Saab has been gone for a decade, and cars like today’s Nice Price or No Dice 9-3 SportCombi are reason enough to miss the marque. Let’s see if this Swedish wagon’s price makes it worth buying or is just another miss.
Calling yesterday’s 1976 Cadillac Seville a boat, as was conjectured by a number of you in the comments, could be construed as having missed the “big” picture. As far as ’70s American luxury cars went, the Seville was one of the slimmest and most compact. It would, in fact, be the smallest Cadillac on offer until the debut of the lamentable Cimarron in 1982. Small as it was for the era, the $7,000 price tag on yesterday’s car proved too unwieldy for most, and the Caddy fell in a 57 percent No Dice loss.
Cadillac introduced the Seville to counter insurgent imports that at the time were defining a new form of high-end luxury. One such company that in that import vanguard was Sweden’s Saab which offered quirky four-cylinder-powered cars at prices that could buy you a V8 from one of Detroit’s Big Three. As we know, time wounds all heels, and in 1989 Saab was absorbed into General Motors, which was the biggest of those Big Three carmakers.
Thus began Saab’s slow, inexorable march toward mainstreaming, beginning with the attempted Opel-ization of the Swedish marque. Eventually, Saab’s products became both more mundane and too late to the train for the whole SUV/Crossover craze. GM shut down Saab in 2011, a final, ignominious insult for having played a role in chipping away at American automotive dominance 40 years earlier.
Okay, so General Motors didn’t really kill Saab out of spite. Still, it shows how quirkily different the Swedish company was from its American parent and German step-sibling, as well as how bad GM mishandled the global recession that hit in the mid-aughts.
It’s too bad too, because, as this 2008 Saab 9-3 SportCombi proves, Saab was making some interesting cars in their final few years. After all, how many mid-sized wagons with six-speed manuals and the ignition between the seats are you going to find out there?
This one comes in an elegant shade of Titan Gray Metallic over a black leather interior. The paintwork looks remarkably nice, and the factory Aero-spec alloys show only minor scuffing around the rims. There is a noticeable color difference between the bodywork and the back bumper cap, but that could just be a trick of the light in the photos and not an indication of a respray. The ad does not mention any bodywork in the car’s past.
Under the hood lies a potent 2-liter turbocharged four. That mill makes 210 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, both decent numbers for the era. It’s matched with a six-speed stick with a new clutch having been fitted between the two. The car is front-drive only, so while it’s potentially not as secure in the slush as say, an Audi Quattro, it also isn’t as heavy or complicated.
You won’t find much to complain about in the cabin. The car has 137,500 miles under its belt and the leather and plastics inside seem to have held up well for the years and those miles. The car lacks modern conveniences like a big screen in the center stack, but it does have all the traditional amenities which most people can get by with just fine.
This is a two-owner car and it comes with service records from when it was new. The title is clean and — importantly, it comes with two keys. The chipped keys, from what I understand, are a bit of a bear to get replaced.
There’s a lot to like with this Saab wagon, and seeing as they aren’t making them anymore one of those things is the basic opportunity just to buy one. To do so, you’ll need to come up with $7,200 as that’s the asking price for this tidy example.
What do you say, does that seem like an equitable adoption fee for this orphan car? Or, for that price, would advise it not to pack its bags?
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