Ask Bark: What's The Conclusion To My Saab Story?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
ask bark what s the conclusion to my saab story

Kevin writes:

Here’s my struggle:

I’m a Saab fanatic. Fanboi. Devotee. Whatever you want to call it. It’s a total I’m currently driving a 2001 9-5 sedan, a 2.3-liter car that my wife and I have owned since new. I also own a 2006 9-3 Aero convertible, and I’m the vice-president of our regional Saab owners club. I’m in deep. We do have a 2011 Ford Flex Ecoboost as the main family hauler.

My 9-5 has just 118,000 miles on it, and has been meticulously maintained. For the first ten years of its life, it was my wife’s daily driver. When we got the Flex, I inherited it from her, got an ECU tune and upgraded the suspension. It’s nothing extreme, but it’s fast enough, plenty of fun, reliable, and I don’t worry about where I leave it parked.

A couple of weeks ago, the 9-5 started leaking oil onto the driveway. I took it to my good friends at my local Saab repair shop, and they told me that a seal needs to be replaced behind the timing chain cover, maybe between the head and the block? Whatever, the important takeaway is the repair estimate: $2,400. It also needs new brakes ($600), and a new clutch is on the horizon ($1,700) as the car’s still on its original clutch and it chatters when cold. So, here I am looking at over $4,500 in repairs on my beloved 9-5. Those repairs exceed the cash value of the car, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t think it’s worth sinking that kind of money into it.

All of my Saabs have had manual transmissions. I tend to prefer the utility of a wagon or hatchback (see also: the two Saab 900 hatchbacks I’ve owned) over the style of a sedan.

So now you can tell what I’m looking for, right? A powerful European wagon or hatchback with a manual transmission. I sound just like an auto writer (I did contribute to for about nine years). Just looking at wagons and hatches of the European variety, there’s the BMW 328 wagon, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, Volvo V60, Audi A7/S7, VW Golf/GTI/R… and I think that’s it. I could expand to include the Focus/ST/RS as well, but that’s about where the choices end, right? If I stick with the need for a manual transmission, I’m suddenly left with the Focus and the Golf.

I’ve recently test driven a Focus ST (too-tight interior… no room behind my 6’4″ frame for my 7-year old daughter’s legs), Volkswagen GTI (not as fast as my 9-5), Golf R (loved it, actually), and Polestar V60 (looks SEXY AF, but it’s also expensive AF and it felt very clinical and uninvolving to drive). Of those new cars, I liked the Golf R the best.

Last week, I also drove a very rare 2011 Saab 9-5 sedan with a manual transmission and 73,000 miles that’s for sale at one of those random roadside lots less than five miles from my house. That wasn’t bad… but I’d want to give it an ECU tune, better looking wheels, etc… essentially make it my own the way I’ve done to my 2001 9-5. But it’s at least a car that’s 10 years newer. I’ve got a lot of “Saab friends” who’ve weighed in that I should get this car.

So, umm, I don’t actually know what to do here. I actually like my current 9-5 for the most part — do I just sink the money into it? Or do I pay up and upgrade to the modern age?

Kevin (great name, btw), I am almost always the first person to tell people to write to Ask Bark that they should go ahead and get a new car if they’re considering it. Most people who write in with this “fix it or sell it” dilemma are actually asking for permission to buy a new car and spend a lot of money.

I think that you, on the other hand, are doing the opposite. I’m sure that if we lived in a parallel universe where Saab still existed (instead of being driven into the ground by GM badge engineering), you’d have a brand-new Saab on that list of wagons, and then we wouldn’t really be having this discussion anymore.

Unfortunately, Saab is just as dead as Chris Evans’ television career. And as somebody with a self-described I don’t think that you’ll be particularly happy with any of the cars you listed, the “expensive AF” Volvo excluded (and then you won’t be particularly happy with the car payment). So, what should you do?

Using my elite powers of third-party searches, I think I found your desired car. It’s been on that lot long enough for him to have shot two entirely different sets of photos (look at the floormats). CarGurus says 66 days, but I’m guessing he’s taken it down and relisted it. However, since you know much more about Saabs than I do (or maybe anyone does), I’ll trust your judgement on that car. $14,991 seems waaaaaay too high, though. If you were interested in that car, I’d offer $11,500.

I know you’re a busy man who travels quite a bit (full disclosure: Kevin and I are Facebook friends who’ve never actually met), so I doubt that you have the time to personally deal with your Saab’s issues. So then the question becomes this: do you spend $4,500 on a car with a known service history, or nearly three times that on a much newer model you don’t know as well (and then sink even more money into customization)?

In the most anti-Bark recommendation ever, I’m going to say that you should keep that car that’s already in your driveway. Maybe see if you can do some of the work yourself with some of your Saab friends — have a big ol’ regional owners club party, buy some beer, and I guarantee you the work will be done before the night is over. When it’s all said and done, you’ll still have your Saab, and as somebody who’s been browsing Boss 302 classifieds, I can tell you that is worth something.

Got a question for Bark? Keep it to yourself. I already have too many sitting in my inbox. Just kidding! Fire them off to, or slide into my DMs at @barkm302 on Twitter.

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2 of 142 comments
  • DrSandman DrSandman on Jul 12, 2016

    Dude - are you the alter-me? My 6'4" frame and tall kids fit nicely (but snugly) into my 9-5. A recent oil leak had me contemplating another car. Turned out it was just a kinked PCV-tube -- a $50 part and $950 in labor repair later, and it's back to golden. Had the 100k rear shocks replaced at the same time. Crap, that was expensive! Then I sat in the perfect driver's seat. And I revved the 2.3T (and it burped, farted, whooted, and whistled). No other car gives me the satisfaction of the Saab. And I can't get anything for the $4500 it's worth on a trade... Someday, I will have a BMW Wagon that will replace my winter Jeep and my Saab. But until it can't be repaired reasonably anymore (i.e., $500/month in maintenance, which is the payment on a note for me...), I'm keeping my 9-5.

  • Autoboy Autoboy on Jul 12, 2016

    I have a 2008 9-5, which I absolutely love. I was searching for a used car in early 2014. I found a one ow error 9-5 with 61,450 on the clock. It now has 82,000 miles. All maintenance he been preventative. I was looking specifically for an 08-09, on the recommendation of my SAAB-only mechanic. I had it in the budget to buy a 2011, but was worried about parts. Plus it's basically a Buick LaCrosse. I went into the 9-5 knowing that resale value meant nothing. I was looking for a car that looked good, comfortable, safe, quick and reliable. It hasn't let me down. I expect to get 200,000+ miles out of it. History says that the Mitsubishi TD04 turbo and timing chain last over 200,000 miles. I just replaced my front rotors and pads...$320 for Zimmerman, Akebono and labor. Also had to replace my mid flex tube...$150 including labor. All of these are normal maintenance items...and will be good for another 75,000 miles. Whenever I get into the 9-5, it puts a smile on my face. That turbo is intoxicating. Good luck with a Volvo, BMW, Mercedes, or Audi out of warranty. They will make your $4,500 seem like chump change.

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