Many people buy a certain brand of car because that’s what their parents drove. There seems to be strong family ties with Fords and Holdens in New Zealand, but for me (growing up in the UK) it’s Rover and Saab. Because Rover is dead (and rubbish), that just leaves Saab to prompt the nostalgic moments.
Dad got his first Saab 9000 Turbo just about at the time when I wanted to start driving (age 11 or 12). Its substantial power, significant turbo lag, and stupendous torque steer were a damn site more exciting than Mum’s Mazda 323 (even though it did have spotlights and a speed stripe) and, in my mind, much closer to the Lamborghini Countach in the poster tacked to the wall above my bed. So, I wanted a Saab. I wanted to get to 100kph in under 8 seconds. It was my mission.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I don’t want a Saab anymore, because I’ve seen the Aston Martin Vanquish. But don’t let that make you think this Saab 93 TiD is not good, because it is. Look past the dashboard (which takes you back to the mid-‘90s), and what you’ve got is a smooth, solid-feeling cruiser with comfortable seats and pleasant road manners.
Sitting in a new Saab feels like sitting in any Saab; on the inside, the aesthetics are quaint — too much like an older Saab 900. But the new exterior styling is bold up front with the accented grille (inspired by the Aero-X concept car) flanked by bi-xenon headlamps, and sleek down the sides where no unnecessary creases spoil the flow. Very Scandinavian! Elegant 17-inch alloys with five wide spokes adorn the four corners, again keeping the look clean.
On the boot, there’s a TiD badge, because this 93 sports a 1.9-litre 110kW diesel engine, and has a turbo for force-fed assistance. This makes it a bit laggy from rest, but once moving there’s plenty of power for overtaking. The automatic ‘box has a manual mode, either using the gearstick, or the buttons on the steering wheel. A sport mode is available that changes up later and down earlier.
Nothing about the engine and gearbox really encourages you to thrash the Saab 93. It’s not that kind of car; more a highway cruiser that will transport you to your dinner date, leaving your tuxedo unruffled, and calming your nerves. It’s not softly sprung — the suspension is nicely firm — but it does insulate you from harsh surfaces somewhat.
Instrumentation is simple and easy to read. There’s a button marked nightpanel which turns all the dials and instrumentation lights off except for the speedo — I’m not sure why it’s necessary, because it certainly isn’t stealthy with the diesel engine clattering away up front.
Dual stage seat heaters are an obvious inclusion for a Swedish car. Raise your gaze up to the stereo and this is the main area that needs a design update. The stereo itself has a solid kick and fairly crisp treble, and is simple to operate. The speakers are arranged along the top of the dashboard, using the windscreen to reflect sound back into the cabin. This method often gives a clearer stereo spread in the front of the car, and it’s no exception here.
Having the stumpy key near the handbrake is a design flaw — it takes away space that could be used for storage. Like a Holden, the Saab’s handbrake integrated with the design of the central console, but in the Saab it works well; in the Holden, it doesn’t.
The Holy Grail of brand loyalty is when the kids start buying what the parents drove, but with the thousands of options available nowadays, and people’s urge to be independent, this could possibly be a futile wish by the car manufacturers of the future.
Certainly the Saab is a car for the slightly more mature buyer (not necessarily old, but not really in his/her 20s). This could prove difficult for Saab — it really needs a car to hook in the younger affluent purchasers, and there just isn’t one. In those early independent car-buying years, you can get hooked on another marque and totally forget about the thrill you might have had as a child in the passenger seat of a powerful Scandinavian machine, cruising at 80mph through the English countryside. Thanks for the memories, anyway.
Price: from $66,900
What we like
- As ever, it’s a confident and comfortable cruiser
- Pleasant exterior styling
- Folding rear seats are practical
What we don’t like
- Redesign the dashboard please — this isn’t the ‘90s, it’s not an old Saab 900, and I want my key on the steering column
- Engine a bit laggy from rest (typical of turbo diesels), and noisy at idle
|Diesel engine||Four-cylinder in-line, Aluminium cylinder head, cast iron block. DOHC 16v . Common rail, direct and multiple injection. Turbocharged, VNT, intercooled. Dual-mass flywheel. Particulate filter. Euro 4 Emissions (Jan 06) compliant|
|Ignition/Fuel injection||Bosch EDC 16. Ignition/ fuel-injection system.|
|Bore/Stroke (mm)||90.4 / 82|
|Max boost pressure (bar)||1.35|
|Max. Power||110 KW (150 hp) @ 4,000 rpm|
|Max. Torque||320 Nm @ 2000 – 2750 r/min|
|Top speed (km/h)||Manual 6-speed (M6) 210; Automatic 6-speed (A6) 210|
|0-100 km/h||M6 9.5; A6 11.0|
|60-100 km/h fourth gear||M6 7.6|
|80-120 km/h fifth gear||M6 9.5|
|Fuel consumption (l/100 km)*||M6 7.7/4.7/6.2; A6 9.7/5.2/6.8|
|CO2 emissions combined (g/km)||M6 163; A6 181|
|Luggage compartment||425 litres VDA. Rear seats fold down completely or 60/40 %|
|Fuel tank capacity||58 litres|
|Max trailer load||1600 kg|
|Max roof load||100 kg|
|Tare Mass||1436-1576 kg depending on specification|
|Drive train||Front wheel drive|
|Sentronic six-speed automatic||6 speed automatic transmission with Saab Sentronic manual selection, steering wheel buttons standard|
Words and photos Darren Cottingham