Sunday, 12 August 2007

What's outside today 15 - Saab 93 BioPower

This is the BioPower version of the Saab 93. That means it can run either on normal unleaded or E85, a mix of 85% bioethanol and 15% unleaded. Externally, it's more or less indistinguishable from the standard model - apart, that is, from the enormous BioPower stickers attached to the sides of this test example.

Yesterday, I took it out on one of my favourite test routes - setting out from Cambridgshire to Norwich on the A11 before heading north to Cromer on the North Norfolk coast and than back home via Cley, Fakenham and Swaffham.

All jolly agreeable, and a route that allowed me to take in a stop-off at a Morrison E85 pump for a quick top-up - the one at the Norwich store, which lies within the shadow of the Carrow Road football ground, in fact.

Got back home in a good mood late in the evening, my head full of moderately warm thoughts towards the comfy, inoffensive if rather bare Saab. Made a cup of tea and casually picked up my copy of the delivery note for the 93 in order to take a closer look at it. What followed was the worst case of what Americans call 'sticker shock' I've had in connection with a Verdict test car since Ford sent us an admittedly very impressive Focus diesel estate about two years ago that had been specced up to the eyeballs for an on the road price of about 25 grand. The Saab - which I should, in fairness, mention is the priciest Vector Sport variant fitted with a few options like metallic paint - comes out at a scarcely believable GBP28,000.

I've always had a soft spot for Saabs and I'm a strong supporter of what the company is doing in promoting E85 with its BioPower models. But that price seems to be hopelessly ambitious to me. Remember that a Skoda Octavia is probably at least as well built as a Saab and, despite being Golf-based, is probably as roomy (in particular where luggage, as opposed to passenger space is concerned) as a 93. But Octavia prices start at about 11 grand; the deeply impressive and very rapid vRS estate version costs about GBP18,500.

Some other yardsticks - Mercedes C Class prices start at GBP23 thousand, BMW 3 Series prices at less than GBP21 thousand. And the Vauxhall Vectra estate starts at less than GBP16K - that's relevant because, as General Motors products, the 93 and the Vectra have quite a lot in common under the skin.

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