Inspector Rebus and more (review snippets)

Good whisky. Proper music. An interesting car. And solving crimes. We all know what ingredients are required for a proper detective novel of this century.

Inspector Rebus taking a nap in the 9-3's comfy seats. Rude colleague interrupting (I had a colleague like that once, she kept poking my sides during meetings. I lost countless hours of sleep because of her).
Inspector Rebus taking a nap in the 9-3’s comfy seats. Rude colleague interrupting (I had a colleague like that once, she kept poking my sides during meetings. I lost countless hours of sleep because of her).
Enter Ian Rankin’s character Inspector John Rebus. Rebus enjoys a good Scotch, he listens to The Rolling Stones and he drives …a Saab.

No wonder then that a dear colleague (who shares my love of Saabs, but not the Stones) of mine suggested I should acquaint myself with the Inspector.

The first few books start off lightly. He notices a 900 parked on a street, or a fancy 9000 parked in some politician’s driveway (“Strip Jack”), but eventually his old car packs it in and Rebus finds himself driving a Saab.

The novels have been adapted to TV and two actors have so far portrayed Rebus. The first series overplayed the melancholy part a bit and the second series delayed the introduction of the Saab too long (episode 7), but the exit given to his previous car underlined the significance of switching to a proper car. Unlike Commander Bond, the transition from books to film kept the Saab (although, in “Strip Jack” the politician no longer drives a Saab).

Rebus drives a OG900 in the book as well as the first TV show, and a OG9-3 in the second.

All in all, the series provides lots of pleasant reading (or watching if you prefer the TV show) for Saab fans of all ages. I give it 4 griffins out of 5.

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The Goodmans and their 9-5. Stereo blasting at full tilt.
The Goodmans and their 9-5. Stereo blasting at full tilt.
Next, in a completely different genre, is the TV show Friday Night Dinner. The action mostly takes place in the family home of the Goodmans. Their two adult sons turn up for a family dinner every Friday, and inevitably something always goes sideways. Lots of good comedy ensues, but the head of the family drives a OG9-5. In the second episode the family tries to figure out the 9-5’s stereo (I swear I could hear Tim shouting “read the manual!” in the background) and later they performed an impromptu crash test backing into a friend’s Mercedes.

It is a funny and well executed TV show, but the 9-5 clearly deserves more exposure (with regards, signed Captain Obvious). So only 3 griffins on this.

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If that fails to quench your thirst for Saab-related fictional literature, I would also like to point out my earlier review of “A Man Called Ove”. The book has since been translated to several languages and does a remarkable job of exploring the psyche of an average Saab driver. A 5 griffin rated book. Not bad, considering the book’s author drives a ToyotaHyundai.

Book review: “A Man Called Ove”


We rarely conduct book reviews here, but when a book as hilarious as “A Man Called Ove” pops up, using the word “Saab” no less than 120 times, then we probably should say a few words. The novel is penned by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, but good news everybody: An English translation is in the works!

Ove, a widower at 59, is a devoted Saab owner living in Sweden. I do not see Ove as the kind of man likely to turn up at our festivals and similar, but a devoted non-turbo fan nonetheless (at one point Ove drives a 9000i). I suspect that for Ove, driving Saab comes natural and he sees little reason to celebrate this because there really is no alternative for him.

The book explores Ove’s persona which his surroundings perceive as ‘bitter grumpy old man’. Ove sometimes asks himself why one is considered grumpy, just because one isn’t walking around with a fake smile plastered on his face all the time.

As the novel progresses, Ove’s passion for Saab reveals itself. The origin of his interest in Saab is a lovely story that needs to be told in full, so I won’t drop too many spoilers here, but suffice to say that he over the course of an entire life goes through all the classic models, starting with the 92 inherited from his father. A car he takes apart and

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Friday quick and safe snippets

First off the bat, is svd.se which now features a review comparing the 9-5 to the A6. They deduct points for interior quality but comment on the 9-5’s road holding qualities as “best in class”. I am a little surprised that they compare fuel economy seeing as the 9-5 comes equipped with more horsies and torque. That is the only category where the 9-5 loses, yet they only reward it a score of three (Audi gets five) in their summary. Nice interior apparently beats the nice feeling you get from piloting the car through the ‘twisties.

Thanks Thomas for the tip

Pam, our on the spot IIHS spotter, let us know that IIHS has completed another test of the 9-5. This time they have put a poor unsuspecting 9-5 through a heavy side-impact. Designed to test what happens if a car gets struck by a SUV, the 9-5 holds up nicely, though IIHS notes there is a possible chance of rib fractures. Adding side curtain airbags in the rear helps the new 9-5 improve upon the score set by its predecessor.

It will be interesting to see the 9-5’s rollover score. That test only provided the Audi A6 with an ‘Average’ score and that is one event where Saab have a long history of success thanks to “on the roof” Carlsson. Which will bring to question those reviews that typically award the A6 the same safety score as the 9-5.

On the lighter side of things, a nice classic Saab 900 Turbo makes a cameo appearance in the Beastie Boys Fight for Your Right (Revistied) video. Jamie, who provided us with the link calls the cameo “unlikely”, but I am not sure what he meant by that. (BTW: That video is probably not safe for work. Public urination is frowned upon in the workplace I believe — proceed at your own risk)

Zippy and the Saab 9-5

Zippy’s a Saab 9-3 owner and one of our long-term family here at Saabs UNited and I know he’s been very keen to get behind the wheel of a Saab 9-5 V6 for some time.

Last weekend he had the chance to drive an Aero, courtesy of Rob over at Springmans Saab in Vancouver, Canada.

Zippy was kind enough to send in his thoughts.

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I’d love to be able to say I actually laid down $70,000 and drove away with a massive smile on my face – as well as a huge hole in my savings – but in reality I had taken my car out for an inspection when Rob handed me the keys to a 9-5 Aero with a stunning dark cocoa and parchment leather interior and told me to ‘enjoy’.

The car was loaded with every conceivable option except a sunroof. At first the sight of all of those buttons seemed overwhelming bit in actuality they are intuitively laid out and after ten minutes in the car I was an expert.

I am not big fan of automatic transmissions, but the paddleshifters, in reality, have about 80% of the fun factor of a manual, which surprised me. If I were to have an auto I’d never have the car in Drive choosing to shift “on the fly’ as it makes the car just that much more enjoyable – and drivable.

Drivable? In Drive I found the car was a little reluctant to downshift when you put your foot down, even when in Sport mode. Heading out to the highway I decided to see what the car was capable of merging into traffic. I found my slot and floored it….my response was “holy $h1t” – said out loud – as a smile grew from ear to ear.

I loved the HUD, which was easy to read and showed my current gear when in “flappy paddle mode” as well as my speed which seems to reach high numbers in no time. Its a huge safety feature as I never had to take my eyes off of the road to check speed etc.

The engine doesn’t even feel turbocharged to me as it actually feels like a small V8 the way the power is instantly fed thru to the XWD system. I just cannot imagine what this engine feels like in a 9-3 TurboX albeit with “only” 280bhp.

The offramp gave me an opportunity to test the sticky XWD system which didn’t even flicker when I abruptly took my foot off of the gas at the same time as braking trying to trick the system. You would never even know the car had XWD. It just felt like a well balanced, rock solid car. I would love to be able to drive this car up Cypress Mountain with its hairpin turns and sweeping bends to see how it handles on the twisty bits. I didn’t get the opportunity to use the SATNAV system but the car sure looks better with the full colour screen over the green screen that was in the base 9-5 I had previously driven.

Heading back to the dealer I kept getting odd looks from people thinking to myself ‘what the heck is his/her problem?!” until I realised that people were actually looking at the car. A thirtysomething couple in an old(ish) E-Class stopped just ahead of me and to the left craned their necks getting a better look at the cars lines with that “what kind of car is that?!” look on their faces when the woman lowered her window and asked me what it was I was driving. Having explained her it was the new 9-5 I also took the opportunity to tell her who to go and visit if she wanted to get a really good look and take one out for a spin – or better yet replace their ‘German taxi’. They then held back to get a look at the cars behind as I pulled away from the lights. This car turns heads and I can only imagine what kind of response this car would get if it were driven in the busy streets of Vancouver especially in Arctic White.

My final impression? A very roomy rock solid four door sports car with a Jeckyl and Hyde personality. In Comfort mode it wafts along as a luxury sedan should but when switched to Sport mode it turns into a snarling four door sports car with the ride comfort a luxury car.

Is it perfect? It would be if it had a manual transmission. That is why I would have to get a manual 2.0T Aero Hirsched-up to 260bhp with XWD, a set of 19inch Edge rims, DriveSense and that SATNAV with HUD but no such beast exists here in North America so I guess I have to start saving up for the V6 Aero. All I can say is that anyone who owns one of these cars is very very lucky and I am 110% green with envy.

Thanks to Rob and Jason at Springman’s Saab for sharing the car with me and taking time to “talk Saab”.

Friday Night Snippets

It’s almost Geneva time!!!!

I don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but RedJ did eventually get accreditation and will be joining me at the show. We’re going to cover every darn square inch of the Saab stand 🙂 . I’m also going to do my best to empty Switzerland of its renowned chocolate, too.

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Spyker Cars NV has performed a revaluation of Saab’s assets, an expected move that will actually improve their bottom line for 2010.

AMSTERDAM, Feb 25 (Reuters) – Spyker Cars (SPYKR.AS), the loss-making Dutch sports car maker which acquired much larger Saab last year, on Friday said it had revised the value of its Saab assets to 132.3 million euros ($182.9 million), from 54.4 million euros.

It’d be interesting to know what assets are included in this valuation, given that Saab’s assets were used as a security for the Swedish government guaranteeing the EIB loan.

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Video from Teknikens Varld, featuring an interview with VM on Independence Day.

Hopefully it works (it took so long buffering here that I haven’t actually seen it yet).

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Volvo are dropping station wagons from their US sales range. Other European importers are doing the same. Saab will release their all new 9-5 wagon in a few months from now, which seems like serendipitous timing.

Edmunds.com, the online-car buying site, lists 115 kinds of SUVs and 92 types of crossovers but only 31 varieties of station wagon. Even that count is suspect. It includes a Ford Flex, which is a minivan in disguise, and the bizarre Dodge Caliber.

That quote is from a Yahoo Autos article talking about the demise of the wagon in the US.

I’m a firm believer that a good wagon, like a good car, can find an appreciative audience.

Thanks Peter G!

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Earlier this month I featured a glowing report about the new Saab 9-5 from a Canadian website called Cardriven.

The same site has now had some time behind the wheel of a Saab 9-3 fitted with XWD. And the review is just as glowing, even if it’s slightly perplexing.

The review seems to be of a 9-3 V6 with XWD, which hasn’t been for sale in Canada for a couple of years now. Yet the headline says 2011 Saab 9-3. Maybe Canada are getting something the US aren’t!

It’s confusing. But still a decent read. (The photos aren’t showing up at all for me)

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Speaking of OK reading, Paul Eisenstein has an overview piece on Saab’s situation over at MSNBC.

It looks like he’s been to Kiruna to have a drive on the ice, though he doesn’t talk about that much (might be saving it for another report.

It’s worth 5 minutes of your time.

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The SU Review: Skoda Octavia TSI

Let’s get one thing clear – I’m no fan of the Skoda Octavia TSI. I will say some complimentary things in the next 1,300-or-so words, but without even a hint of exaggeration, I can tell you that I wouldn’t keep one of these if it was given to me for free.

No chance, whatsoever.

Our Octavia was hire car, so any fans of the car who might find this review offensive have an ‘out’ there. As a hire car, it was a much more attractive proposition than the Mitsubishi Lancer and there was no way I was getting into a smaller car, which would have been the hideous Hyundai i30 or Getz.

I assume this Octavia was a base model (I gave up on checking options at the Skoda Australia website after about 2 minutes). For a base car, it certainly did come quite well equipped – which was definitely one of the good points.

Actually, the good points will dominate this review, even though I don’t like the car. So lets get to them first.

The Octavia feels like it’s built with a whole bunch of metal. It’s a very solid lump. One of the ways they keep the price down is to have an old fashioned metal rod to prop up the hood when you want to look at the engine. Remove that old fashioned hood support and you can feel the solidity of the construction simply in the weight of the hood. Ladies beware, the weight comes as a shock, even to big burly Australian men.

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