Review: 2006 SAAB 9-7X 5.3i

Note: This review was originally posted at Trollhattan Saab on July 29th, 2008.

Working at a dealership has taught me several things. The first lesson is that you never know how long you will have a demo vehicle. It may last a month. It may last a day. You just never know. I’ve also learned that you should never put much gas in the tank of a demo vehicle. As soon as you fill-up the tank, the car will sell and for some strange reason the customer won’t refund you the money. Sure enough, after putting $20 in the tank last night, the SAAB 97X was taken from me. Therefore, my review of this Swedish SUV will be limited to four days and less than 100 miles. Even so, I have some thoughts to share.

First Impressions

My wife likes the 97X. In fact, the first day home, she announced her approval of purchasing it should we need to replace the minivan. That says something about the vehicle as she normally doesn’t like foreign cars. As strange as it may seem, she never did like the SAAB 900s or either of the Jaguars we have owned.

Rather than question her tastes (at least for the moment), I think this may say something about a portion of the American market. Die-hard Saabisti may decry the re-badging of the Trailblazer/Envoy, but some people really don’t care. They actually like the way it looks. And to be honest, the black 97X I’ve been driving does look pretty good.

Performance

Last Thursday evening, I was handed the keys to the 97X. One of the first things I noted as I pulled out of the parking lot was the explosive acceleration of the 300 hp V8.

For instance, as I was preparing to turn right onto Mentor Avenue, another car was driving past. With every other car I’ve driven, it was appropriate to push the accelerator when the car was directly in front of my bumper. That usually allowed me to enter traffic without having to worry about hitting the car as it passed. Not so with the 97X. As I pressed the accelerator, I thought that I was going to hit the car driving past! Thankfully, I hit the brakes instead.

Acceleration on the highway was also impressive for an SUV. It doesn’t quite compare to a compact car with the same specs. But the fact that the 300 hp is backed up with 330 lb. feet or torque is quite noticable at all times.

Interior

Several weeks of looking through the window of the vehicle produced in me a desire to test drive this vehicle. The perforated black leather seats, wood accents, and a tasteful amount of chrome trim made the 97X look like the finest car on the lot.

However, as I drove the vehicle home, I was quicky reminded that it indeed was a truck — especially on concrete roads. To make matters worse the driver’s seat back felt like (and on closer inspection looked like) square sofa seat cushions from a hide-away bed. They were not very comfortable at all. But I must admit that I had grown accustomed to the glove-like, comfortable seats in the Volvo S60 R.

Now take those comments for what they are worth. I have had a trouble with my back for the last twenty years. And driving any SUV over Tyler Blvd. is probably not going to be very comfortable. But then again … on the way back from church last night, my wife commented on how comfortable the passenger seat was. Go figure.

I did appreciate the accessibility of the rear storage compartment. The 97X comes with a two piece rear hatch. By pressing a large button underneath the hatch window, the hinged window itself can be opened. This is a nice option as it enables you to access smaller items without opening the entire hatch. Of course, it only takes a moment longer to open the entire hatch, but every little time saver is appreciated.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed driving the SAAB 97X 5.3i. It is a nice looking, powerful vehicle SUV that allows five passengers to travel in style. While the seats may not be as comfortable as those in a 9000 Aero, you do get used to them after a while. And if you are not intimidated by the current price of gas, this is the time to buy. Leikin Motor Company has two in stock for under US $20,000. Quite the deal, I’d say.

Review: 2004-07 Volvo S60 R

In our back office, I came across a very helpful book. Volvo Certified Pre-Owned Program: 2007 New & Pre-Owned Facts Guide provides specifications for every model variant produced between the years 2002-2007. Among many interesting facts, the book reveals that Volvo created an “R” variant of their S60 and V70 models for model years 2004-07. The R was a sport version which included upgraded brakes, suspension, transmission, and engine.

  • high pressure turbo 5 cyl, 2.5L engine, 300 HP
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • 17″ Pegasus alloy wheels with 235/45/17 Pirelli P-Zero Rosso
  • FOUR-C chassis
  • Electronically controlled AWD with instant traction
  • Brembo 4 piston calipers
  • rear spoiler
  • Bi-Xenon headlamps with headlamp washers
  • Full soft leather multi-contoured sport seats
  • Blue watchdial instruments

Leikin Volvo recently acquired a 2005 S60 R. And as you can imagine, everybody wanted to take it for a test drive. They always came back with smiles and statistics such as how many blocks it took to get to 80 mph. While I wanted to take the car for a test-drive, I was a bit nervous. Driving a performance car is fun but not so much if something bad happens. So, I waited until the car had been serviced and the tires had been replaced.

My opportunity arrived last week when things were a bit slow. My test route took me down Mentor Avenue and Rt. 306 to Rt. 2. Unfortunately, there were plenty of cars on the on ramp, making it difficult to test the acceleration. But it didn’t take long to realize that this was a very fast car. It was so fast that unless you choose to exceed the speed limit on a regular basis (which I do not) it would prove to be a boring ride. The car accelerates so quickly to 60 mph (6.1 sec4)that once you’ve arrived there’s nothing else to do.

The 2004 Volvo S60 R will hold its own against small supercars like the Subaru WRX-STi and the Lancer Evolution. In fact it is every bit as quick as those two cars yet it feels considerably more refined, like an Audi S4.1

Let me assure you that this would be a fun car to own. If it were my own, I am sure that I would enjoy zipping through the back roads of Lake County on a regular basis. But as the car is selling for $24,990 at the moment, I just didn’t feel comfortable pushing it too hard. You understand, right?

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Various Reviews:

  1. 2004 Volvo S60 R Performance Test by Colin Hefferon
  2. Follow-Up Test: 2004 Volvo S60 R by Brian Moody
  3. 2006 Volvo S60 R by c/net Reviews
  4. Tuners: 2006 Evolve Volvo S60R by John Kiewicz

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Review: 2008 Volvo C30

The other Swedish brand had captured my attention for the past seven years, so looking at Volvos almost seemed … well … wrong. But recent events have begun to change my opinion of Saab’s competitor. Last Tuesday, I visited Leiken Volvo and saw their showroom models inside and outside. One of the first cars that caught my eye was the Volvo C30. There’s just something about the shape of the car and the frameless glass hatch that says, “Take me for a drive!”

As James R. Healey said, “Sometimes a car is so spot-on, you don’t care if it’s the right size or has the best features or comes from your favorite brand. Meet Volvo’s C30 T5, a royal, rollicking romp of a small, two-door car. … Volvo is making cool cars again.” 1 On the other hand, Edmunds.com was a bit less excited. “Compared to sport hatchbacks like the Volkswagen GTI and Mini Cooper S, the 2008 Volvo C30 leaves much to be desired in the fun-to-drive category. So while the C30’s not quite a hot hatch, it is certainly as much of a hip hatch with its unique styling, interesting interior trappings and customizable features.” 2

That’s probably all I should say before driving the car myself. But, if you can’t wait for my upcoming post, you can read the following reviews:

  1. James R. Healey’s “Volvo C30: Pull up a seat and get comfy” in USA Today.
  2. 2008 Volvo C30 Review” by Edmunds.com
  3. C30 Accolades, a PDF brochure produced by Volvo

Walkinshaw’s XJ-S

From what I recall, Tom Walkinshaw was the man responsible for the R series Jaguars. These were beefed up version of the XJ6 and XJ-S. In the following video, you can see what Walkinshaw was able to do with a hopped up XJ-S. Watch for the “up on two wheels” corner. I was holding the sides of my seat just watching it. Yikes!

Pegged!

I drive the speed limit. My dad drilled the importance of that into my head while my mom prayed that I would become a good driver. Their influence and the accident that totalled my first car caused me to see the importance of obeying traffic laws. But as helpful as speed limits are, there are times when you have to do what you have to do. Let me explain.

Tuesday evening I was driving toward home after work. The weather was nice and the car was running well. I was actually cruising at about 5 mph below the posted 60 mph when it happened. I found myself trapped between a closely knit line of cars attempting to enter the freeway and another car pulling up beside me in the fast lane. This is usually not a problem as those entering the freeway are required to yield to those already in the lane. But this wasn’t happening. The cars kept coming closer and closer. I was beginning to get worried and then it happened. I instinctively stomped on the accelerator.

Before I continue the story, you need to know that our Jaguar XJ-S has a three speed GM 400 automatic transmission coupled to a 295 hp V12 engine. Depressing the acclerator at 55 mph kicks the car into first gear. You can probably imagine the crazy feeling, rapid acceleration, and loud exhaust note that accompanies that action. In what seemed like a second, the car leaped forward and the speedometer pegged at 85/90 mph. Here again, you need to realize that at the time my car was built most US speedometers registered no higher than 85 mph. Somebody said it was required by law.(?) I’ve never pegged a speedometer in my life, but now that I have, I can see why so many people are addicted to speeding. Wow!