Friday, March 08, 2013

My impressions of an 11 year old 9-3 Viggen

Given the age of the 2002 Saab, I really can't give an objective evaluation of the car without driving another one.  Nevertheless, with a control group of one, these are my observations.

The car has had two owners and it has less than 60,000 miles.  It has been regularly parked on the streets of Oakland, which is tough on any car.  Overall, the body and interior are in decent shape.

On the exterior, the two things that really stood out are the front spoiler damage and the badly aging cover for the wheel jack point.  Also, the headlamp wiper blade on the passenger side has forced itself into the gap between the headlamp and bumper.

The interior was in really decent shape. The only thing that was not working was the radio screen. It just had a bunch of random pixels illuminated.  Not good for finding a radio station.

One shifts into reverse by pulling up that ring below the knob. You can't take the key out of the center console ignition unless the car is in reverse.

I drove it for about 30 minutes through the busy streets of Berkeley and the hills behind it (Centennial, Grizzly Peak, Fish Ranch).  Because the coupe's doors are long, I really had to reach for the seat belt behind me. The seat was comfortable and supportive. The engine was the highlight and put a big grin on my face. Even while traveling at a snail's pace on a steep hill, I could accelerate like heck from 3rd gear. The power delivery was excellent and effortless. The 2.3 liter turbo 4 puts out 225 horsepower and 260(!) pound feet of torque.

The shifter was rubbery and nothing to write home about. The body flexed and made as much noise as my Jeep Wrangler. I will attribute this to age and the fact that I was on very rough pavement. But it bordered on unbearably loud.

The brakes were very mushy and did not inspire confidence. Again, this may be an age or maintenance issue. This was particularly problematic as a Honda S2000 with the top down was on my ass almost the entire time I was in the hills. The clutch pedal was also incredibly close to the brake pedal, further adding to my hysteria.

I can see why Saab fanatics love this car. It really reminded me of my Jeep-- quirky but fun. And as I read in a Saab forum last night, "Flawed is always better than boring." But unfortunately, this Saab is not for me.

Postscript: I really did not have an opportunity to really drive the snot out of the car. The torque steer was noticeable, but it was very manageable.


Pete Dushenski said...

On Star!

Edvin said...

Now that you mentioned it, how about an S2000? They're supposed to be a hoot to drive. I'd love to drive one despite the fact that I'd feel terribly self conscious in a convertible.

That particular Saab sounds, frankly, horrible.

Zackswheels said...

But, but, but its a Saab Viggen! Its named after a fighter jet! I dearly love these cars, so I'm blinded by my own fanboy-ism. The rubbery shifter and that too close clutch peddle placement are, unfortunately, indicative of these cars. The broken radio - Saab Information Display (SID) is a common fault and can be rectified. The mid-range torque of the 2.3 is addictive, isn't it?! I think if you'd had a turn in a better cared for example, you might have enjoyed it a bit more, but you definitely did get a good dose of the Saab quirk.

On a related note, are you looking for a project car?

Rich said...

Could have sworn you would have hopped right into an RX-8 at the same consignment lot, while you were there.

Maxichamp said...

@Rich: Shh. That's a secret. I'm not going to abuse the system. I am going to limit myself to one test drive a week, and only cars I am interested in buying.

I have a feeling this is going to be a long search.

Zackswheels said...

What will you be driving now that the Passat, er Phaeton is gone?

Maxichamp said...

@Zach: So far, cars in consideration include: Miata, Lexus SC300/400, old Merc 300E, Honda Insight, last generation Honda Prelude, original Mini Cooper, Merc 560SEC,....

Lukas said...

What? I go away for 2 weeks and both the pope and his car move on?

While I approve of a 560SEC, not sure it counts as non-German and enviro friendly.

For a replacement, I dunno. What about the hot hatch version of the Civic?

Mardell Tobin said...

You really can't take it against the 11-year old car to have mushy brakes. Anyhow, it's been years since I saw one, so I'm glad to hear good feedback. But do you think it can still be an entry-level luxury car?

Anonymous said...

you have no clue what you were driving. My 02 with 225000 plus is awesome BSR Stage 3. Keep the Honda and all that junk. Takes some skills to actually drive a Viggen right.