SAAB of the week – Saab 9-3 Sport Wagon

Hi, during the Easter weekend we received a nice story of a typical profile of an Audi A4 or BMW 3 series buyer in England, at least that’s what he calls himself.

It’s the story of somebody with great taste, if you study his the cars he’s owned.

Among others there was a beauty like this.

And so begins his quest for a Saab.

First of all let me introduce my self, my name is Barrie Lever, I am a 48 year old manufacturing consultant from southern England, I have had a life long interest in cars and have owned quite a number of cars, the more interesting cars that I have owned in order of interest (most interesting last),

  • Ford Cortina GT’s
  • Ford Capri 3 litre
  • Reliant Scimitar
  • Lancia Thema turbo
  • Porsche 944 (which I still own)
  • Lancia Delta Integrale 8V

I am now the proud owner of a Saab 9-3 Sport Wagon (Combi), I do feel that the above listing of cars does give me an insight into some interesting and one iconic car.

I probably fit the typical profile for an Audi A4 or BMW 3 series buyer in England, especially considering that the car I had before my new Saab was an A4 Avant (B6 platform). I must admit to driving past a nice Saab garage in Cambridge, during the time of GM saying that Saab would close, thinking all of those poor people are going to be out of work, from the dealers to the distributors to all of the people back in Sweden manufacturing the cars.

Things seemed to get better for Saab in the summer of 2010, I started to hear adverts on the local radio for Saab cars with very low emissions and zero tax (UK market),

It seems like the Zero Hero PR has had, at least, a small effect on sales in the UK.

This advert was tempting enough for me to venture into my local Saab dealer who are Southampton Saab, the salesman was attentive and showed me the 9-3 TTid4, I recognized many Saab features in the car, but at that stage took the negotiations no further.

However by February of 2011 I was drawn to thinking about the Saab 9-3 again, I carried out a lot of internet research, some of the reports were positive some negative. I returned to Southampton Saab and initially looked at used 9-3 Sportwagon’s however none of the cars that I looked at were quite right for me, I can be very fussy and detail is important to me.

I liked the way the cars drove and many of the features, eventually the salesman at Southampton Saab who is named Luke Oswald and myself started to talk about new 9-3’s, after some discussion we agreed a price for a new 9-3 1.9 TTid4 Sportwagon Aero. I collected the car on the 25th March and immediately set off on a business trip!

So here it is, his Saab 9-3 SC Aero TTiD4.

I must admit, that the 9-3 isn’t the only car I like from that list, but it also shows that people with good taste for cars do often like Saab cars. 🙂

But his story is not over. He also has a very good analysis of the 9-3 and of Saab in general in the luxury segment.

Why I think that Saab should succeed and where Saab sits against the German premium brands IMO.

During my time of Audi ownership, I often got to drive brand new A3’s, A4’s and A6’s whilst my car was being serviced or repaired. Audi’s are very good cars, having a good all round performance and super interior finishes.

I have not driven any modern 3 series BMW’s, however I have been a passenger in a 2011 BMW 320, again interior finishes were very good and the car seemed to drive well.

Clearly the Saab 9-3 is a car that has evolved over the years, the unique styling of the Sportwagon has insulated the car from looking too dated. The latest TTiD4 engines set the 9-3 at the top of the class in terms of performance, that alone is not enough to help Saab get to the next stage in their survival.
I have been impressed by the exterior finish on my 9-3, the paintwork is absolutely fantastic, I know a company who supply finished body panels to Porsche for the £164,000 911 GT2 RS and these panels do not have such a good finish as the Saab 9-3!. All panel fits on the 9-3 are good with tight gaps.

Inside the car is the only area where the 9-3 does not compete head on with the premium German brands, I would say the quality of trim is more like a Volkswagen Passat than A4 or 3 series. However where the interior is a whole step up on the German brands is ‘Ergonomics’. Quite simply the 9-3 Aero is the most comfortable car I have ever driven without being like a ‘soft whale’, the seating and steering adjustments allow for perfect adjustment. All control’s are well placed and logical. There are neat interior features such as the handbrake, with release catch on the underside not the end, at first you think this Saab just being quirky for quirky’s sake, however the 9-3 handbrake release catch is much more natural than a normal button on the end of the handbrake lever. The privacy screen over the boot area has a neat ability to raise up higher by just tapping it, loading is made easier and then the screen is pulled back and down into its normal position, a nice feature.

The driving experience with the 9-3 Aero is great, it puts a smile on my face every time that I drive it, the economy is good, however if you decide to let the car off the leash then it has a great surging turbo performance, matched by very powerful brakes and sure handling.

So I feel that the 9-3 offers great value for money, the quality of the manufacture of Saab in 2011 is top notch and the factory should be very proud of their product and input. Saab clearly have talent and a DNA that is worth preserving, they need to be independent of constraints as occurred during the GM days, however they also need partners to develop platforms and power trains.

Saab marketing needs to work on the connection with Hirsch, I think that nurturing this association will pay dividends in the long run. Hirsch to Saab should be something like AMG with Mercedes or ‘M’ with BMW. In the short term Hirsch could be used to get over some of the interior trim issues of the standard cars and offer truly class beating performance with engine upgrades, this is mentioned in the Saab dealer ships in England however branding and activity should be much more visible.

Sales figures are often talked about and that the Spyker people have been over optimistic on sales figures. I would like to draw people attentions to the March 2011 UK sales figures for Saab and BMW, Saab sold 1766 cars and BMW just over 17000, that makes Saab run at about 10% of BMW, now translate that against BMW’s worldwide sales for 2010 of 1.22M cars and you can see that the Spyker figures might not have been so crazy if all markets would perform.

The Saab heritage and brand should be worked for all it is worth at the moment, the brand still has a great value in the English market and probably else where. A presence in motorsport would be beneficial, although budget constraints would probably make this a low key entry at the moment. Maybe there could be a Formula Saab using the TTiD4 engines in a car something like a current Formula 3, the winning prize could be a funded drive in a higher Formula, that would get interest among aspiring drivers.

If Saab where to fail it would be a real tragedy for the workers in Sweden, for all of the people involved in the Worldwide Saab supply chain and also for customers being denied the opportunity for a real viable alternative premium choice that stands out from the crowd.

Yet another set of reasons why Saab should and will survive. 🙂

And one small remark to those that don’t believe in the sales figures from Saab. Saab has created a business model based on 1/10th of the sales of BMW or Audi, so maybe in some markets Saab will be able to outperform those other brands, but in most markets Saab will only sell just that 1/10th of the sales of either Audi or BMW. If you want a more comparable brand, in terms of sales amount, you should compare Saab with Jaguar, they are both on a similar level.

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Lancia Delta? And why not a Saab-Lancia 600? :p


Interesting read on something good that came from Saab or should I say, that was “born from jets”.


Yes, that´s pretty cool.
Leaves google earth faar behind.
But the text mentiones Nokia as the pioneer user of the system?
The swedish search engine has used it for a couple of years.
And as a Saabinista one can virtually visit the Saab production plant in Trollhättan!!
Search for :
Saabvägen 1, TROLLHÄTTAN
and discover how the houses builds up in 3D in front of your eyes.
Mailed this as a tip to Swade some time ago, but he didn´t make anything out of it… ;-(
🙂 Probably lots of other mails crashing in on him. 🙂


Always nice to see another SC on the road…. no matter where it is.

Combi UP!


Nice write-up, and a welcome respite.

On another positive note, another overall positive and balanced review of the 9-5 turbo4.


The current 9-3 is a wonderful car. Great choice.

Off topic. 100%Saab almost became 75%Saab this evening (I own two 9-3s). You do the math. People, turn your turn signals on before you change lanes, not after.

Great emergency braking, no loss of control, tires didn’t even squeal. This is a hard maneuver in multilane traffic. I even let the other vehicle change lanes in front of me. I don’t think i will want a wider Saab in the future. Call the current 9-3 the right size.

Just a thought.


Glad to hear you’re okay!


So nice to hear your impressions. I have been riding a Lancia Integrale and a 944 Turbo as passenger but not driven them, though I must say I keep both cars in memory as car classics, very impressive indeed. Glad you like your 9-3, the TTiD is a h**k of a car.And to my opinion it looks better exterior-wise despite its age than the A4 or 3-series. Interior trim etc is a tough match with the Germans, but then you drive – who really cares? Interesting you brought up the ergonomics, because thats actually a weak spot of the Germans.… Read more »


SC w/ ALU65s !!! Drool! Drool!

Congratulations, Barrie. Great choice!


Great choice and thanks for sharing


Excellent car! I´ve got smoke beige SC TTiD Aero w/ similar wheels. Really like the car! Now after 6 months and 12000km´s it feels just better and better! Great choice!!!

My car here
…and I really thought it was Titan grey when I bought it, because it said so on the papers. The colour code is smoke beige like someone said when I showed those pics 😀


Great piece of writing of great piece of automobile engineering.

We´ve had our TTiD SC for three years now and even though I´m probably messing with karma or something, I´ll say out loud that there has not been a single thing broken or loose or vibrating or… Just perfect reliability and quality.

Ours is Vector with the “original” SS Aero wheels – 5-spoke twin? It´s been a fun car to drive and in Jet Black it looks just gorgeous 🙂

Happy miles!!


I have to agree with everything you say regarding your new ttidAero. I have also been very impressed with my new ttid sw and am enjoying ownership of this great and very underated car. I am also from the south of England and bought my car from Astleys of Yeovil



Are you going to the Swedish meet at Haynes? Very close for you I guess.



Great choice, happy to see that even Audi drivers can change their mind haha



Well the Saab slogen “move your mind” worked for me. Not really much of an Audi driver, I would say more of a Lancia, there were at least three other Lancias that I did not list.



Ah, remember when the Saab Lancia 600 came. Guess I was teenager then.
Saab worked together with FIAT and the coop gave us :
Saab 9000
FIAT Croma
Lancia Thema
Alfa Romeo 164

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