By on March 12, 2010

David Holme writes in:

The GM subsidized gravy train has ended and I no longer have access to employee priced leases so I will be replacing a Saab 97 and a Saab 93, numbers 11 and 12 in a long line of Saabs over the years.

One vehicle needs to tow a 19 foot Zodiac power boat (2,400 lbs all up) and car top, an 8’ Optimist racing dingy (sailboat) during the summer months, a 65 pound pointer and field gear during the fall, skis during the winter. This is primarily a mom mobile and vacation / trip unit.

The other one is my transportation to and from work. I like to mix my own so a manual transmission in preferred, hence the Saab vs anything else GM.

Both endure about 12,000 miles of Michigan weather and lousy roads.

I have been thinking about a 2007 Cadillac SRX all wheel drive for the tow vehicle. The R 350 might be too rich for my budget and the maintenance would probably be too high as well. Another Saab 97 might just be the ticket as it is such an improvement over the Trailbalzer and GMC. I think a Yukon / Suburban would not fit in the garage, (Benz is big too).

As for my daily driver I have a thing for the Volvo C30 but they seem rare. The Mazda 3 is another thought. Needs to be large enough carry hockey equipment.

Sajeev Mehta replies:

Premium tastes are one thing, but you won’t see me recommend a unitized body if frequent towing jobs is in the mix. And forget about any quasi-SUV with the head gasket/bolt eating wonder known as the Northstar V8.  Get something truck like, with polish and panache: Lexus GX, Infiniti QX4 or a Lincoln Aviator.  I’ve owned one of the 300+hp, independently sprung Lincoln SUVs and let me tell you: they are rip snorting Hot Rods with balanced handling and steering feel that rivals a passenger car. It is stupid fun, with insane depreciation and reasonable cost of ownership. Aside from the 12 city miles per premium gallon. Ack.

So maybe another SAAB Troll-blazer is in your future, because familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed comtempt. Plus, the GM straight-six powertrain under that badge engineered skin is a tow-junkies dream. For your daily commuter, you’re in the right direction with a sporty compact.  Stick with small, FWD and cheap in the replacement parts category. That means you should pass on the C30 or anything AWD.  The Mazda 3 is the pistonhead’s default choice for most any situation, but maybe you’d prefer a little more power at the expense of polish and quality materials: Dodge Caliber SRT-4 anyone? Nah, even I’m not feelin’ that.

Steve Lang replies:

Hmmm… you will need to tow less than 3000 pounds. Why in God’s name would you spend $30,000+ to achieve this middling task?

I will say one good thing about the Saab 9-7. Actually, I won’t. The features are really pathetic given that your needs can easily be fulfilled with anything from a Grand Marquis to a Volvo SUV. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if what you’re needing for towing can be satisfied with a 15 year old Ford Ranger. But again there is that ‘people’ issue you need to consider.
If you must absolutely break the proverbial bank, buy an Audi Q5. Sure you could travel the world for a year or invest heavily in my number one stock holding, Ship Financial Ltd (SFL). But you’re an outdoor fellow with needs. I know  it’s hard to stay happy watching a ticker symbol year after year when you could be spending it in the boat of your dreams… with the woman of your dreams… hopefully. But anyway, back to cars.
Another one that pops straight into my mind is the Ford Flex. I’ve always liked them and can’t figure out why Ford wouldn’t sell it as a successor to the Volvo 240. It would have been perfect with the classic Volvo front end and the tried and true squarish proportions. A C30 is fine for towing 2000 pounds. Any more and you’ll have to get heavy duty add-on’s and pretend you’re a European. You may want to ask a Eurocentric C30 enthusiast group whether it would be possible to use it for towing all the crap you mentioned. Vehicles sold here tend to be given far smaller tow ratings than those abroad due to America’s litigious nature.

If it were me, I would buy an old Volvo wagon that was kept in a non-rust climate. But I like cheap, comfortable, utilitarian transportation. Other options on the ‘cheap’ scale are the exceptionally unloved Olds Bravada, a Buick Roadmaster Wagon, or just about any SUV or any substantial RWD car of the last 15 years or so. Given your current love for escape, it may not be bad to just opt for a $3000 vehicle and a $30,000 boat. You would be surprised how much $30,000 worth of ‘boat’ can buy you at an auction these days. Or you can just buy 1800 shares of my favorite stock before the next dividend hits.

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20 Comments on “New Or Used?: No More Employee Leases, No More Saabs Edition...”

  • avatar

    19 foot Zodiac power boat (2,400 lbs all up)


    A 1.4L VW Golf has a tow rating of 1300kg or 2866 lbs.

  • avatar

    A Volvo C30 has a max tow rating of 1500 KG or 3,306lbs.

  • avatar

    For the tow vehicle, I would get myself another 9-7x, low mileage, well maintained off lease ones sell dirt cheap and since its based on the Trailblazer, maintenance is inexpensive. For the different types of towing you do, I would stay away from a car based SUV.

    • 0 avatar

      For the different types of towing you do, I would stay away from a car based SUV.

      For 2,400lbs? Hah, he should just use a regular car.

      Sounds like someone has been sucked in by ridiculous SUV marketing.

    • 0 avatar

      One of these days I’d like to put that to the test, because the couplef times I towed something over 2000lbs without the brakes and chassis of a truck/SUV the thing felt like it’ll kill me if I go faster than 60mph. FYI: people tow going 70+ all the time in Texas, and you need truck brakes for that. (IMO, of course)

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    To make a sweeping arbitrary distinction between BOF (body on frame) and unitized body vehicles is way too broad and simplistic. Tanks have unibodies. As do many of the most hard-core off-road vehicles: Steyer-Puch Haflingers and Pinzgauers. A properly designed unibody is every bit as strong as a BOF, potentially stronger. It’s just cheaper and more flexible (to put different bodies on the back) to build bigger trucks on frames.
    So for your modest towing needs, don’t let that old myth drive your decision.

  • avatar

    I towed something over 2000lbs without the brakes and chassis of a truck/SUV the thing felt like it’ll kill me if I go faster than 60mph.

    Perhaps you drove more safely as you were able to properly determine the danger you were in. When in the truck, it was just as dangerous you just didn’t feel it and as a result were in far more danger.

  • avatar

    As an Outback owner, I’ll add Outback to your list. New one can tow what you have and haul a rooftop carrier, more power and still under $30K, get the 3.6 H6. Want the manual and tow (right at 3k lbs), get the 2.5 H4 MT. You may not have mountains, but your potholes are probably as bad as Idaho’s unpaved roads in both summer and winter.

    Yes, I have turned into Subaru sheep but it’s the best mid-sizer out there in my mind: lots of utility, robust drivetrain (2 locking diffs, symmetrical setup, AWD, MT), ground clearance, decent fuel mileage, and can tow my braked Coleman camper.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Used 4-Runner V8 and Mazda3.

    • 0 avatar

      2.0L Mazda 3 – 2865 lbs tow capacity.

    • 0 avatar

      Those are UK specs, not US. No matter if the chassis, brakes, and drivetrain are the same. Federal regulations and insurance will leave you wide-open to liability and lawsuits should something happen. It’s why the 04-07 CRV was crossed off my list early on, along with a few other vehicles.

  • avatar

    Why don’t keep the current TrollBlazer? I don’t see the need to change… unless is too expensive to purchase it.

  • avatar

    On the tow vehicle, I like the ’07 SRX idea. Just be sure the one you look at has the 3.6L and the tow package.

    There is also the Vue XR, which I think is the best Theta-based CUV GM ever made. Honestly, it is too good to be a Saturn. Finding one with the tow package might be difficult though.

    Then there is the Saturn Outlook. It’s the lowest-cost Lambda one can buy, and it will handle the “mom mobile and vacation / trip unit” duties as good as anything you look at. They are quite boring though.

    If you do go the “truck” route, I’d go for a Grand Cherokee 5.7L. Yea, it is a Chrysler, but it is one of the good ones.

    Sajeev is right that the Aviator is pretty slick, but I like the Chrysler V8 a lot more than the Ford unit.

    On the DD, you seem to have a thing for Swedish cars, so you’ll probably love the C30.

    Personally, I remember the toll that hauling hockey equipment took on my car, so I’d use the tow/vacation vehicle for that stuff.

  • avatar


    Sounds like someone (you) has never tried towing 2400# with a FWD compact car. It would be interesting to see a 1.4L Golf pulling that boat up a slippery boat ramp. My guess would be sagging rear end, spinning front tires and a slow slide towards the water.

    And he is in Michigan, not the UK where the Golf is rated for 0 towing capacity.

  • avatar

    Employee pricing will soon be back; so, just wait it out. Not right away, as the taxpaying masses would probably flock to Michigan and burn down Detroit if they tried that; but GM being GM and since nothing has changed, employee pricing will soon be back.

  • avatar

    Truck brakes? Good grief, most pickups I have driven barely HAD brakes. I’ve towed ~5000lbs with a Volvo 745 Turbo. It was a complete non-event. There was more drama picking up and returning the empty trailer with a 4dr GMC Jimmy than towing the load with the Volvo.

    But back to the OP – why not just get a 2yo CPO 9-7x and a CPO 9-3? Both are stunning bargains with 20-25K on the clock. You obviously like both vehicles. As a GM insider, seems like you could even swing a deal to turn in and buy back your own two cars as CPO cars.

  • avatar

    If the Trollblazer and 9-3 work, why not get used ones?

  • avatar

    I have always liked the SAAB 9-7x. Why? Because, like most SAABs, they offer tremendous value. The 9-7x offers vastly improved handling, break feel, improved materials (ish), far superior looks and with the same cheap to run innerds. Sure, for the original price it was a bad buy, but used its a whole different story. I say, find yourself a 9-7x used, cheap, perhaps even an SS version. Overkill? Yes. Whetevs, its cheap and fast.

    As for your daily runner? I own a 2005 Mazda 3 Sport, and its merely okay from my point of view. Honestly, its not the greatest commuter. The ride is “sporty,” which I liked the idea of until I realized “sporty” actually means “great in the corners but rough as sh*t everywhere else.” Otherwise? Not that premium, not that fuel efficient etc. You would do better with a VW Jetta or Passat as your daily, consider a stick 2.0T Jetta (stay away from the autos though).

  • avatar

    Shameless plug: A certain poster (me) has a stick-shift car (’06 Altima SE-R) for sale in your state, with a trunk that could hold multiple hockey bags.

  • avatar
    Christy Garwood

    David, did you lose access to all employee discounts or just the discount on Saab? If it was all discounts, I give Sajeev and Edward N. my permission to give you my email address. I would be happy to work with you to get into a Chevy or Cadillac or GMC or Buick.

    I recommend the Traverse for the tow, gear, dog transport vehicle.

    Co-workers that have long commutes here in SE MI like their manual trans Cobalts and Chevy Colorado pickups. I drove the CTS Sports Wagon and it was just as fun as my Saab 9-3 that I commute in.

    Or buy the 9-3 at the end of the lease.

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