A Winter’s MPG Tale

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Back when I started this blog I made a real effort to monitor the real world mpg of my Saab 9-3 TTiD 200bhp. Over the course of a year it had highs and lows, never really moving from 40 – 43 mpg with regular daily driving, that’s around 550 miles from a full tank.

I can push it seriously hard one day and take it easy the next, sit at high speeds on the motorway or fly along country lanes, but the figures remain pretty constant. Over the past few months however, I’ve seen a real drop in these figures, down to 38 – 39 mpg, that’s between 450 – 500 miles per tank.

This is an mpg trend that’s happened for the third Winter running, here in the UK we don’t get harsh Winters, we may get snow or extreme weather for a few days but nothing for a prolonged period, so I wonder what changes?

If it’s abusing the Saab heated seats then I’m fully to blame, say no more.

Looking for something unconventional, eccentric? A Saab 9-3 Viggen review from 2002

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I happened across this short review of the enigmatic 9-3 Viggen, and being a Saab I’d love to own one day, I thought I’d share it with everyone. I must admit, after reading it, it made me want one even more.

Highs Traditional quirky, offbeat turbo front-drive charm from Saab.
Lows Traditional quirky, offbeat turbo front-drive charm from Saab.

“Looking for something unconventional, eccentric? Here’s a machine that hides its ignition switch in the cup holder. Here’s a machine with a teeny four-cylinder engine hooked up to a turbocharger the size of a Shop-Vac. Here’s a little five-door hatchback that looks like no other car on the road. Here’s the Saab 9-3 Viggen.

We are dealing with the last of the throwbacks–the last mass-produced passenger vehicle on earth that stays the course, refusing to yield to bourgeois fashion and show-off technology. The 9-3 Viggen is the latest hot-rod version of the Saab 900 first introduced in 1994, and it now offers an impressive 230 horsepower from its 140-cubic-inch turbocharged four-banger that has been a part of the Saab inventory since Eric the Red left for Greenland.

Face it, Saabs are an acquired taste, like single-malt Scotch and reggae. Although five-door hatchbacks and front-drivers are not exactly out there, the Saab is one last cry of protest in an increasingly androgynous world.

Slip behind the wheel of a Viggen, and find a chairlike leather seat, a chin-high instrument panel and windowsill, and a shifter and ignition switch located in a pit below your right hip.

Sniff the distinctive odor of buttery-soft Saab leather, and you can be in only one place on the planet.

It goes not exactly like its Swedish-fighter-plane namesake, but it’s plenty quick enough to get it into the high-six-second range from 0 to 60 mph and to tie for first in this group from 0 to 100 mph and to be the winner from 0 to 120 mph (where the wonderful Whoopee Cushion turbo shows its muscle).

Once the rubbery shifter is mastered and the flexy chassis is understood, one can fairly fly in a Viggen. Imprudent throttle punches in slow corners can produce nasty lunges of torque steer, but once straightened out and with the turbocharger in full play, the Viggen is definitely a hoot to drive.

It’s cool that Saab has refused to accede to so-called contemporary styling and such nuances as four-wheel drive, naturally aspirated V-6s, or a swoopier, more aerodynamic body style. In a world of automobiles that only small boys and hard-core automotive writers can tell from one another–think Japanese cars–the Saab steadfastly clings to its roots.

For the unrepentant Saabistas and for those who have not forgotten George McGovern and the plight of the snail darter, this is a source of pride and comfort. For others, it is quaintness that is rapidly descending into obsolescence”.

Amazing picture of the Viggen found here.

What do twenty thousand miles do to a Saab?

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Last week, my 9-3 kindly reminded me that it needed a service for the second time since I drove it out of the showroom back in 2011. I’ll be booking it in at my new local Saab Service Centre very soon, but it made me think about its first 20,000 miles.

Initially, I caused a few problems by changing so much of the standard set up to Hirsch components, this led to both front bearing hubs being replaced within the first 3 months. Since then, it’s had a number plate bulb, a small car park dink smoothing out and one shiny new Hirsch alloy, that’s it, a bit boring I know, but that really is it.

The 9-3 has given a flawless performance for the past 18 months now, adapting to varied driving conditions with all the grace and style I’ve come to expect from a Saab. Relaxed, effortless high speed cruising, congested city commuting or extremely enthusiastic country lane driving, the 9-3 is an absolutely superb executive car.

So what else has 20,000 miles thrown at it? A few annoying stone marks on the front grille, some anti social behaviour in the way of a size 12 boot mark on the bonnet, and a slightly shinier Hirsch leather steering wheel, no bad, and all taken care of.

And despite my rather erratic driving style (I blame that on Hirsch) the 9-3 has returned pretty decent economy. 20,000 miles with an average 550 miles per tank, that’s 36.3 tanks of diesel, costing around £80.00 per tank = £2904.00

Fourteen pence per smile.

This is officially the longest I’ve ever kept a car, and out of 50+ all I can say is, thank you Saab, thank you for such a stunning car.

Here’s to 20,000 miles, and the next, and the next

Luxury Defined

LUXURY _ A space offering elegance and refinement, a pleasure out of the ordinary, above and beyond normal expectations of well-being.

Just recently, I’ve read a lot of online discussions as to whether SAABs are ‘luxury’ cars, and without going into detail, I think the definition of luxury says it all; SAABs are most definitely luxury cars.

Anyone having had the pleasure of either driving or owning a SAAB will understand when I say they offer a unique sense of luxury, not the polished wood and cream leather type of luxury, more a sense of well-being; exquisitely designed ergonomics, effective, refined controls, superior longevity and, of course wonderfully comfortable seats.

When I manage to just sit and enjoy the luxuriousness of the SAAB 9-3’s interior, i realise just how special it feels, Hirsch fittings have only added to this, with leather door handles and detailing, exquisitely stitched leather dashboard, one of the finest sports steering wheels I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving with, and aluminium pedals with simple Hirsch branding.

Luxury isn’t an easy thing to define, some manufactures think that by adding a few pieces of wood and leather, it turns something normal into something special, to me luxury is far more than this, it has to stir emotions, leave you longing for more.

The SAAB 9-3 never fails to offer the feel-good factor every time I open the door, it feels more than luxurious, it feels SAAB.

SAAB vs. Wind Turbines

For the first few months of owning the new 9-3 TTiD, I fastidiously recorded the fuel economy; how many miles it could manage per tank, how that translated into mpg, but then I got bored.

For some unknown reason, car manufacturers like to give us completely fabricated mpg figures for new cars; tested on a perfectly flat track, no wind, no braking, minimal acceleration and 13″ wheels only as wide as those on my mountain bike. My wife seems to be the only person in the world that gets close to the official figures, and I still don’t know how she does it.

Anyway, I happened to pass some gorgeous new 450ft high wind turbines at the weekend, and got to thinking about economy and clean energy, which made me think about my 9-3, after all, not only did I fall in love with its looks and luxuriousness, I loved the fact that it was one of the fastest diesel cars on the market with reasonably environmentally friendly credentials of just 119 CO2.

My 9-3 left the SAAB showroom some 8 months ago now, and has returned pretty consistent economy; not the official 60+ combined figure SAAB advertised, but consistent all the same. I do a real world mix of city, country and longer distance motorway driving, and am averaging 41mpg, which translates into around 550 miles per tank. There have been anomalies: 620 something miles from a journey to Cornwall, and 490 something miles mid Winter when I didn’t do much besides sit in snow, rain and lots of traffic, but on average, 41mpg.

I like to think my choice of car, overall is a good one, one that will easily do a few hundred thousand miles, one that lasts long enough for a number of people to own and enjoy it, and one that, over its life will have a reasonably low impact on the environment.

So next time I fly by the beautiful turbines, enjoying the winding country roads and the Hirsch 9-3’s power, I’ll look, smile and be reminded i’m also driving a car with pretty good economy too.

Two seasons, twelve thousand miles and a huge amount of smiling


Stuff has been happening here, but absolutely no time to write about them. The new 900 convertible is currently with my wonderful mechanic for a good going over, the 9-3 SportCombi has been proving it’s worth and is in desperate need of a clean, and the 9-3 Saloon, well, what can I say, is simply stunning.

The 9-3 has now seen its first Autumn and Winter seasons, it’s covered a decent amount of miles, and as the headline says, it’s made me smile, a lot. It’s hard to explain, it’s more than just a car; something that gets you from A to B, it’s a complete feeling, it becomes part of your life.

As far as reliability goes, it’s been flawless, but that’s not all that makes a car great. It’s bloody comfortable too, the leather heated seats have felt supremely luxurious throughout Winter, the Hirsch steering wheel really suits my driving style, and, gimmick or not, the night panel is seriously easy on the eyes on dark evenings.

I’ve quickly become addicted to driving the 9-3; the Hirsch upgrade allows the TTiD engine to pull beautifully, no flat spots, no lag, and you can comfortably take the revs up to 5000rpm throughout the gears.  The Hirsch duel exhaust is settling down nicely, and has a very gratifying subtle but deep rasp as you accelerate, the upgraded and lowered sport suspension gives the 9-3 an amazing feeling of security together with a meaningful stance and the Hirsch brakes have been invaluable.

I absolutely love the sharp styling, I know the platform is over 10 years old, but with its recent facelift, I’d still choose the 9-3 over other current luxury cars; it offers a unique distinction not often found in current automotive design trends.

Obviously, choosing a new SAAB hasn’t come without its problems, the loss of my ‘guaranteed’ 3 year manufactures warranty for one, panicking about parts availability another. But the pleasure the SAAB has given already far out ways my worries, I look at it as a Limited Edition; one I am lucky enough to own, and one that may mean a few hardships along the way, but what a fantastic journey.

Glamour one day, work the next.

It’s all very nice keeping the SAAB spotlessly clean and taking sexy photos of it, but the original idea of Saab vs Scepticism was to do a long, long term review of daily life with the 9-3.

That brings me to it’s latest mission; to safely transport the materials for one of our home projects. Sounds like an everyday mission, but what has amazed me about the SAAB is the shear capacity of its boot space, simply drop the rear seats, and i’ve managed to get a piece of timber 1700mm x 900mm straight in there, cool.

I was planning on taking our SportCombi to pick the timber up, but this has really pleased me, it’s just another reason why I love the 9-3 – hugely quick, refined and a pleasure to drive, but also practical when called upon.

My son and I have the yearly tradition of collecting our freshly cut 8ft Christmas tree in the next few weeks, that’ll be fun.