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SAAB 9-5 Sportwagon vs. SUBARU

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
I will soon be moving closer to the mountains in the PNW. I am looking for a car smaller than a SUV that can negotiate mountain passes during the winter months without the need to stop consistently to put on chains. For the last seven years, I have driven a standard front wheel drive SAAB.

According to their literature The SAAB 9-5 sports wagon claims a system called ESP that integrates a yaw sensor, steering angle sensor and pressure sensor on the ABS and hydraulics and electronics units of the car to deal with diminished control circumstances. On the other hand I have heard many good things about the Subaru Legacy and Forester both of which I believe are all wheel drive vehicles.

Does anyone know whether the SAAB would be comparable to Subaru? While I like my current SAAB, I am not looking forward to having a car that will require me to stop to chain up regularly before negotiating the multiple passes in Washington and Oregon.

I have the feeling that the manufacturer's dealers will both say their cars will handle the challenges of icy roads just fine. What I would like to know is whether the SAAB is in fact up to the task or whether I would be better off with a Subaru or something comparable in a sportswagon.

post #2 of 46
I don't own a Subaru But I am a big Fan of Their Cars.They are known for thier reliablity and dependablity. They are a vary popular car for mountain living for a good reason. The Legacy Outback is an excellent Auto for driving in the snow.They have the same ground clearance as a Ford Explorer and They handle much better in the snow then my 4x4 Toyota Pickup. In most western States You will be find roads that will require chains in snowy conditions, unless the car has 4 wheel drive. I would call the State where you plan to move and ask them what the regulations are for chains.
post #3 of 46
Almost a no brainer! An AWD will save lots of worries. My current ski trans are a Volvo XC and an old Toyota 4X4 and both have served well. I have had a bunch of Saabs from the early 900's, a 9000 and wife has a 95' 900 ...... she takes the XC on snow days.

Besides the quality of the Subaru is probably better than either the Volvo or the Saab.
post #4 of 46
Utah49 brings up the key point relative to State Patrol regulations and chains. In my 25 years here in the Pacific Northwest, I have only heard of one occurrence where the Patrol made 4WD cars chain up and that was at Stevens Pass a couple of years ago. I believe the requirement at Stevens Pass now is that all vehicles have to carry chains, including 4WD. On Snoqualmie Pass (I90), I have never heard of anyone being required to chain up a 4WD, but you are required to carry chains. Can't beat avoiding to chain up and having to drive with them. Go with a 4WD/AWD.
post #5 of 46
I am on my 4th Sube. This one is a 02 Outback LLBean with the 6 banger. As usual very pleased...plus extra horsies this time. The AWD doesn't just go 50/50 now but shifts to each wheel independently the VDC? does the yaw deal...kinda reads your intent to eliminate over and under steer. On any or most AWD, by the way, you should NOT use chains!! BAD IDEA!
Anyway, I like the Subaru better than my Quattro...if you can believe that! If I was young and single...definitely the WRX...and it is cheaper. Of course the PSIA discount (VIP dealer invoice) is nice. Also the Outback holds great resale. Every mountain comunity I have lived in is FULL of them!
post #6 of 46
That ESP on the SAAB is in a lot of cars these days. It just applies the brakes in a way that will help keep the car under control when taking a turn too fast for conditions. It will not get you through deep snow or unstuck, like 4WD will. Go with AWD or 4WD. The front wheel drive cars that are better in the snow are the light, tall cars with small engines and skinny tires, such as Honda Civics. But they still don't come close to AWD or 4WD.
post #7 of 46
I have a Subaru. It is awesome. Highly recommend.
post #8 of 46
theeees eeees patheteeeeeeeeque

1) living near the mountains doesn't mean you need a different car

2) driving in the snow is about skill, not the car

3) how can you compare a $35k Saab and a $20k Subaru? you know they are vastly different cars merely by the price.

I have owned the following vehicles since first receiving my driver's license in 1977:

'74 Mercury Comet
'69 Mustang Mach I
'78 Volkswagen Scirocco
'83 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon
'86 Honda Civic Si
'89 Honda Civic 4-dr
'95 Volkswagen GTI VR6
'98 Toyota Tacoma 4WD

I have found that driving in the snow is more a matter of throttle regulation and light touch on the brakes, than having a car/truck/whatever that is "good in the snow."

Now, with that said...

I have never known a Subaru owner that didn't love his/her car.

My parents have been driving Saabs forever, my brother owns one, and a good friend owns one. They do not complain about the car's snow manners.

In the end, if you learn driving skill, it won't matter whether you keep the Subaru, buy a Saab 9-5 wagon, or get an old Chevy El Camino. It really depends on your skill.

Oh yeah -- a good "snow car" doesn't make you invincible in the snow, so please don't go buy something and then drive like one of those moronic yuppies in their SUVs, acting like snow & ice are just as grippy as pavement. 4WD is not a cure-all for bad conditions.
post #9 of 46
Gonzo you make a good point about The way you drive makes a big diffrents. Having a 4x4 or AWD won't do you much good if your doing 60 MPH in a bizzard.
post #10 of 46
Gonzo: you are trying to argue definition of IS again. Even I remember you making a mess of one similar thread in the past.

This winter snow was almost not existent out East and I still got stuck in a hotel parking lot a couple of times in my Nissan 200 SX SER - could not make it up 300 yards up hill to the condo. The same car gets stuck in driveway with just 3 inches of snow (granted on summer tires) while a 4WD gets out easily after 2 feet snow storm. Not to mention 8 hour drive from Jay Peak (200 miles) in full whiteout with all (allegedly not much better) SUVs and all wheel drive cars going by at least twice as fast. Before you bring it up - I did not see a single one of them on the side of the road (that time at least, probably because I could not see side of the road).
This has already been brought up that unless you have a 4WD you are most likely to have to put the chains on anyway. And yes it is a PIA to do it and it does damage the car.

So the question is why cause yourself pain and aggrevation instead of going with something that is designed to work in the snow.

Please keep comments coming - looking at the same (+ older Audi as an option) trade up before this coming winter.

post #11 of 46
eug, what in Hades are you on about? I've never worked on the definition of "is" in all my life. If you are comparing me with Bill Clinton, all I can say is, you're dumber than you appear. The only thing I have in common with Clinton is a law degree, nothing else.

My statement stands. If you think people were flying past you because "they had 4WD" then you either saw some of those ignorant yuppies who felt invincible with 4WD, or you simply do not know how to drive in the snow.

Chains? Unneccessary for 99% of all snow driving conditions.

This thread is another example of the male tendency to blame existing equipment and seek new equipment, rather than acknowledging technique flaws. Put ego aside, and learn how to drive in the snow.

Do you think Euros that live in snowy climes rush out to buy 4WD or other "snow" cars? Hell no. They just learn how to drive in the stuff.
post #12 of 46
If I had my choice of a Saab, I'd go for this one...

We saw one at the Saab dealer at Green Park yesterday. Only problem is the roof is glass, and I can't see any way of putting a roof rack or ski-carrier on it. But hey, it looks great!

post #13 of 46
MMmmmm, Auuudiii

A woman I work with just bought a 2001 A6 this past saturday. She drove us to lunch. On the way home, at a light, she got rear-ended.... by a Kia Sportage. The jolt (I was in the front passenger seat) was pretty good, but to our amazement, the Audi suffered no more than some scratches (cosmetically. I'm sure the bumper will need to be replaced as the styrofoam underneath probably got compressed), while the front end of the Kia got nicely bent up. It makes a great case for a well built car.
post #14 of 46
I've got to agree with you, Gonz. No car is a substitute for learning to drive in the snow and using common sense. Living in the mountains of Colorado, my observation is that in many cases, better cars CREATE worse drivers, because they seem to think they can go as fast, turn as quick, and brake as abruptly on snow as on dry pavement.

That said, Subaru is the unofficial official car of the mountains. I'm on my second one--a 1998 2.5RS. As a snow-car--or really just about anywhere--it is exceeded in performance perhaps only by its worthy successor, the Subaru WRX. The Saab would surely do just fine in the snow, but Subarus are extraordinary. The WRX, while a little flashy perhaps for some, may be the ultimate mountain car, both for its handling and for its turbocharger. The turbocharger that gives it no less than 227 horsepower in the lowlands, REALLY shines at 10-12,000 feet and above, where normally aspirated engines gasp for breath. I want one!

In its mini-wagon form, the WRX easily carries skis and gear inside, and the roof rack carries the full complement of toys required to really "live" in the mountains!

But all that performance just means it will go into the ditch faster than other cars, if you don't learn to drive in the snow, or if you drive like an idiot.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #15 of 46
[I am looking for a car smaller than a SUV that can negotiate mountain passes during the winter months without the need to stop consistently to put on chains. For the last seven years, I have driven a standard front wheel drive SAAB.

Where in this statement does he sound like he needs the old SUV rant Gonz?
post #16 of 46
Gonzo you just proved my point by implying that I am could be dumb and/or can't drive in the snow. The original question was not about driving skills or what having an AWD does to average driving skill level in US.

Assuming the topic originator knows how to drive in the snow and does travel in blizzard conditions, everything else being equal (including driver skills) which car would you recommend for a person who travels up to mountains every weekend Subary Outback or Nissan 200?

This really does remind me of straight vs. shaped skis debate. "No, one does not need shaped skis, he/she needs to learn how to ski." AWD is not going to make you a better driver, but if you are a mature driver who obeys driving laws (including the one about the speed limit being appropriate speed for conditions) AWD will make your afterwork drive to mountains much more pleasant. Would you agree?

> chains are unnecessary for most driving conditions

Unless there is a check point ahead and you have no choice but to put them on. Taking them off in the pooring rain with cars going by on the other side of the pass sucks as well. I did it so I know.

[ June 17, 2002, 11:59 AM: Message edited by: eug ]
post #17 of 46
Another vote for the Subaru. Got a Legacy as a hand-me-down from the parents last season. It's 4WD and has a manual 5-speed transmission. It has a very secure feel in the snow and turned out to be a most excellent ski car.

The only problem is that it is a silver gray station wagon, (the *horror*), and not a cute litte red Porsche.
post #18 of 46
While chains may not be needed most of the time, the law still requires all of us to put them on if we are not in a 4 wheel drive. Many times I have driven up the canyon in 2 wheel drive when the chain law/4x4 was in effect. Driving skills take the cake, know what your doing before you go into those situations. Practice coming out of a skid in 4 wheel drive in parking lots, it is different than in a 2 wheel drive. With that said, go with a Suby! They are way cool, fast and well priced for a lot of car (compare to other all wheel drives). And, speaking from experience, putting on chains when the highway patrol demands in 6 inches of blowing snow is not only annoying, but preventable.
post #19 of 46
Do they really require chains there, Alta? I've lived in northern Maine and the Colorado mountains all of my life, and I've never even once owned, wanted, or needed, chains. Colorado's chain law applies to tractor-trailer rigs, and rightly so.

Even the old Ford van that I first drove to Colorado 20-some years ago, with only one snow tire, got along just fine in the snow. Any time it did get stuck, was usually my own fault, and neither chains nor four-wheel drive would have gotten me out of THOSE situations--or cured the problem!


Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #20 of 46
Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:
Do they really require chains there, Alta?
Usually once every few big storms the Salt Lake County Sheriff will sit at the bottom of the Cottonwood Canyons giving you the go-ahead if you have chains on your car for 2 wheel drive vehicles. No chains on the car and you will get turned around. You are required to have them in your car during winter months in the Cottonwoods, but how can they check?
post #21 of 46
Bob, growing up in the GWN (by the way Gonz in that 51st State, learning to drive in snow is part of drivers ed) and then in the Rockies, I was not ready for the idiocy of SoCal mountain driving. They require chains here....because apparently CalTrans considers the "cinder" an indangered mineral...or something. I have never witness such ineptitude in scheduling plowing either. New Mexico has it all over these clowns.
post #22 of 46
"Dude. Ride to Mountain High? "

post #23 of 46
Did somebody say Rocky Mountain High?

Many sorrys, didn't mean to get off topic, it won't happen again.

[ June 17, 2002, 01:20 PM: Message edited by: AltaSkier ]
post #24 of 46
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great comments. FYI I will be living outside just outside Seattle in Washington State. Washington allows studded tires in the winter.

I am a confessed SAAB fan having owned two of them. My current one is a '95 SAAB 900SE Turbo. (I also count skiing on Fischer skis and in Raichle boots among my idiosyncrasies ).

Over the years I have driven many different cars with and without chains in snow. What I am primarily interested in is a non-SUV car that will serve as a legal alternative to the chain requirements in most situations and wondered if the SAAB 9-5 Wagon ESP system would pass muster in that regard.

I do understand the SAAB wagon and the SUBARU are in different price classes. I am really just looking for a car that will legally negotiate the passes w/o chaining up more than necessary. I certainly would have no problem paying less for a car that would be a viable SUV alternative. [img]smile.gif[/img]

Thanks again for all you comments. I now have more concrete information to consider.

P.S WTFH Thanks for the 9X concept car pictures. I am trying to like it but am having a hard time with the side window scheme.

[ June 17, 2002, 03:10 PM: Message edited by: Lostboy ]
post #25 of 46
John Denver aside, might want to also check out the local snow tire laws. Utah requires snow tires in the canyons on four wheel drive trucks, which means deeper lugs designated by a M+S on the sidewall. This law directly applies to AWD cars. Good luck with the new car!
post #26 of 46
No problem on the 9x. Yes, it does look different, but different isn't bad if it is well designed. (and it does look good, although I'm not sold on the front light clusters)

As for the ESP, if it is like the one fitted to my car, I would doubt that it would replace chains, because it doesn't increase traction, just re-distributes the power to where the traction is. (I've already seen/felt it in action when driving along country roads and passing oncoming cars by driving on the wet grass verges)

post #27 of 46
Originally posted by Exit 154:
Where in this statement does he sound like he needs the old SUV rant Gonz?
Nowhere. And where on Earth did I say that WAS his desire?

Take your ridiculous blinders off. Just because I slagged you as a poseur re SUVs doesn't mean I'm doing the same here. I'm sorry you still smart at the thought of my castigating you, but so be it. You just need to face the fact that no matter whether you NEED an SUV, you simply wanted one for its looks or impressive appearance or whatever passes for reasoned judgment in your mind. End of story.

Gonzo you just proved my point by implying that I am could be dumb and/or can't drive in the snow. The original question was not about driving skills or what having an AWD does to average driving skill level in US.

You really are ignorant, aren't you eug? I guess you don't know about subsidiary, latent or subtextual issues that are necessarily implied in a question. He asked whether he needs a "better snow car" essentially. So I replied to the issue of whether he needs something like the Saab for PNW roads in the winter. In essence, he doesn't "need" ANY type of car, because snow driving is all about skill. It has very little to do with the type of car you drive.

Next time, try reading the whole post instead of using selective filters that let you see only that which gets under your skin. You'll find that you'll become LESS WRONG about me than you are now.

[ June 17, 2002, 01:51 PM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #28 of 46
I'd opt for AWD but I'd also put good snowtires on the car. All other things being equal, a FWD Saab with premium snowtires will out-perform a Subaru with factory tires until you have at least 6"+ of slop on the road. Modern studless snowtires from Bridgestone (blizzak), Michelin (artic alpin), and Nokian work really well. In the PNW, you get too much rain to want studded tires. Studs are fantastic on ice but are dangerous on wet pavement.

I run Nokian Hakka Q's with steel rims on the VW GTI in the winter. The VW is _much_ better in the snow than my Mercury Mountaineer but I rarely see deep unplowed roads where the ground clearance and 4wd would make the difference. I also have some chains in the back of the VW that I hope ever come out of their plastic wrappers.
post #29 of 46
In SoCal half the SUVs are 2 wheeldrive.....all image! Hey, what do you call a 4Runner that is 2WD?
post #30 of 46
Simply put, the Saabs are just not going to do the same job as an AWD and when the going gets rough the Saab will be left behind. At some point the Saab will be left spinning while the AWD can carry on.

The Saab will rely on inertia to keep going but that only goes just so far. Is it a horrible car in snow? No, but it's no match when it comes to four wheels providing momentum.

Be it my old Jeep Wagoneer or Saab or XC, the terminal velocity is about the same under most conditions ....... slow enough and cautiuous enough not to buy the farm. One "savy" driving skill is knowing which vee-hic-kle to leave the driveway with .... the Saab stays home while the Toyota and XC are at work.

We have had five Saabs in our driveway; 83, 87 and 89 900's, an 89 9000, and still have a 95 900. They were/are ok in snow, heck I had a 71 Pinto that did all right in the snow, you just couldn't use the hatchback because it was full of roofing shingles for weight.... One of the 900's was fitted with the Pirelli Hydrophilic $$$$ snow tires $$$$$, they were bald something like 5,000 miles later.

It takes a lot of agressive driving to keep a Saab going where the AWD will do it with out fuss (read less risk).

Worst car to date in the snow was a Peugeot that I got stuck with in Switzerland ...... :
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