Saab vs. Porsche

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Before people start ranting that this is a blog purely for Saabs, let me validate the reasoning behind the post. I happened to mention that when not driving one of my Saabs, I also drive a classic Porsche 911, this got picked up by a fellow Saabist who asked if it would be appropriate to compare the experience? So, here we are, Saab vs. Porsche.

The Porsche is ’91 964 Carrera 4, 3.6 flat six, air cooled, modified and tuned to kick out some 280hp, in my eyes, it’s one of the most iconic cars ever crafted, I used to dream of owning a 911, and this was the model that did it for me when I was younger.

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I don’t own the Porsche to have it sitting around, it was bought to use and abuse, all year round, in all weathers, and that’s what I do on a regular basis, I don’t need a destination in mind, I just jump in and head out, often for a 50 – 100 mile B road blast, this is a car bought purely for pleasure.

Midway through a recent drive, I got a phone call to collect my son from an estate he works at, the Porsche isn’t the car to go in, so I made my way home, hopped out of the Porsche and in to the Saab 9-3 convertible, with a similar bhp of 300 – it seemed like the perfect opportunity to compare 2 very different (but similar in many ways) cars.

I won’t waste time debating the aesthetics of either car, both are beautiful, and imho, neither have ever been bettered, which brings me directly to the driving experience.

The Porsche is raw, I mean really raw, I like to call in an analogue experience, although it has PAS and ABS, we’re talking minimal intrusion, it manages to connect you directly to the road, you become part of the car quickly and with ease, you feel every trace of the road, every curve. It also feels exceptionally low and rather small compared to most modern cars.

The 3.6 air cooled, flat six produces a very distinct soundtrack, the shear noise is heavenly – although reasonably subtle at lower rpm, at around 4000 rpm it breaks in to the purest scream which keeps on building and building right through to 6500 rpm, it really is captivating. The steering is so on point it’s hard to imagine anything better, the gears are again, pure analogue, you feel the beautifully engineered H box as it slips from gear to gear, and the handling gives you the confidence to power on through corners in pretty much any weather.

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I did a 1000 miles in a week recently, I drove it up to North Wales, through Snowdonia and to the coast, I took it in to the city, to meetings and home again, not once did I get bored. The Porsche is a real, time honoured driver’s car, it has earned its reputation as one of the finest sports cars ever made, and I for one feel completely privileged to be the keeper of one, even just for a little while.

Hop straight in to the Saab 9-3 and I realise just how high it feels, not just its stance, but its general seating position too, high, but also ridiculously comfortable. Everything is easy, the gear change is light and smooth, the steering sharp and accurate, with the suspension work it’s had done, the Saab also handles amazingly well, less analogue, but still manages to feel involved.

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The power delivery seems utterly immediate, rather than building like the Porsche, foot down and it continues to endlessly pull until it hits 6000rpm, it needs control and attention to drive, less stuck to the road, but equally exhilarating, the Saab feels faster than the Porsche, and although less involving never fails to make me smile. The 9-3 can never compete with the Porsche for sound, although with the addition of the APH downpipe, full stainless steel exhaust and BSR induction kit, it still has a hugely pleasing one with enthusiastic driving.

By no means a full comparison, but one that might give an insight in to both cars. Which do I prefer? both. If I’m honest it really depends what mood I’m in, the Saab provides exceptionally fast, easy driving and with the roof down really can’t be beaten for style and pleasure, but the Porsche, the Porsche still offers a unique and uncompromising experience that modern cars just don’t offer.

The Porsche on Instagram

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Saab at heart

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All cars, no matter how extreme, need a beating heart. This amazing rat rod from England just happens to have one of the best hearts around – a Saab B204 Turbo.

It’s the brainchild of Urchfab, a custom designer & fabricator from the depths of Somerset, England. With a minimal budget, he set about acquiring suitable components including a 1953 Ford Anglia shell, Vauxhall gearbox, Volvo 240 rear axle and Ford steering gear, as the creator explains “the car is 75% junk parts, a load of steel and a few shiny bits chucked in the mix”. He also made the grill, radiator and intercooler as one complete, bolt on unit to make removing the Saab engine easier when fast access is required.

“Cruising around the countryside on tight British roads is lots of fun driving a powerful Saab rat rod based on a junkyard Ford, but hitting the track with it takes the build to whole new level”.

Ok, so it doesn’t look like a Saab, but we all know it’s a Saab at heart, fantastic.

Spitalfields Saab

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We popped down to London for my daughter’s birthday earlier this week, and whilst the women did Oxford Street, my son and I went exploring the hidden backstreets of one of my favourite neighbourhoods – Spitalfields.

After enjoying the indulgent sights and smells of the market and beauty of Christ Church we walked down streets of elegantly decaying Georgian architecture, tall townhouses with wooden shutters painted in dark heritage colours and then, there it was, looking particularly at home, a classic Saab 900.

In what I’d still class as the very best combination, black with tan leather interior, Aero alloys, factory sunroof and rear spoiler, it just oozed style, you couldn’t have art directed a better setting for it – absolutely perfect.

Probably the best seats in the world

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Ever since I first fell in love with Saabs there has been one particular car that fuelled the obsession, the Saab 9000 Aero. If I’m honest  it was the interior that excited me almost as much as the car itself, those amazingly curvaceous seats, once sat in, the feeling is never forgotten. To me, these are the seats that helped give Saab the reputation for creating the best car seats in the world.

Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to meet another great Saab lover, he drove from Ireland to pick up the 900 alloys I’d offered a few months back. He has a great collection of Saabs including a couple of 900’s a 9-3 SportCombi and a fantastic 9000 Aero. After chatting for a while, it turned out that he’d got a spare 9000 Aero interior he didn’t need, how could I resist?

For the time being, they’re residing in our living room and will eventually form part of  another Saab project, until then though I can admire their exquisite detailing. Over the years since I first saw them, they haven’t lost any of their beauty, they’ve got an exceptionally timeless shape and design and are as comfortable as I remember.

If only every car seat were as good as these.

The sum of Its parts

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Even before I owned Saabs I admired their wheel designs, there’s something very Swedish about them; simple, refined and elegant yet utterly modern, designs that have always reflected Saab beautifully.

There have been a few favourites along the way, the 9-3 HOT Aero twin 3 spoke, double Y alloys for instance or the original Aeros on the 9000, both exceptionally stunning wheels.

Everyone loves alloys, but there are literally thousands of other design details equally as stunning in every Saab – lights, seats, cup holders, air vents, grilles, buttons, each designed to work beautifully together to create a unique aesthetic.

These details can easily be overlooked, but when you take a moment to admire shape and form you really appreciate the shear amount of effort that must have gone into every single part. Saab have always done this so well, always something to inspire you.

Saab 9-3 SportCombi Concept 2004

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At a time when us Saabists are waiting to see what NEVS has to offer, I look back fondly on one of my all time favourite Saab concepts – the 9-3 SportCombi unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2004.

When I first saw this a few years ago, I instantly fell in love, but until recently, had only ever seen the odd poor quality photograph. I’ve now found some fantastic images so thought I’d share them with everybody.

I just wish some of the spectacular details had made it into production, the glass roof and power tailgate with the stunning brushed aluminium bike mount for instance, or the in-floor glass storage area, or the interior central ‘clear zone’.

All dreams for now, but maybe SAAB could revisit some of these beautiful details. I haven’t even mentioned the 20″ alloys…

Made in Trollhattan. A book about Saab

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I only heard about this book a few years ago, it was produced as a special promotion around the launch of the new Saab 9-3 back in 2001 – after months of searching I found a copy.

It’s nicely designed and very Saab, so much so, I went out and exchanged a BMW 5 series for a stunning 9-3 HOT Aero after leafing through its beautifully produced pages. It feels unashamedly Saab, selling the exclusivity and innovation we all associate with owning a Saab.

“How come a car from a small factory, in a small city, in a small country far away can attract people all over the world? Perhaps it is the comfort and the driving characteristics that do it? Or the turbo engine and the performance. Perhaps it is because it is so safe. Maybe it is the design that is the attraction. Perhaps all of it. We believe that people who choose a Saab do so because of its personality. We have 0.3% of the world market and it will probably remain in that neighbourhood. Our goal is not to build lots of good cars, but to build fewer great cars. To own a Saab is to belong to a small group of people, all with their own reasons for choosing a Saab. The common denominator is that you have chosen a car that stands out from the crowd. Welcome to a small but exclusive club. We hope you will remain a member for life”.

Part of my love for Saab has always been its Swedish heritage, and this book captures a little part of that. If you get a chance to buy a copy sometime, grab it, it’s a great thing to have.

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