Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Steven Wade has made the point recently in that fuel economy numbers are “of the devil.” I took some exception to his contention, because fuel consumption matters to me, especially since I drive 35,000 miles a year. I have given this some more thought, though. Would I drive a Prius? God no, not because it’s a hybrid—it’s the rest of the car which is putrid. I drove a friend’s 2003 9-3 Linear (2.0 175 hp) to work today and noted on the fuel economy readout on SID that I had averaged 36+ mpg, which is about 8 mpg better than I average in my 1992 900T. That’s a healthy 30% increase in mileage, in a car which I like. Would I rather drive the 2003 Sport Sedan over my 900T? No, I like my car better. So while I may not agree with Swade on consumption being of the devil, it is certainly not, in real life terms, as high a personal priority as I might have otherwise contended.

That got me to thinking about other facts and figures. 1985 cc displacement. 160 horsepower. 188 lb ft torque. 16 valves. 9.0 compression ratio. 80 amp alternator. 3.67 final drive. 15” wheels. 99” wheel base. 3.65 turns lock to lock. 2861 lbs. 14.9 cu. ft. trunk capacity. 16.6 gallon fuel tank. Is all this important? No. It is rubbish. The reason I want to drive my car and enjoy it every day has nothing to do with any facts and figures.

The reason I bought this car, and, I suppose, most every Saab I’ve owned, is that I loved the experiences of owning and driving them. I derive some semblance of pleasure or satisfaction, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep on driving these cars. Note that though I’ve owned lots of Saabs, I’ve kept most of them until they were used up, like the 1988 9000T we had, because I enjoyed them to the end. If I had stopped enjoying them, stopped deriving some satisfaction or pleasure from the experience of driving and owning the cars, I would have sold them and moved on.

What does any of that have to do with any of the tangible specifications of the car? Nothing. Specifications are rubbish.

I like looking at all the Saabs in my driveway. Not every Saab is beautiful, but I think we have a handsome collection, from André’s Laser Red 2002 9-3 (even with its bare steel wheels/studded snow tires), to Pascal’s menacing 9000 Aero, to the guys’ SPG project in the garage, to Sue’s quietly understated 9-5, to my flat-out good-looking 900T, replete with 1996 Super CS wheels. Then there are the interiors. Some are better than others, but I enjoy all the interior spaces in a Saab, even with their splendid eccentricities. What does this visual appreciation of a Saab have to do with facts.? Nothing. Facts are rubbish.

All Saabs have a different sort of appeal to them when you drive them. Some are long-legged and prefect on super-highways. Some, like my 900T, are happiest charging the roads less taken. In all Saabs, though, there is something that compels me to stay engaged as a driver. That makes me smile. That experience actually makes me happy. What do happiness and pleasure have to do with weights and measures? Nothing. Weights and measures are rubbish.

I was nearly killed once by a fool in a bald-tired 4Runner who crossed into my lane after hitting black ice. My driver training gave me the instinct to brake and turn away, so an offset head-on crash was turned into a severe glancing blow. Though the glass and airbag turned my face to hamburger (and there is no greater joy than having glass picked out of your eyes), I was essentially unharmed and literally walked away. Do I care that Saabs are equipped with passive and active safety features which I could innumerate which helped save my life? No. Enumeration is rubbish. I’m just happy knowing a Saab is safe and hope I never have to prove it to myself again.

Let the BMW guys talk about 0-60 times. Let the Audi guys talk about RS horsepower. Let the Porsche guys brag about the G-s their 911 or Cayman can pull. I might suggest that Saab try something new. Get rid of all mention of numbers. Number of cylinders? Who cares. Displacement? Ditto. Horsepower and torque figures? Not relevant. Valves? Boost pressure? Brake disc diameter? Rubbish. All you need to know is on the hood: it’s a Saab. Saab should simply invite people to drive the cars, customers should pick the Saab they like and forget all that irrelevant minutiae. Minutiae is rubbish!

Apply this notion elsewhere. When I drink a wine, I want to enjoy it. I care not a wit what Parker score it has, the year, or frankly, the appellation or varietal. If I like the wine, I like the wine. If I don’t, off it goes into the cooking pot. Do I care that in my favorite recording of Lohengrin, that 40 trumpets were employed? No. But I am stirred when Roger Voisin puts the horn to his lips and vanquishes every other musician in Symphony Hall. Do I judge a chocolate by the cocoa’s country of origin, or the cocoa content percentage? No. Just take me to the Maison du Chocolat and let me eat it all because it’s that good.

At the end of the day, in my Saab, I smile when I step on the accelerator. I smile when I carve a corner. I rejoice in knowing that a Saab saved my life. I’ve long stopped thinking in quantifiable ways about the total experience of a car. Either I relish that experience, or I don’t. Every other consideration is…..rubbish.


anthonyx26 said...

OK...but all else equal, it'd be nice to have that Saab driving experience while also knowing you're going to save a few dollars at the pump and help mother nature, by polluting less.

Pierre Belperron said...

It would be nice, but currently, it is what it is. Should they find a way to bring a TTiD....we'd have our cake and eat it, too.

Anonymous said...

8 amp alternator?
You needs amps not mpgs!

RMinNJ said...

I enjoyed your posting. I've tried many times to describe my like for saabs with my friends at work. They always mention things such as resale value, honda reliability, costs for this or that.

I've seen them pay the same prices at their dealer as I do at mine. But their cars are very "un-enjoyable".

My Saab saved my life also one icy day. To me it is worth more than the sum of its parts or costs of repairs.

Chris said...

You just summed up why I drive a Saab, 6 Saabs on.

It is all about ...everything. Not any one thing.

Excellent piece!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your p.o.v. And think SAAB should focus its marketing on this notion and the fact that it has a pack of adoring fans. Subaru's latest campaign does this to a degree ("Subaru = Love" is my recollection of the message) and I think it is effective.

Andy O. said...

Just got a 2010 9-3 in September. My first highway trip averaged 37+! That is on a car that is EPA rated at 21/31.

It is my fourth Saab (first non-hatchback), and I almost didn't get it. So far, it has exceeded my expectations in almost every way. I am looking forward to the 2012 9-3 hatchback.