? 🙂

      Sorry couldn’t resist!

      • Sorry, meant mpg. Low rolling resistance tires would get me another 1-3 mpg. So, if someone wants another 2 mpg then change tires.

        • I knew what you meant of course 🙂

          On my first 9-5, a 2.3SE from 1998, I changed from 16″ stock wheels and tyres to 17″ 225/45/17s and lost 4-5mpg instantly. It can indeed make a heck of a difference!

          • Also, I may not be getting my best mileage due to dirty fuel injectors. In the past month I have been having a problem with my 2008 9-3SS stalling on a warm restart. Thanks to the SaabCentral Forums: “Engine Rumbling/Shaking When Starting the Car”, I added a fuel injector cleaner to the gas and put in the highest octane gas by Shell. Problem is now resolved. I had been using regular gas for sometime. Funny problem. No problem with cold starts. However, go for a quick bite and let the car set for 40 minutes, then 2 seconds after starting the car it stalls. Restart the car and give it some extra gas, then the car will start. Next morning there was no problem starting up. Let the car set all day at work and no problem restarting. Anyway the problem is fixed now. My wife noted a difference in the car’s performance right away with the higher octane. I think I will stay with my 16″ wheels. Thanks.

    • Crappy cheap gas in a Saab? You MONSTER.

      All jokes aside, I put cheap gas in my old non-turbo GM900 ONCE and I swear the car was mad at me for at least three fill-ups. It had no power, no mileage, and sounded ugly.

  8. Well said Swade and Pierre – nice articles by both of you and spot on for us.

    Fuel economy does matter to us – but it is more of a bonus to owning a Saab for us. It’s the whole package that makes each of our cars a Saab… getting decent mileage out of a fun to own cars is just a kick.

    The fact that we don’t tire of driving them even when a couple of our daily drivers approached 20 years old – that they were still fun to drive matters a lot.

    A few extra MPG’s or some other feature Saab might not (yet or ever) have isn’t going to lure us away from the brand. It’s the whole package that we love and the driving experience every time we start them up.

    Anyway… Seasons greetings to all

  9. Hats off to Swade and to Pierre! Swade, deep appreciation for your labors of love for Saab and Saab enthusiasts worldwide. I agree that Pierre’s heartfelt post is an excellent Christmas gift because it captures what all long-time Saab nuts know.

    And it is definitely a challenge to market a car whose selling point is complex and subtle: A Saab does so many things so well, but not at the expense of any one attribute. It’s like raising a kid who is smart, strong, beautiful, good-hearted, brave, personable, etc., but not necessarily “the best” in any one category. It is the combination, the “more than the sum of its parts” that makes a Saab the best choice.

    I’m still convinced that the key to Saab’s marketing success lies in doing anything and everything to get potential drivers into the cars for a test drive. A Saab is so engaging and fun to drive, and “the worse the weather, the more fun the Saab,” so here in the Northern hemisphere it is a great time for a test drive.

    Saab up, and Merry Christmas!

  10. Yes, Merry Christmas to Swade and Mrs. Swade, as the Aussies will be celebrating Christmas the earliest…and then Merry Christmas to the rest of the SU community! Enjoy the time with friends and family and then may the New Year be a good one for all of you, and especially for all those who work for Saab and bring us such great cars!

  11. Steven, I think that is an EXCELLENT Christmas present. Back in 2009 when the opportunity to purchase my Turbo X presented itself one of the things that was in my mind was that it would suck down more fuel than my 9-3 Aero. But to me the thrill of driving the Turbo X far outstripped any reduction in fuel economy. And believe me, the thrill of driving the Turbo X is incredible compared to the 9-3 Aero.

    But that is not the end of the story. Much to my surprise, I get a full three miles per gallon better gas mileage with the Turbo X than I was getting with the 9-3 Aero. So it is not always a trade off between “wow” and gas mileage.

    The bottom line for Saab, though, is that if they want to be a premium brand with Honda or Toyota fuel economy they might as well have shuttered the doors last year, because the propensity of those who’s primary concern is fuel economy are going to be to buy a less-than-premium automobile. Premium buyers want decent fuel economy but demand performance.

    If I were in the market today (in the USA) for a 9-3 class vehicle, I would either look at a vehicle from another manufacturer or not purchase a vehicle at all. The current 9-3 offerings (lack of six cylinder turbo) does not have the performance I would be looking for.

    That is not to say that Saab should not be offering vehicles that the fuel economy conscious would want to buy. I believe STRONGLY that they need to offer versions of the 9-3 using 4 turbo-charged cylinders providing outstanding fuel economy and commit to producing a Mini type vehicle that offers performance AND fuel economy at a lower price. (BTW..my daughter owns a 2006 Mini cabrio that ROCKS). But ultimately Saab survives by capturing the mind of the premium buyer, and they demand performance.

    Just my two cents.

  12. So here I sit, thinking about my obsession with Saabs, and it hits me. A perfect Saab tagline:

    Jack of All Trades, Master of Fun.

  13. I got into cars through American muscle cars…so yeah, fuel economy numbers are totally useless to me. I learned a long time ago that the best cars, the cars you really enjoy, are never going to have the highest MPG in their class. I don’t care. I’ll take the car I enjoy driving and then laugh at the dummy who bought the boring, creaky car just because the sticker says it gets two more MPG (and well ALL KNOW how ACCURATE those sticker numbers are). I mean, I stand on the gas wherever I go anyway, so I’m never going to get those mileages.

    Does anyone care how much mileage a Lancia Stratos gets? No, because it’s the coolest car ever. Does anyone care how much mileage a Citroen DS gets? No, because it’s got the most appropriate name ever. Does anyone care how much mileage a ’64 Lincoln Continental gets? No, because you feel like the President when you drive it. Does anyone care how much mileage a Civic gets? A Corolla? An Elantra? Yes, because those cars are so useless that they damn well better get great mileage, because that’s about all they have going for them.

    • +1 on the cars you mentioned!
      But if the car can consume less and still stay fast, it can´t be a bad thing?

      • It would be a very good thing, of course, but how often does that happen? Sure, advancing engine technology means more efficiency, but it’s a slow process. To compete with competitors in the short term, the only way to meaningfully increase mileage is to detune the engine. That’s no fun at all. Long-term is totally different.

  14. I’m getting between 100 and 150 miles on a tank, about 9-12 miles a gallon depending on how cold it is and how long I’m stationary with the heating on here in the chilly north east. I am being punished with points too from the DMV so I admit responsibility for not being as eco friendly as I could be. Still it’s hard to believe you’re getting better mileage than in the aero. I love the turbox and the performance far outweighs everything else but the mileage is at best average.

    • many years ago, I had a Ford Escort RS2000 witha crazy Stage 3 engine in it that came from a smashed up rally car belonging to a friend of mine. I was lucky that I blew my engine up just on the same weekend he totalled his car.

      With the engine transplanted, complete with twin 48 Weber carbs, I managed a very un-ecofriendly 9mpg, like you. The challenge was that the car had a miniscule 9 gallon tank, meaning that this car, if driven for pleasure (and it was hard not to ALL the time 😀 ) was merely a quick and fun way to get from one petrol station to another!

      Goodness I wish I still had it though!

  15. Hm, interesting points of view from both Steve and Pierre. A car is for many of us a bit like a bed. You’re going to spend a lot of time in it, so you’d better get something that you enjoy. But, and this has come up I think during the ad competition already, Saab is also about responsible performance. I think we would all be lying if we said that we didn’t care about that nice Saab torque! But we are getting it while still getting reasonable mileage. Why should we care about mileage? Amongst other things Pierre seems to enjoy chocolate (so do I, btw) but he doesn’t want to care where the cocoa comes from. This is wrong! If the cocoa is farmed and processed through (what I would call) slave labor then it is morally not acceptable. It’s morally also not acceptable not caring about your environment, especially if you want your children to enjoy nice nature drives as much as you do. Although the evidence for global warming is not always as clear as it should be, it is better to err on the safe side and limit emissions, for instance by making cars more fuel efficient. It is also unacceptable that one part of the world is keeping the other for ransom. Unfortunately replacing gasoline fired engines by electric motors means that, at least for now, you’re going to rely on Lithium. So, you going to be held for ransom by another part of the world.
    It’s very difficult to find a balance between your moral conscience and the beast in you that enjoys mashing the throttle. At least with a Saab you can enjoy yourself while still not burning too much oil. The Saab engineers are, with the new turbo diesels, showing that you can have a reasonable frugal and clean means of transportation that can still push you back hard in your seat if you want it to. I’m pretty certain this parallel development of increased efficiency and high performance will continue.

    OK, this is getting a bit too heavy on Christmas Eve day! Let’s add a couple of lighter notes.
    SaabsUnited is the gift that keeps on taking. I spent way too much time reading SU than my work permitted. SaabsUnited is the great procrastination tool!
    It’s been a long year, but all the (mostly) intelligent discussions on SU have made it a bit more bearable.
    Swade, a very Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. Swade (you’d better hide his computer for a couple of days, though).
    To all my Saab mates at SaabsUnited, Merry Christmas and don’t forget to hug your Saab on Christmas Day.
    Best Wishes from a blustery cold Long Island.

  16. I must have missed all this business about fuel economy, as an earlier poster noted a stick 9-3 ss will do 34-36 highway and 28 city, These numbers are much better than the US government has come up with. I don’t get it. There is a huge saving, say between a car that gets only 17MPG and one that does 34MPG, but if we are talking about the savings between 35 and 37, that discussion is silly, as it only a few percentage points.
    Be that as it may, let us all take time to thank God that our little car company is still running around selling cars, and encourage Santa to deliever as many as he can tomorrow night. Merry Christmas everyone
    Chris in sunny Arizona

  17. Well…this is part of makes Saab a Saab for me….it’s always better in real life than in the specsheets…..it uses less fuel in real life since the way of measuring the consumption values (be it MPG or l/100km) is flawed and does not make use of the turbocharging benefits.

    The seats might feel ok or even good on a quick test drive, but when you drive from Trollhättan down to the middle of Germany around 600 miles with only stretching your legs
    on the ferry between Denmark and Germany and still feel ok when you arrive, you know the seats are the best you’ve ever sat in

    It’s if you ever have the good luck of stepping out of your crashed Saab and think to yourself that choosing the Saab over whatever other brand was a smart choice, despite the Euro or US NCap ratings of 5 stars that all cars now achieve….becuase Saab builds their cars for real life, not to max out the ratings in a crash test….

  18. Thanks alot for all your great efforts for the SAAB community this year, Swade! I am wishing you, your family and all SAAB enthusiasts in here a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🙂

    It will be a somewhat spesial Christmas for me this year since my father passed aways last weekend. He has always been a devoted SAAB enthusiast and SAAB owner throughout his whole life. R.I.P.

    See you all next year, friends!

    Cheers from Norway
    Always on the longest road home when out there with my SAAB. Always!

  19. Thanks, Steven, for the kind words, and to your readers who happen by my blog now and again. A Merry Christmas to you and yours, and the the world-wide SU community!

  20. Merry Christmas to you SW and the entire Saab community. My heart goes out to you Olav – I lost my dad 4 years ago this January and it stil is not easy.

    Pierre – you described the sensation of owning a Saab perfectly. I recall reading many years ago – forget where – that Saab management in the mid-1970s were convinced – even then – that if a potential customer could spend a weekend with the car – then the 99 – that it would sell itself. Back then, many folks were put off by the seemingly odd driving position – the large left wheel housing intruded so that the driver has to sit with feet planted a little to the right – the pedals are inset toward the middle of the 99. Now, of course, we know any 99 owner will tell you that it becomes second nature and one of the most comfortable cars even now to drive. I never got stuck in my 99s, they were built like tanks and as my first car, my dad always said he was happy how safe it was for a new driver.

    • Thanks, Paddan. It’s hard to be prepared for situations like this, it really is. Merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂


  21. Let’s not forget how far we have come this year.
    Last Christmas we were all in a state of shock, disbelief and mourn after the bad news from GM, and today we’re discussing fuel economy!
    SAAB IS ALIVE, that’s our Christmas miracle this year 🙂
    Merry Christmas to you Swade, to all the people in Trollhättan and to all of you on Saabs United!

  22. Happy Holidays to Swade and the entire Saabs United community! May the next year bring everyone happiness and good health… and plenty of quality time in your Saab!

  23. Swade, you need to give a pair of CASHMERE socks. These are not menial. CASHMERE socks are the best. Regular low quality socks-cheap guy. Like a Tata Nano-menial. Saab convertible-non menial. Merry Christmas.

  24. Merry christmas to everyone.

    We’ve come a long way this year and hopes are high that 2011 will bring even more archievements.

  25. Merry X-mas Swade and everyone else here at SU ,it has been a very interesting year and the next year will be even more promising with the NG9-5 wagon.


  26. I enjoyed reading Pierre’s piece. Some folk just have a gift when it comes to expressing the almost intangible aspects of Saab ownership – I believe a certain Steven Wade also possesses this talent.

    Here in Scotland we are into the first hour of Christmas day, others are already somewhat further ahead with still more waiting for the day to arrive; whichever category you fall into I hope your Christmas wishes are granted and that you have a very enjoyable time.

  27. Woke up this morning and checked to see if there was a brand new shiny saab….unfortunately there wasn’t…..O well…with hopefully an upgraded 9-3 (current model, does anyone know if the current ones are coming down here?), new 9-5, 9-3x and 9-4x all coming to Australia next year…maybe there will be one parked outside christmas morning 2011 :).

  28. a merry christmas all saabers .I think driving a saab is about a number of things,like scandinavian design,safety,but also care for the enviroment so fuel usage does matter to me.It doesent have to be best in class,but it does need to be reasonable and i speak as an owner of many saabs over the 20 odd years of being a saab nut.one of the attractions for me was good performance for reasonable fuel consumption and it still remains that today amongst saab cars other attributes. anyway enough about mpg and I wish Swade and family and all saab nuts a happy holiday, cheers all.

  29. Whenever my Saab ends up with a too low mpg mileage (short distance city traffic: down to 20 mpg in the worst case) , I do not feel disappointed but I feel sorry for my car that I do not drive it in an appropriate manner (long distance motorway at medium to high speeds: 25 to 30 mpg)
    So it is not the car’s fault but mine… 😉

    Anyway the mileage is in the same range as the one of my very first car (a Renault 5 back in 1979) which had ONE THIRD of the horsepower of my Saab! And one third of the size 😉

  30. My two cents on power and fuel consumption.
    For all the decades I’ve been around Saabs I’ve honestly never met a person who’ve been excited about the base 96, 99, 900, 9000 or 9-5 engines. Sure they’ve been reliable and appreciated by owner over time but to get some excitement out of people you’d needed an APC car with at least 175hp.
    A Saab that doesn’t have an engine able to provide the numbers and ‘I want the Saab’ feeling will have a hard time convincing buyers of it its other qualities (just read the reviews for the NG9-5). To be premium is not only about durability and reliability that grows on you over the years but also what’s on paper.
    Young boys going through car magazines (dreaming of their future cars down the line) look at those hp figures and form their opinions about car at a very early age. Those who know anything about marketing or psychology know how difficult is to alter perceptions later on. This is why the Germans are so successful. They are just associated to power and prestige.

    I myself still remember admiring the first MB 600 SEC like it was yesterday. That’s how you start building a premium image. I’m living with two boys in their late teens and the only thing that really moves them when it comes to Saab, is when they see these beautiful tuned 9-3/9000/9-5s. What a shame cars like that can’t be ordered from the factory. Fuel consumption for those types of cars isn’t relevant. It’s like someone said ”- If you can afford a 500hp car, low fuel consumption is just about the last thing on your mind”.
    As we all know boys will be boys regardless how old they are.

    My condolences to Olav and Ted for your losses.

    • See, if young boys (or girls) get into cars at all, the parents did something right. However, if they just drool over numbers and can’t appreciate cars that are interesting for reasons besides price and speed, the parents did something totally wrong.

      I’m going to get my kids into weird stuff like AMC Eagles and Alpines, not to mention Saabs.

      • However, if they just drool over numbers and can’t appreciate cars that are interesting for reasons besides price and speed, the parents did something totally wrong.

        LOL! Tell that to a guy who turns 17 shortly and hasn’t been raised in the wilderness without electricity 😉

  31. On this Christmas day, I am grateful for my family, my Saabs, and this Website (and Swade too).


    88 900S, 88 900t, 97 9K Aero, 99 9-5, 2006 Sportcombi Aero

  32. You read that article and you find yourself agreeing-yeah its a SAAB and it is was it is-simple. nor more information needed once you are happy with what you have got…but what if you still don’t know the secret Then you find yourself thinking about where saab are right now and then you think perhaps they should shout about their class leading innovations-Saab could fight on both fronts-and fight they need to-their survival depends upon it.

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