After my Bonneville had sold much more quickly than I was expecting, I found myself in a situation where I needed a car – fast.
I’d been checking out local car ads for a few weeks before putting the Bonneville up for sale. I didn’t want something typical, so the North American compacts (i.e. Ford Focus, Chevy Cobalt/Pontiac G5, Dodge Caliber) which were coming off lease and into my price range were out. I also didn’t really want a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla as they’re just too common in my hometown.
I took a Saturn Ion Redline quad coupe out for a test. While it was certainly quick, the low-rent interior and uncomfortable seats really made me question whether or not I’d like it long term. As well, it had the CVT which most online forums said was not quite ready for ‘prime time’ in that car. So I passed.
But then I saw something suitably unique, within my price range and something I’d often thought of as an interesting ride: a 2006 Saab 9-2x.
This rather peculiar model was only sold for two years and was really just a mildly done over Subaru Impreza RS. The extent of Saab differences between the two vehicles always seemed to me to be styling related; the front and rear were both different, the seats had different fabric and headrests and the dash was a bit more solidly constructed.
I never drove an Impreza RS to see if there were any tangible differences in ride or handling (as some early reviews had said there were) but regardless, I found the acceleration and handling both to be quite acceptable. However, other aspects of the car were mildly annoying. The off-white and black cloth interior got dirty really easily, and the rear hatch latch stuck closed several times. Finally my mechanic removed the entire latch, dunked it in grease and re-installed it. I never had that problem again.
The car also couldn’t disguise its origins as an economy-grade wagon all the time; the doors were light and closed with a tinny clang and the cargo area – even with the back seat totally folded – was none too roomy given the size of the vehicle. I also thought the fuel consumption was pretty high, a number of people I know who had gotten their first AWD vehicle had said that disappointing fuel economy with such vehicles is a well-known phenomenon.
I had the car for about two years. In that time, which was after the Saab brand was spun off from GM. The marque then went through a bankruptcy before finally dying completely. A couple of situations during my ownership made me feel less comfortable having this car as my only ride.
Situation 1 – Christmas 2011. My brother-in-law backed his Jeep Grand Cherokee into the drivers side front and rear door. It took almost a month for the body shop I used to find acceptable door panels to fix my car, and even then they were off a wrecked 9-2x. He warned me to never get into another accident because any of the unique 9-2x hardware was almost impossible to find, and as a two-year-only model there is virtually no back supply of any of these things. Gulp.
Situation 2 – The oil sensor failed and my regular mechanic wasn’t able to get another one that wouldn’t make my ‘check engine’ light go on and limit my revs to 4200rpm. I eventually ordered one through a Subaru dealer in Kingston but it got me to thinking what would happen if I had a bigger or more complex part fail.
So, the bloom was off the rose for me and the 9-2x. Also, I’d recently gotten a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a 1995 Mazda Miata to use in summer, so I was also looking for something less expensive to insure as an everyday ride.
After listing it for a while, I sold the 9-2x to a middle-aged woman who needed AWD to get up her steep driveway in winter. Here’s the best part: I bought the 9-2x for $8,499 in June of 2011, and sold it in November of 2013 for $7,700. The only things I’d done to it besides regular maintenance was a new set of brakes (plus the oil sensor and hatch latch issues). So it cost me next to nothing depreciation-wise to drive for more than two years. To this day I think it is my most ‘sensible’ car buy and usage.
Was the 9-2x a good car? Sure, it was mostly reliable, comfortable and fun to drive. But after having it for a while, it just felt pretty ordinary. It didn’t stir any passion and didn’t look unusual enough to draw any solicitous glances. When it came down to it, it was just…a car.
Well, for my next daily drivers I went for something a bit different. Stay tuned.