Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1999 09:45:27 -0500
From: Gavin Haslett <>
Subject: Re: Some 900se questions

Dunno about the galvanised body panels... but it would make sense seeing as Saab is from Sweden... a country where you're never too far from the sea. I saw the message from "Scott Reed" regarding his preference for American mid-size cars... as I own a 1996 Saab 900 SE Turbo and a 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP I feel well placed to comment about my preference. 1. Power: While the GTP is definitely the quicker of the two off the mark, the Saab's power band seems a lot flatter and more predictable. The Saab feels like it could accelerate forever while the GTP does start to feel its weight when accelerating over 75mph. Depending on what you prefer in a car, advantage none. My personal preference is advantage Saab here. 2. Handling: The Saab handles beautifully. It predictably and reliably steers into twisty roads, suffers minimal body or chassy flex and is really good fun to drive. The steering isn't that responsive requiring a lot more turning to actually move the car than the GTP, but that can also lend itself to much finer control in corners. The GTP is definitely at the mercy of its own weight here and loses out big time. I've yet to find out for sure, but this can apparently be alleviated by strut tower braces in the GTP (about $200 each end of the car). Advantage Saab. 3. Comfort: Here the GTP does win out... but not by much. I prefer the Saab's ergonomics and the "black panel" display (which blacks out all instruments except the speedometer). At night the inside of the GTP can be a little distracting with little red lights everywhere. However, I must agree that road noise is high in the Saab and while it can be a comfortable car on long drives it can also be wearing. The road noise can be dealt with by better tires than the stock Michelins (try Fulda's... I've got them and it cut road noise down drastically). The suspension in the GTP is softer than the Saab's too... so for long drives it's more "cushy"... however this cushy suspension also lends to the GTP's handling problems. 4. "fun-to-drive" factor: Dead heat actually. I like some of the gadgets in the GTP, especially the HUD which is a nice idea, but I also love the feel of the Saab. There's a very definite line you can draw between the feel of the GTP and the 900... it's obvious that the GTP is the cheaper car. 5. Practicality: Definite advantage Saab. As a father of one and soon to be father of a second the ability to haul loads of stuff is a definite plus! The GTP is definitely the bigger car, but most of that size is given over to the bigger engine and styling; the 900 can haul much more stuff than its diminutive size would have you think! The trunk liftover in the GTP is WAY too high and the opening relatively small... the Saab once swallowed six dining room table chairs plus several large trash bags full of clothes and was STILL able to close the trunk. 6. Driver Visibility: Advantage Saab. I've driven many cars, and the only car that I've ever driven that had better visibility when driving was my Subaru SVX... but then again that car's designed with most of the upper half of the car being a glass bubble! 7. Maintenance: Advantage GTP. One of the main reasons I have the GTP is for work... my SO drives the Saab most of the time these days. In my job I can put 35K miles a year on a car... and the Saab was starting to get into pricey maintenance. The GTP has a stock Buick 3800 V6 (supercharged) that really hasn't changed much in design since 1962... so everyone and their mother knows how to work on them. The 900's highly advanced OHC direct ignition 4-banger is a masterpiece of technology... but if I break down in the boondocks of Illinois (always a possibility), then finding someone to work on the car's going to be a pain and finding parts is going to be nigh on impossible. The decision to buy the Pontiac was a simple matter of safety, practicality and maintenance. Personally if I'd had a better paying job I might have opted for a Saab 9-5 instead of the Pontiac... I've grown to love that Saab and even though I've only been out of it since I bought the GTP I miss it already. Don't get me wrong... I love that GTP too... it's a fast and powerful mid-size sedan, and probably the epitome of what American engineering can do on a budget (hey, how many other sub-$25K mid-size sedans do you know that can do 0-60 in under 7 seconds?)... but to me the Saab is more what I like in a performance car. The only reason I don't drive it all the time for work is simply a matter of how much maintenance costs can spiral to, rapidly. Sure, I'll probably have the same problems on my GTP over the next few years that I would've had on my Saab... but parts will be cheaper and finding someone to work on the GTP will be easier. It all comes down to what you want out of the car. There are faster cars on the road than the Saab for about the same money... and there are flashier cars on the road too... but none I can think of in the price range really combine performance, practicality, and appearance with as much panache as Saab. It can haul stuff like a pick-up, haul ass like a sports car, and handle like a BMW on the twisties... and while the BMW may be more popular than the Saab I would really rate them about equal. FYI, when I bought my 900 it came down to a toss-up between the 900 and a 1996 BMW 328i... in the end the make-or-break points were (a) I found the Saab leather seats to be more supportive, (b) practicality, and (c) I just LOVE to be different :) -- Gavin Haslett "Ahhhh... Mountain Dew... nectar of the geeks!"

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