A QUIET LIFE

23 April 1999




A QUIET LIFE

IN A DIESEL SWEDE

This months Country Car wont

please the environmentalists.

David Cousins tests the new

4.7 litre Jeep Cherokee, and

Geoff Ashcroft tries a US

4×4 with 5.9 litres.

The Saabs frugal, though

LIFE being the imperfect thing it is, all cars have the odd annoying trait. Sometimes the niggle is a trivial one that seems to disappear once youre used to it; other times, like a dull toothache, it can begin to get all-consuming. Saabs new 9.3 diesel, Im pleased to report, comes into the former category.

Strong points? Lots of them, particularly in the engine compartment. Here lurks the 115hp 2.2 litre turbodiesel jointly developed between Saab and parent company General Motors. Its a peach of an engine, rather more powerful than its output on paper suggests and easily able to cope with the cut and thrust of modern driving. Once underway, its also very quiet and passengers would be hard-put to guess that it was powered by diesel. Its surprisingly noisy at idle, though, even when warm, so its not quite perfect.

Another definite strength is the tastefully functional cabin. Its got that characteristic Scandinavian feel, with design that has had some serious thought put into it. The dash is big and clear, with controls grouped logically and unfussily. On our lower-spec model, the plastics used werent quite as convincing as on dearer models and there was a surprising lack of the sort of small cubby holes useful for change, car park passes, false teeth etc.

What I did come to appreciate was the aircraft-style night-panel feature, which cuts the illumination on all dials other than the 0-90mph section of the speedo. Cunningly, though, they light up again automatically when needed – ie if fuel drops, revs/speed rises etc. The idea is to make the rainbow hues of the dash less distracting at night on long journeys. I was initially sceptical, but after a while grudgingly conceded that there was some logic in it.

Another area where the 9-3 gains brownie points is handling. Its predecessor – the 900 – was a bit lumpen under some conditions, but the Swedes have got busy with the suspension and improved things vastly. In fact the tight handling (which doesnt seem to have been at the expense of bump absorption) is one of the cars nicest features.

Verdict? More poke than the

average diesel, taut handling and an interior that doesnt follow the herd. The quiet alternative to more

obviously look-at-me-Im-successful marques like BMW and Audi.

Not outrageously expensive, either.

SAAB FACTS

&#8226 Model: 9-3S 2.2 TiD

&#8226 Engine: 2.2 litre direct injection 115hp/260Nm torque @ 1800rpm

&#8226 Top speed: 124mph

&#8226 0-62mph: 10.9secs

&#8226 Price: £20,145


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