Most diehard shoppers know about IKEA. This giant
retailer is all about bringing Swedish style to the masses like a
postmodern, minimalist Wal-Mart. When you go inside you'll walk through
giant showrooms filled with funky pieces of furniture while techno music
echoes around the building with strange beeps and whirrs, making you
feel like you've stepped onto some weird Swedish planet where everyone
wears black turtlenecks and eats lingonberry mousse. It's quite an
Shoppers don't only like IKEA because it's weird,
though. And let's face it, pretty much everything from Sweden is weird.
They like IKEA because it sells cool furniture at a
very low price. Where else can you get a couch called the Lund Hogen for
$439, or a trendy-looking armchair called the Klappsta for $100? You
could make your downtown loft look sleek and modern without having to
spend a fortune importing coffee tables from Stockholm.
And there's no better car to take shopping for
weird Swedish stuff than a Saab, which is basically an IKEA with wheels.
I decided to have some fun by driving the Saab 9-3
convertible to the nearest IKEA store in Berkeley, and take along my
wife, who has Swedish roots and the maiden name of Lundgren. She was a
So was the car.
The 9-3 is a wonderful car to drive on the highway,
with a smooth ride and cloth convertible top that seals out noise like
it's made of acoustic tile. When you consider the turbocharged engine
and unique body style, it's a compelling luxury package.
But it's more than that. There are plenty of
compelling luxury cars on the road, especially from BMW, Mercedes, Audi
and Lexus, but increasingly from brands like Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac
and Lincoln, too. There are lots of great luxury cars for sale if you've
got the money.
The Saab is just - well - different.
If you ever drive through any upscale suburb it
seems that every other car is a BMW. That's partially because BMW makes
some amazing cars, but let's be honest. It's also because everyone's
neighbor drives one, everyone's boss drives one and everyone's coworkers
drive one, too. It's largely about keeping up with the Joneses.
If you want to stand out, you've got to drive
something different. That's what the Saab is for.
From a practical perspective, the 9-3 is similar to
many mid-size luxury cars. It has smooth power from a turbocharged
2.8-liter V6 engine, which offers outstanding acceleration along with a
jet-like kick from the turbo.
It has a comfortable, driver-oriented interior with
plenty of Swedish do-dads, plus a convertible top that neatly folds away
under a hard cover when you press a button. Plus the robotic acrobatics
are impressive to watch when the top goes down.
Better yet, it's a downright bargain compared to
similar convertibles like the Mercedes CLK or the drop-top BMWs. The
convertible version starts at $36,500, which is thousands less than its
German competitors and even more of a steal when you realize how much
stuff comes on the Saab for free. Hardtop versions of this car start as
low as $25,900.
Beyond the basics of a good luxury car, though, is
something harder to define. It's the car's soul.
You'll either love or hate the classic European
body style on the Saab 9-3 convertible. While it can drive in the same
league as a Mercedes or BMW, its spunky personality and relative
scarcity make it stand out on the road.
Firm seats and lots of buttons on the dash make the
9-3's cabin feel like an airplane cockpit. The driver-oriented controls
may take some getting used it if you normally drive an American or
Japanese car, but that's part of what makes the Saab special.
Although Saab is now owned by General Motors, the
quirky personality of the 9-3 remains the same. It still feels
genetically linked to the old Saab 900, with a love-it-or-hate-it body
shape like nothing else on the road. It still starts with a key in the
center console, and it still has weird symbols on the buttons that
people who drive American and Japanese cars would have a hard time
figuring out. It's sporty, elegant and very spunky.
And that's why, in terms of style and price, this
car is exactly like having an IKEA in your garage.
What was tested? The 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero
convertible with a base MSRP price of $41,900. Options: DVD navigation
system ($1,995), premium paint ($550), touring package ($1,195). Price
as tested including a $720 destination charge: $46,360.
Why buy it? It has a sophisticated Swedish
look and feel at a bargain price. It drives very well, has a reputation
for safety and is significantly cheaper than its European competitors.
Some people won't like the styling. Trunk space is limited with the top
down, and you'll face a learning curve if you're not used to Saab's
Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony
Column Name: It’s like an IKEA on wheels
Topic: The 2006 Saab 9-3 convertible
Word Count: 890
Photo Caption: The 2006 Saab 9-3 convertible
Photo Credits: Saab Internet Media
Series #: 2006 - 55
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