My next new car – option 2 – Saab 9-3 Viggen

I’m buying a car at the end of this week and I’m choosing from three attractive options. The first option is an Alfa Romeo GTV6. Time to look over option #2: a Saab 9-3 Viggen.




  • My second-favourite Saab of all time, after the 99Turbo
  • Unique paint and interior scheme. Beautiful to look at and sit in
  • Wonderful performance – once you get the chassis sorted


  • Been there, done that.
  • Wonderful performance – once you get the chassis sorted.

Most people reading this will know that I’ve owned a Viggen once before. I bought one in 2005 and enjoyed two great years with it until I crashed it in 2007 at a driver training day. The Viggen taught me a heck of a lot about owning a performance-driven Saab 9-3, knowledge that I put to use when I bought a Monte Carlo a year or so later.

I missed my old one so much that I tried to make that Monte Carlo into a Viggen. I sorted the suspension, upgraded the ECU and the wheels. I even put a carbon-fibre interior into it, just like the one the Australian Viggens came with.

It didn’t work. Bottom line, no matter what you try and do, there’s nothing quite like the real thing. That B235R engine just has such wonderful character. My Monte made more power than a stock Viggen but it was never as satisfying to drive.

The Viggen was an under-engineered car, but it still had a wonderful combination of acceleration and braking power as standard. The downside (common to all 9-3 performance applications) was that if you really wanted to explore the engine’s limits, you really needed to spend some money on upgrading the chassis so that it could put the power to the ground. Steering rack clamp, dampers, various braces of increasing complexity and cost.

The end result is truly wonderful. It just takes a little while (and a reasonably open wallet) to get there.

This would be a no-brainer for me. I’d love to have a Viggen again, but the word ‘again’ is one that I’m not sure I’m ready for just yet. I’ve had 9-3s of this generation for 4 or 5 of the last 7 years. I’m not sure I want another one right now. Added to that, whilst I’m a Saab enthusiast first and foremost, I also have other interests. I’d absolutely love to get a Viggen eventually but I’m not sure I want one for my next car, or even my next Saab. I’ve always liked the idea of getting a 9-5 Aero Wagon into the family garage one day, most likely when our 9000 needs to be replaced.

The Viggen is available and it looks like a good one. It makes so much sense to get it and there’s a fair chance that I will. But a few other things keeps tugging at my shirtsleeve – that Alfa from yesterday, for one, and another car I’ll show you tomorrow.

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  1. Ooooh, being a Viggen owner, I can’t deny that it is a great car, but I still really like your GTV6 option.

  2. Welcome back Swade 😉

    Being a Viggen owner and a Saab enthusiast I agree with everything you say. And the Alfa is a very beautiful car. BUT….

    Your time with your previous Viggen was cut short. I remember reading TS at the time of the accident. You and the Viggen still have some unfinished business.

    Not that I’m biased or anything…..

    1. Jon, there’s definitely a sense of unfinished business there when it comes to the Viggen. The big question is whether or not I want to resolve that right now.

      For me, the same thing – unfinished (or even unstarted) business applies to the GTV6, too. And time’s getting shorter to find a good one.

  3. Yeah baby! Best car on the planet…. makes me break out in a beaming smile every time I start that wonderful engine.

    No pressure… 😉

  4. Sounds like you already know after that response. Get the Alfa. Let someone else experience that Viggen. I sold my SPG so I could afford my ’00 Viggen. Miss the hell out of that ’88 but my pristine, one owner (me), Viggen will remain in my posession until one of us gives up the ghost. Smiling now just writing about it. I never would have believed such an imperfect car would be the most perfect car for me. Alfa’s are fun too…

  5. Let me guess the last car:

    A Porsche 944

    Assuming that you suffer the same sterotype as me.
    An judging from this one and the Alfa you do

  6. Swade based on your car history I think you enjoy a car with a bit of grunt, the one thing the Alfa does not have. I think you will miss the performance and I wonder which is easier – making Viggen handle or making the Alfa faster? Did they ever sell these on OZ?

  7. Ahh, a proper car, nice though the Alfa is. I thought you would save the Viggen til last so the last one must be really good!

    I’ve never driven a Viggen but I have been driven in one and hankered after having one ever since it was launched. Like all truly great cars it has a few ‘challenging’ aspects but surely that’s the fun of owning one. Given the chance, and the resources, I’d buy one tomorrow and then wonder at how I was going to sort it rather than list the reasons not to.

    As you say Swade, there is some unfinished business, don’t let it remain unfinished, Carpe Diem.

  8. Here’s the thing…you’ve already said you’re planning to have a ute or brumby to muck about with. That’d mean the real benefits of the Saab (over the Alfa)…it’s reliability, utility, ease of repair…wouldn’t mean as much. Of course, the Saab would also mean you could scrap the idea of a backup car, leaving you more scratch for the needed Abbott parts.

    My hunch for tomorrow is a 928…the 944 is too mainstream for you!

  9. Sounds like you need to find a 9-3 SportCombi and do a Viggen transplant on it. That way you wouldn’t need the Brumby.

    Your wallet may disagree.

  10. Hi Steven,

    My dream car was a Saab SC Turbo X automatic. It took me 1 year and a half to find one and now I enjoy driving it every day.

    During that year and a half of research I have tested drive at least 6 other Saabs. but they were not a Turbo X and I kept my goal in my mind and one day I found exactly the car I was looking for. That day was magical and I did not sleep well until the car was in my driveway.

    Are you looking for a car or for the car of your dreams?

    When you will answer this question you will find exactly which one is for you.

    If you’re not looking for the car of your dreams and if you buy one anyway, this will only postpone THE magical day.

    Good luck and have fun, life is too short!

  11. Hi Swade,

    I am envious that you are presented with three choices. I have never driven this Viggen, but would love to one of these days. Didn’t see any for sale in the US on at this moment.

    As your 99 Turbo is your all time favorite, I just checked Yahoo and they state that on Jalopnik the 10 best cars of their decade are listed. Saab made the list for 1971-1980 with your 99Turbo.

    Good luck coming weekend,


  12. No brainer for you – the Saab is the one. You know the cars, have connections for parts and service , great for road trippin’ with the wife, reliable and looks cool too. The 928 is a DEFINITE no, the GTV6 is great but not sure it’s the best choice for ‘touring’ – its more of a sunny Saturday car nowadays, and the Saab is cool AND a good road car.

  13. It has to be the SAAB because:-

    1. The Alfa is a desireable car but had a reputation for unreliability and rust from the outset. They are rare and so finding parts to keep it on the road will be difficult. An Alfa is a car you buy with your heart not your head.

    2. What is so special about a heated up Renault Clio? Just wait a minute and there will be another one along. Renault is another make which wins awards for its unreliabilty. There are few Renaualt fans around who will appreciate a an RS Clio assuming they recognise it amongst all the other Clios. Come sale time and no one will want it.

    3. You know that the Viggen makes more sense which is why SAABs are the thinking man’s car. You have experience not just of the make but of the specific model so know its shortcomings and how to sort them. Unless a miracle happens there will be no more SAABs so they will become rarer and more valuable – non so than the extreme Viggen.

    Buy the SAAB you know it makes sense.

  14. I’d go with the Viggen personally. However I’d certainly check the firewall for the dreaded cracking that RHD NG900s and OG9-3s suffer from. At the moment I’m trying to get my Monte Carlo fixed and it might even top $A3000 in repairs. It’s only just hit 106,000Km and it had a steering rack clamp/brace fitted last year. It’s a pity I didn’t get Saab to inspect the car prior to the end of 2009, as it was fixing the problem for free until then (here in Oz). Unfortunately for various reasons that didn’t happen. Anyway I’d really like to know how this problem wasn’t rectified when the OG9-3 was released? I’m sure the defect would have become evident on high mileage NG900s in the UK before the OG9-3 debuted. I guess I’ll just blame GM for it!