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Owner experiences and review: Saab NG 900 Convertible

Saab 9-3 TdiFirst-time Saab owner review - 1998 Saab 900 2.3

Thanks to Tony Rinicella (Clevesaab) for writing this article.
(All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them)

My white, 1998 Saab 900 automatic is equipped with the non-turbo, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. Optional features on my Saab when I bought her used, included only the 6-disk CD changer. One of the things I really like about Saabs, in general, is that most of their 'standard' features are extra's on many other cars (like VW). Standard features are the heated seats, the heated side mirrors, the headlamp wipers, the Saab alarm system, and, in the convertible model, leather seats.

I was wary about buying another 4 cylinder car after my wife's experience with her 1997 Plymouth Breeze. The salesman explained to me that a Saab 4 cylinder and a Plymouth 4 cylinder are not in the same ballpark at all. So I test drove a 1997 900, and I was sold. It's true, "those that test drive a Saab, usually buy one". I bought this car two years ago, and I couldn't be happier with it.

I am 6 feet tall, and I have plenty of head room in my CV Saab. I didn't expect that. In fact, this Saab is the only car I've ever owned that I don't have to have the seat as far back as it can go to be comfortable. I can actually move the seat up one notch and still be totally comfortable. The Saab is also the only car I've owned that I actually can use the headrests in. Not sure why that is, they must be positioned a little differently than the other cars I've owned. No seat comment would be complete without the obligatory comment about the seat 'bun warmers'. Having them now, I don't want to own a car without them. Yes, they are that 'cool'. The seats are very comfortable, and the leather has held up very well.

Saab NG900 ConvertibleThe Convertible top goes down in about 30 seconds, by pressing and holding the 'ROOF' button. At first, I thought having to hold the button the whole time was a bad idea, but now I realize it is a safety feature. If my top is about to hit the roof of a garage, or a tree, or something, I can stop - and then close the top in 'mid-lift'. It packs up neatly in the trunk, but it does rob you of part of your storage space back there. Fine with me, I didn't buy a CV to haul stuff around in. There is a ton of room in the trunk when the top is up.

Your backseat passengers WILL NOT enjoy having the top down when you get onto the highway. It's fine for city driving, but the wind really abuses your backseat passengers at high speeds. Saab does sell accessories to cut down on the 'wind shear'. I don't have one. Of course, that's if you can fit 2 people in your back seat. The back seat is very small, and unless the short people sit up front and move the seats way up, you'll be hard-pressed to fit 4 inside comfortably. I didn't buy this car to drive my friends around in, so it doesn't bother me.

I was also happy to see that the car stays very warm in the winter with just a CV cloth top. The snow on the roof melts very slowly, which shows that very little heat inside is escaping. The drawback to the convertible top (as this is the only CV Iíve owned, forgive me if this is true of ALL convertibles) is the lack of any kind of protection to allow water to run off the roof when driving in the rain. Not only does water come into the car if you have the window open just a bit, it seems to be FUNNELED right into the car!!† One last quick note about the top. The windshield bracket is actually a roll-bar. If the car did flip over, the entire weight of the car could be supported by that bracket.

The SPORT and WINTER mode, common to all Saabs', work very well. I refer to my SPORT mode as my 'Nitro Button'. SPORT mode forces the car to up- and down-shift earlier than normal. This gives your Saab a little more kick which is great for passing someone on the freeway. Not great for your gas mileage, however. It does go down a bit if you stay in SPORT mode for awhile. Sometimes, I am still amazed by the power of this 'tiny' 4-cylinder. WINTER mode is a godsend in the winter. With it, your tires won't spin when you pull away from a stop, no matter how icy the roads are.

As far as gas mileage, itís great on the freeway. According to the Saab MPG counter (another standard Saab feature), I get in the upper 20ís, low 30ís when Iím on the freeway for more than a half hour. In the city, that drops considerably. Not sure how accurate the Saab MPG counter is, but it says at about 20, or less, in the city. Whatever it is, I sure donít spend much time at the gas station.

Another feature I love about my Saab(s), is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to lock your keys in the car. I have locked my keys in my cars too many times (once with the car RUNNING). This is an awesome feature...at least for me. If you lock the door, then close the door, every door automatically un-locks. You HAVE to use the remote or key to lock the doors...which you can't do if the keys are in the car. Also, itís impossible to drain your battery by leaving any interior lights on. They will automatically go out, even if they are turned on, if the key is not in the ignition for x amount of time.

The car is an absolute joy to drive. It's peppy, has strong brakes, and corners like it's riding on rails. It's actually fun to drive in the winter again! The anti-lock brakes take a little getting used to. They are the strangest and nosiest ABS brakes I've ever used. They make a loud grinding noise, and the brake pedal really feels like it's struggling to fight against you. I was put off by this, at first, but now that I see how well they work, I am very pleased.†

There isn't much I don't like about this car, if you couldn't tell. We have had ZERO serious problems with it, and judging by the service manual, neither did the previous owner. As I said, not much of a backseat for adults. The cup-holder, as everyone will tell you, is in a pretty bad spot. Functional, but all the newer Saabs' have one in the dash, instead of between the front seats. Obviously, Saab realized how dumb that was.

Regular preventative maintenance is quite pricey for any Saab, especially if you go to a dealer (but even if you donít). I've heard a lot of horror stories about Saab dealers, but mine has been nothing but great. The suspension seems a little Ďlooserí than other Saabs Iíve been in. A little more Ďbouncyí. The only other thing I don't really like is the size of the rear window. It's glass, at least, but it's pretty small. It's never caused me any problems, but it would be nice if it was a little bigger.

Thanks to Tony Rinicella (Clevesaab) for writing this review.

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