Saab 9000 (1997)

Saab 9000 (1997)There are lots of things to like about the Saab 9000. Not the least ofwhich are the seat heaters and the fact that it arrived with a full tank ofgas. But, like my brother, it's clear that this car is now past its prime.

Saabs have always done certain things well. And, like all Saabs, the 9000has a great feel for the road. It's both fun and comfortable to drive, andthat great balance is probably its number one attribute. It seems to beperfectly optimized for normal everyday driving. What do I mean by that? Imean on the normal, everyday roads that most of us drive, at normal,everyday real-world speeds like 20, 30, 40 mph, the handling is pretty nearperfect. There's no swish, no sway, no heavy lean. You can compare thatto, say, a Chevy Camaro, whose handling is optimized for highways in Nevada,or a Geo Metro, whose handing is optimized for city parking structures.Now, I'm sure if you plowed into a corner at 60mph, the Saab would lean andsqueal, but what kind of moron is really going to plow into a corner at60mph (hint: see montana.com). And the Saab's got attributes besides greathandling. It's very practical, with good interior room and a fold-down rearseat and hatchback. I had no trouble getting two 8-hp Shop Vacs in there(they're Mother's Day gifts for my wife...one for this year, one for last year).

But there are also things about the Saab that are the automotive equivalentof cobwebs. The dashboard and interior layout are right out of the early'80s--square, flat, plasticky. And the radio controls are impossible! Youneed a Ph.D. in radio controls AND an extra set of eyes to operate thisthing. Shame on you guys! The electric window controls are on the centercontrol board, rather than on the driver's door where they belong. And thecar starts with all the confidence of a 12-year-old boy asking a girl todance for the first time (guys, couldn't we find a little bigger battery forthis car?). But the worst thing about the Saab is still the shifting.Fortunately, our test car had an automatic transmission. I was delighted tosee this, because my calf muscles are still sore from driving a stick-shift9000 last year. This car has one tedious, heavy clutch! The quality isprobably about average. They've been building this car for more than 10years now, and supposedly they've had time to work the bugs out. But thoseSwedish line workers still like their beer during lunch, so it's not aToyota. So, if reliability is number one on your list, you might be wise toskip the Saab. But if you want a car that's practical, safe, fun to drive,and, in it's own way, kinda lovable, you might consider a 9000 (with anautomatic).

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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