UK Car Road Test

Saab 93 Cabriolet 2001

 Movie Clips of this Car

Exterior Movie Interior Movie

 


Is this the Ultimate hairdressers car or is it so much more. 
A stylish Cabriolet, yet with a decent amount of passenger and boot space.
Chic and desirable, yet practical and sensible.

 

Saab 9.3 looks its very best in 2 door soft top form

Lack of Amber enhances  the 
Black and chrome Classic look
Door fit excellent despite lack of roof

Approaching the Saab 9.3 for the first time, its roof is already tucked down so I get to see its best look straight off. I can see in the leather clad interior, and it looks oh so inviting soft and curvaceous. I have to stop and pause for a second, this really is one stunning looker. Some time we just jump straight in and blat off down the road. This car is way too interesting for that and we spend a good 30 minuets inspecting it. Its hard to find fault, its build quality is strong and everything fits perfectly. Its design is thoughtful and complete. This is no easy top chop conversion with a bagfull of production compromises thrown in. 

It has an almost strange blend of  California and Stockholm. It retains its essential Saabness yet has an almost quintessential quality of a modern day classic built in. If you had to put money on a car which will one day become a sought after classic put your money here.  The 9.3 is desirable right now and its interior design has that almost neo-classic Saab like it or lump it look that neither cutting edge nor likely to age overnight with the vagaries of fashion.

My only worry about the interior is how much cleaning I would have to do with so much light leather and tan velour exposed to the elements. 
Luckily for once my timing for testing the Saab was perfect as it coincided with the first and possibly only bright spell of the year. A week later and I would have run the risk of the tropical rain storm that hit and likely ended up with six inches of water burying the carpet. If you run a soft top in britain mind you are probably adept at smelling rain and getting the top up in a rush before the first spit of fine rain ("you know the stuff that wets you right through") spots the immaculate interior.

For the record getting the roof up or down is a doodle of motorised electronic perfection. ( see pictures at end of page ). Give it a good strong tug on the release latch, then hold down a button whilst the top magically disappears into  a secret compartment of the boot. Why you have to hold the button down throughout the operation remains a mystery to me though. Why would you want the roof only half down?

By design the roof disappears completely and gives a fine look to the car, swiftly side stepping that pram like look that many Rag tops adopt.

Note 60-70 range at the most visible 
12 oclock position

The Cabin dash is the usual flat wall that saab claimed was the height of ergonomics in the 1980's  The clocks are the simpler low pressure turbo items and non the worse for it. The cabin is awash with buttons, but they are at least fairly sensibly grouped. 

 

This is no stripped out sporter, its a comfy posing cruiser. You expect it to be loaded and it pretty well is. Between the swathes of leather, velour, deeppile carpet and wood  are all the bits and pieces you need on an ultra modern car. Sitting in the Characteristically fantastically comfy  seats gripping the tactile if slightly large wheel, you feel a million dollars, the car has an air well beyond its not exactly bargain basement price. Can not say I am over keen on the loo brush handbrake but its a small point.  Just on the verge of overkill  are the climate control and pollen filters which seem a little excessive for a car with no roof. Saab could probably squeeze a few more gadgets in to the car but not many that you could actually make any real regular use of. Despite the lack of a tin top the Saab is fully winter equipped and with its lights out dash can make a perfect long distance night time tool.

Radio of decent quality
Wood Stock not normally associated with IKEA
You can tuck all the pillarless windows down

Full Climate control 
Works splendidly with the hood up.
Shame it can not control our climate
when its down

Cruise along and enjoy the Sun!
If we ever had any. 

Headlamp wash wipe has been standard on the Swedes for years

 

Comfort Features
Adjustable Steering Column
Adjustable Steering Column
Cup holders
Cup holders
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Front Door Bins
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Heated Front Seats
Heated Front Seats
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter
Pollen Filter
Remote Boot Release
Remote Boot Release
Time Clock
Time Clock
General Features
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors
Colour Coded Mirrors
Digital Odometer
Digital Odometer
Electric Aerial
Electric Aerial
Exterior Side Mouldings
Exterior Side Mouldings
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
On Board Computer
On Board Computer
Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows
Luxury Features
Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning
Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette Lighter
Climate Control
Climate Control
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Power Hood
Electric Power Hood
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Leather Steering Wheel
Leather Steering Wheel
Leather Upholstery
Leather Upholstery
Radio CD Player
Radio CD Player
Walnut Trim
Walnut Trim

 

 

Eco-Power ho hum . Well I suppose if you engage the cruise control and sit on an empty flat motorway with the patience of a saint you may just start to approach that claimed 42.2 mpg. Frankly if  I  got to average anywhere over 30mpg I would be delighted. Turbos can be delightfully efficient at steady speed and revs, hence Turbo Diesel Trains trucks and static power plants. Using the boost to maximum effect  though uses just as much gas as any other 150bhp petrol plant, so its economy is a measure of your right foots and sobriety and citizenship.

Light pressure turbo gives

Plenty of poke for the chassis

Even with the conservatively rated 150bhp light pressure turbo motor under the bonnet the 9.3 feels sprightly enough thank you very much in its soft top form, as the roof being down tends to exaggerate the effects on the senses.  But even against the clock it is no slouch, putting in respectable if not jet like figures.  

Maximum output maybe conservative to low at around 150bhp, but power delivery is smooth and wide. Saab will argue that you get 150bhp performance when the blower is churning and excellent economy when steady cruising as the turbo backs off on light throttle and in LPT configuration has storming mid range without any noticeable Turbo nasty side effects. Certainly it is a grunty unit and pulls well from very low revs through its strong mid range. Even the Turbos normal distinctive whistle is hard to discern.

In feel, the counter balanced 4 seems almost like a 2.5 litre 6 with its mix of seamless low-end drive and mid range pickup. In this size of car 150bhp feels like a nicely rounded number, giving enough wallop to keep you entertained but not enough to seriously undermine the front wheel drive chassis.

The engine is a pleasure no matter where in the rev range it sits. Sound and vibration is well suppressed at all points and even though there is little need to rev the guts out of the engine, it does not feel unduly stressed if you do.

The gearbox would not be described as slick but there is little to complain about, it takes a little heft to shift it but it feels perfectly attuned to the car and its other controls. Everything else has a built-in hefty feel and the change matches that.  The Saab shift does seem to have become a little slicker over the years, but frankly I quite like it just as it is thanks very much, and see little need for anything lighter. Perhaps this car would actually suit an Automatic box more than a manual, it would probably suit its image more.

Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
12000 14 N/A
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
16 Valve DOHC Turbo 150 1985 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
4 Double 4 Turbo Charger
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
134mph 8.2seconds 110
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
22.2mpg 42.2mpg 31.7mpg Unleaded
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1375kg 1600kg 462cm 196cm 142cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
425 Litres 1416 Litres 4

Now handling and ride should be divided into two sections.

1 Smooth quality road surfaces.

On smooth roads the 9.3 behaves impeccably and rides with aplomb. With its nicely judged steering weight and  smooth response the 9.3 steers admirably. With its front wheel drive chassis well up to the job of keeping the LPT in check. It rides very nicely to in keeping with its cushy cruiser image. That is not say it wallows about like a Cadillac with blancmange suspension. The suspension is nicely controlled and damped and you need to be quite fierce with the steering to elicit undue yaw. On decent roads the Cabriolet handles and rides like a normal 9.3 Solid, stable, reliable with under steer when pushed too hard, and a touch of wheel spin when heavy on the gas in the lower gears.

Nothing could be sweeter than cruising the country side top down passenger laden on a humid summer night, lazing along on the turbos mid range grunt. Shame that most will be seen queuing up in the rat race, or shopping at Sainsburys.

2 Typical British Surface

I believe the phrase is scuttle shake. The 9.3 is not designed as a ground up Soft top, so when the roof was lost the stiffness designed into it went too. Saab have stiffened up the rest of the body. But a soft top has a built in design problem in that you can not triangulate the body through its roof. Look at how many Soft tops weigh more than saloons. In fact the Convertible weighs in at 75kg heavier than the five door hatch version. When the ground gets choppy the body starts to limbo dance and feeds shaky input to the steering. On smooth roads you get no sense of this happening as the body twist probably works as a crude suspension effect like pre monocoque cars. But show it a bumpy corner and the effect is quite dramatic. On the up side it does not seem to affect stability or direction its just something to get used to. It does though give away the chassis origins as a hardtop design.  The Economics of the shared GM chassis platform allow Saab  to produce a soft top, so as a choice between it existing and it not its acceptable in all its shaky glory.

 

Alloys now in fairly generic Style

New Badge 
But same old predictable qualitys

 

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Front Fog lamps fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter

 

 

Saabs still employ that quaint key position down by the gear lever that is quirky, yet not the least bit bothersome. Its advantage though is the gear lock allowing you to lock the car in reverse. Its not a fool proof anti-theft deterrent but its a good start. Vin, central locking, Alarm and immobilisor make this as secure a soft top as you can reasonably expect, though the nature of the roof always make it vulnerable too any scuzzball with a  stanley knife.

Barring a roll over hoop the Saabs stiff shell gives good protection.  All the usual Swedo Saab safety features are there after all Saab, Along with Volvo pioneer many of them. Special super safety headrests, Anti submarine seats, pre-tensioned belts, side impact protection and the obligatory multitude of Airbags  are there to help should you crash it.  The Screen surround looks usefully thick and strong, not that I would like to put it too the test by sliding it along upside down.

It also carries quite a few useful if not so obvious safety features  ABS, fog lamps, high level rear brake light  etc. It a adds up to a Cabriolet in which you do not really feel overly exposed.

Safety/Security Features
Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Central Locking
Central Locking
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Rear Seat Belts Fitted
Rear Seat Belts Fitted
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

 

 

Cargo Nets useful

Hood case keeps it well packed

The boot, such a proletarian Item to have to discuss. We actually have to discuss two boots here the low slitty odd shaped item that exists when the roof is down, and the large sensible 93 boot that is available when the roof is up. A neat roof bag exists in the boot to hold the folded roof, and a couple of strong well engineered clips pull it clear when the roof is up, freeing up considerable space. Its still a compromise but a sensible one.

 

Fasten Belts 

Simple concise legends

Grill a bit of designer overkill

Passenger space is quite good for a soft top too. This is at least a genuine four seater with some actual leg room in the rear. Its converted down from the spacious 9.3 5 seat body and even allowing for the roof  Saab have saved a good amount of space for two rear seat passengers.

The whole point of a soft top is that you as the owner will be looking to maximize opportunities to get the roof down. But being British there are going to be long nasty period when that is just not possible. ( I really do wonder just how many soft tops get sold in the Swedish home market) The double duck  roof presents a nice snug water tight fit to the elements when up and is thick and insulated enough to allow the climate control to work to maximum effect. Noise control is fair, though it can never compete with a tin top from that aspect. It even looks okay wth the roof up, often a problem for many convertibles.

How to take the roof down

1 Pull the release
2 hold down button
3 Roof Gone

See some brilliant electronic trickery in action

 The pictures do not do it justice at all, it has to be seen

In conclusion this is a lovely desirable car, and its hard to find a real competitor for it, an up market soft top 4 seat cruiser. It is also as practical a Cabriolet as you can find and at around group 14 insurance its not a killer from that end either. 

The car is backed by Saabs reputation for strongly built reliable long lasting motors, and decent parts prices so should give many years excellent service.

If you are thinking about one though do not hang about when looking , these are one of the fastest shifters in the used market.

 

 


 

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UK Car Road Test Saab 93 Cabriolet 2001

UK Car Road Test Keywords: Sports saloon93 Cabriolet