Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 23:20:24 GMT
From: William Glasgall <>
Subject: Re: Should I buy a 9-3 Convertible

Llanos wrote: > > I have owned two 850 Volvo's in the past, I like the C70 convertible, but it > seems a bit pricey. > > I would like to know if the 9-3 is reliable, it is about 10k less expensive > than the Volvo C70, also I would like to know if they offer a maintenance > contract that I might be able to get them to throw in. > > I know with Volvo that they kind of nickel and dime you to death with all > the checkups. > There is one at 5k mi. than at 10k mi. etc they keep getting more expensive > as time goes on, is this the same with SAAB? Pardon the long post, but I'm attaching a review of the Volvo C70 and Saab 9-3 convertibles I wrote for Business Week recently. Beyond the fact that they are both turbocharged and have front-wheel drives, they are very different cars. While both are nicely outfitted, the Volvo is more luxurious and has a roomier back seat and cushier front seats. The Saab has a much bigger trunk, however, and the back seat folds down to make room for bulky cargo. The Volvo had mess wind noise than the Saab. The Saab's acceleration is extremely powerful with the 5-speed manual, and an even more powerful version with a stiffer body will be out this fall when the Viggen convertible debuts. The Volvo seems to get out of the gate more slowly; Volvo execs concede this may be the fault less of the low-pressure turbo than of the computerized auto 4 transmission which constantly adapts itself to your driving style--except it needs 10 miles to do so. I missed having a "sport" setting on the tranny, and no manual is available. A 236-hp full-pressure turbo powered version, now available in the hardtop coupe is on the way, however. The Volvo had much more cowl shake than the Saab, which has a stiffer body. The Saab had more torque steer on takeoff. As I noted below, I had some questions on the reliability of the Volvo's convertible top mechanism. Problems with the top caused most of the '98s to be recalled before they even were put up for sale, and the fully automatic top on the '99 I had occasionally balked, No problem with the Saab top, which requires you to lock and unlock it manually but is otherwise auto. Bill G BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : APRIL 26, 1999 ISSUE PERSONAL BUSINESS Swedes with Sex Appeal It was a balmy morning in New Jersey, perfect for a run to horse country in the shiny red Volvo C70 convertible sitting in my driveway. Since it was Saturday, however, my first stop was to the dry cleaner. As I was preparing to drive away, one of the owners, Kenny Frenchman, ran up to me in the parking lot. ''Hey,'' he exclaimed. ''Really nice car. Go ahead--put the top down.'' So down came the top and off I went. That day, I had an embarrassment of riches. Awaiting its turn for a spin when I had my fill of the Volvo was a cosmic blue Saab 9-3 HOT (for high-output turbo). Together, the two Swedish droptops make an impressive pair. Both were fun to drive on twisting back roads. They're also nicely appointed, with back seats roomy enough to hold my two long-legged sons. Priced in the mid-$40,000 range, neither car is cheap. But either would be an attractive alternative to the rear-wheel-drive BMW 328i (around $46,000, fully loaded) or Mercedes-Benz CLK320 (about $53,000). Despite their Nordic heritage (the Saab is assembled in Finland, the Volvo in Sweden), the two cars have little in common beyond retractable tops and front-wheel drive. The 9-3 shouts power and speed. The C70 exudes refinement. Its heated leather seats are cushy, and in an accident, rollbars pop up from behind the back headrests. There's a handbag shelf beneath the glove compartment, and the 10-speaker CD system did justice to fugues and the Fugees alike. An optional Dolby Surround ProLogic version adjusts its volume to compensate for wind noise when the top is down. LESS OOMPH. Rather than offer a choice of ''sport'' or ''normal'' settings, the C70's computerized four-speed automatic transmission tries to match its shifting to each driver's style. If you regularly pass sport-utes on the interstate with a surge of speed, the computer is supposed to respond with a sudden kick each time you press the gas pedal hard. I found the feature flawed, however. The transmission takes 10 miles to learn your style but constantly readjusts itself. As a result, the car poked along when I tried to make a quick getaway after a spell in slow-moving traffic. While powerful enough, the C70's 190-hp five-cylinder turbo provides less oomph than the 247-hp turbo-charged five powering the C70 hardtop coupe. Acceleration is hardly an issue in the 9-3. It's shaped like a bullet--and flies like one. The five-speed manual transmission, coupled with a 200-hp turbo four, made for such a rapid takeoff that I was doing 70 out of a turnpike tollbooth before I had shifted into fifth. The 9-3 also offers amenities aplenty, and I loaded nine grocery bags into the trunk with room to spare. But the Saab's shifting could have been more precise, and the steering tended to pull to one side when I accelerated--a common trait of high-powered front-wheel drive cars with transverse-mounted engines. The Volvo's frame could have been stiffer; on bumpy roads the shaky front end made steering a chore. The C70's automatic folding top also gave me problems. Much of last year's C70 shipment required repairs on a balky locking mechanism. Many '99s have required similar work. Although Volvo maintains it has fixed the defect, my test car sometimes needed several tries to lock the top down. If you like the look of the Swedes but crave more power, Saab recently rolled out the 9-3 Viggen--Swedish for ''thunderbolt''--a high-performance coupe named after its jet fighter. A convertible version debuts this fall. Volvo will unveil a 236-hp C70 ragtop soon. Either way, these Swedes offer plenty of brio. By William Glasgall (c)1999 The McGraw-Hill Companies

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