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.
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.
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.
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.
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.