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2006 Saab 9-3 Convertible

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San Francisco:  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 experience.

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 perfect fit.

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.

Why avoid it? 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 controls.  By Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©AutoWire.Net
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

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2006 Saab

Download the Original Image File here:   2006 Saab








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