The 9–3 is again in the shop, (needed a new thermostat), but this time my loaner story is a bit more interesting that the Kia Rio of last week. You see, I was given a 2004 9-2X loaner – albeit, the base model. What’s funny, however, is that I came away from the experience feeling once again that Saab is harming its brand. Why you ask?
First, this is not a Saab. I don’t care if it has a 9–3 front-end, and griffin logo slapped on the wheel… the overall character of the car screams Japanese. Based on the Subaru WRX, Saab supposedly added a few stylistic and performance “enhancements”.
I should note that it handles well, (AWD is standard), and was fun to hit the MassPike exit ramps at a high velocity. But, as an automatic, and lacking Turbo, (which Saab invented), I felt like I should have a couple of kiddos in the back seat.
The interior was surprisingly sparse – the displays were old-fashioned gray LCD, and the radio knobs was pretty low-end. In short, is lacks the Saab experience. When I first test-drove my 9–3, I felt as if I was in an airplane cockpit, with its short windshield, ignition between the seats, (rather than on the steering column), and the way the controls lit up. By comparison, the 9-2X feels very much like all the other cars you’ve ridden in.
Overall, it is a fine car – though I’m not sure why one wouldn’t just go buy the Subaru version. GM, (Saab’s parent company), is probably trying to attract a lower-priced market segment – 20-somethings who are attracted to the Saab brand, but who aren’t looking to spend $30k.
It was a risky gamble, toying with the unique character of Saab… that said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 9-2X on the road, though there are a glut of old 900s and 9-3s parked in my neighborhood.