I can’t tell you how much I miss Saab. The glory days of this Swedish car maker may be long gone, but thankfully the used car market is practically overflowing with good examples.
With that in mind, here are some of my favourites.
For executive car buyers who dare to be a little bit different. High power upsets the balance of this car, and anyway, the 9-5 is much better at soaking up bumps and keeping occupants happy in the spacious interior than it is at going reasonably quickly. The seats are comfortable and the driver’s environment, with easy to reach controls and clear dials, is a delight. Generous standard equipment, impressive safety features and success in crash tests make the 9-5 even more attractive.
Saab 9000 Carlsson
Faster than contemporary Ferraris in mid-range acceleration terms. The turbo does lag a bit and its 0-60mph time is no faster than that of the average hatch. However, 50-70mph it takes just six seconds and its top speed is over 140mph. Also, the fact that the Saab just looks like any other slightly dull Swede is a major attraction, as are the kitchen sink specification and ultra-low prices.
Original Saab 9000
According to the purists the 9000 isn't really a proper Saab, in that it isn’t ugly or idiosyncratic. It is, however, very pleasant to drive with a decent ride, solid build and executive expense account running costs. I’ve had three, and they were all brilliant.
Saab 99 Turbo
In 1977 it wasn’t just punk that shook the world. When the 99's small turbo spun into action you knew all about it as you wrestled with the steering wheel. Saloons and hatches were available, but two and three-door models look the coolest, in black, of course. The engines aren't exactly unburstable and a few are still spinning on their original turbos. Build quality, devoted owners and those who understand the demands of driving this grenade on the limit are the only reasons why there are any survivors.
For most people this is the classic Saab that established the company’s reputation in the UK for making solid, dependable and safe cars. Launched in 1979, the most exciting model was the Turbo, which developed a hefty 145bhp. Better, though, was the Turbo 16 hatchback and saloon from 1984, with twin overhead camshafts and intercooler producing 175bhp. Turbo 16S had side skirts, spoked alloys, leather and stiffer suspension.
If you want a convertible that looks like a giant shoe, then the original 900 drop-top will fit the bill. It has all of the qualities of the saloon, including a structure that is far stiffer than those of plenty of contemporary tin-tops. So the most solid and, it has to be said, easily the coolest 1980s convertible, and in Turbo form one of the most rapid.
Not nearly as good as the original 900 and everyone makes fun of the fact that underneath there is an awful lot of Vauxhall Cavalier. In hatchback format it is fine (I had one for a few years), but once the roof goes missing so does the handling. It is flimsy, so best for posing rather than pushing hard.