Drunk in traffic - trip to Switzerland with the Saab 9-3

In my mind I had written that I would like to try a comparison between a Citroën C5 Tourer and the SAAB 9-3 SportCombi. I'll wrap the whole thing up a bit and take you on a trip to Switzerland (and back again) on a route and in places where I've already been with my two C5s with steel suspension and with hydractive chassis.

A trip through Switzerland. On Lake Geneva.
A trip through Switzerland. On Lake Geneva.

I drove a Citroën C5 Tourer from 2015 to 2021. Rather: two. 2015 to 2019 a C5 Tourer HDi 110 FAP with 112 HP Tendance (medium equipment line) and steel suspension, 2019 to 2021 a C5 Tourer BlueHDi 150 with hydraulic suspension and 150 HP, basic equipment; which, however, was already lavish than the aforementioned Tendance mid-range equipment line. My 9-3 has meanwhile got a cruise control as well as a bluetooth module so that I can convert it into a phone booth if necessary. Which also works well. I was prepared for the upcoming trip.

The goal was Kloten near Zurich. In a hotel there, I still had a credit from last year, when national borders suddenly became important again and Europe fell back to the state it was in before 1988. The way led via A7 and A81. The 9-3 is ideal as a touring car, especially if you are traveling alone or as a couple, as in my case. There is a lot of luggage in the trunk, cool box, travel bag, two cardboard boxes. The C5 trunk was slightly larger, but I only used it once - without the rear seats folded down.

If you compare the seats of the 9-3 and C5, it is noticeable that they are noticeably softer in the 9-3. The sports seats are built into my 9-3. In the 9-3, I initially had the feeling of sitting “on” the seat, not “in” the seat, as with the C5. In fact, the side bolsters on the C5 are more pronounced and give the feeling of being seated. The seat itself is tight, completely different from what we used to be familiar with from French cars. But: you can easily drive 1.000 kilometers in it and get out of the car in a relaxed manner. Just like with the 9-3.


After a while I'm sitting here very comfortably and, to be honest, more relaxed. Both vehicles still have some room for improvement here, but that is complaining at a high level. Both are comfortable. And SAAB deserves great praise for the fact that you can see and feel practically no difference between real leather and artificial leather.

When it comes to driving comfort, I have to split between the 9-3 on the one hand and the C5 with steel suspension on the other hand, as well as the C5 with Hydractiv chassis as the third vehicle.

Saab 9-3 and C5 with steel suspension are very similar when it comes to driving comfort. Comfort-oriented, with coarser bumps there is a bump as feedback on the C5, the 9-3 tramples a little more here. I was able to experience that on a cobblestone street about two kilometers long in Saxony-Anhalt. No hard shaking, you noticed that the chassis was designed to be more comfortable. And that's exactly how the steel-sprung C5 behaved on these roads.

The Citroën C5 with hydractive suspension is another class better. Floating would be saying too much. But bumps in the road are very subdued, if you even notice them. Only in the case of short bumps such as coarse patches of tar does the chassis pass the shocks through directly. Wacky concrete slab highways with these repair measures are no fun. This is a peculiarity of hydropneumatics. In these cases the 9-3 does better. But clearly: both are designed for comfort, a virtue that French and Swedish car manufacturers have cultivated in the past.

In terms of suspension comfort, I would consider the 9-3 to be on a par with the C5 with steel chassis. A good job from Trollhättan, where otherwise today only "sporty, tight" chassis is known. Driving itself is more fun in the 9-3.

The two trolleys - C5 and 9-3 - differ from one another in terms of operation. The C5 has an eye-catching feature here: the steering wheel; Only the steering wheel rim is movable, the impact absorber remains rigid. The buttons and, above all, the airbag are always in the right position. SAAB would not have looked bad either. The idea of ​​security was packaged in a typically French peculiarity. With success. And I miss that. I have to look at the steering wheel again to see where the answer button is when a call comes in just as I'm driving through a roundabout.

As with the SAAB, the C5 III also has a "night mode"! All unimportant elements are darkened. However, the symbols for the low beam shine with full radiance and cannot be dimmed any further. This is noticeably better implemented in the SAAB. The green lighting also has a more calming and at the same time fresher, if you can put it that way, than the orange lighting in the C5. At least for me.

One thing my 9-3 can do that the C5 couldn't: it can handle a lot of alcohol. This is a somewhat unfair comparison, because both of my C5s were equipped with HDi diesel engines. That makes it difficult with the alcohol.

After I was allowed to leave the A81 with its very slow traffic that day, I drove directly behind the Swiss border to the Agrola petrol station in Diessenhofen. Agrola sells E12 there - like at 85 other petrol stations in Switzerland.

Agrola gas station in Diessenhofen
Agrola gas station in Diessenhofen

At the cash register I was of course immediately identified as a German based on the flick of my tongue and, after looking at what I had filled up, they asked: “Have you ever filled up with that?” Accompanied by a lurking, anxious look. When I made it clear that my car could handle E85, the cashier's facial features relaxed. "We often have Germans here who fill up because they think it is like your E10." How you can confuse the E10 and E85, which are marked as such on the fuel nozzles and at the fuel pump, was up to you and me a mystery.

I then moved into quarters in Kloten. The 9-3 has done well among all the classier and larger bodies in the underground car park, as you can see

Saab 9-3 in the underground car park
Saab 9-3 in the underground car park

On the way to Kloten I met a second generation 9-3. It should be a while before the next encounters. They all took place on the last day. First when visiting a model railway dealer in the industrial area of ​​Embrach, north of Zurich. A single parking space was still available:

There are no coincidences! A 9-5 SportCombi, a facelift model from after 2002. It already had a few dents and scratches. But a really nice, coincidental meeting.

And the next meeting followed immediately: at the Garage Bahnhof, a Suzuki dealership in Embrach, a black first-generation 9-3 convertible was for sale! For reasons that were no longer comprehensible, I didn't stop and take a look. Maybe someone lives nearby? The car looked neat.

And a short time later, on the way to the autobahn, I met a black 9-5 SportCombi “chrome glasses”. The yield was plentiful that day.

On the trip I was able to compare the interior and especially the workmanship. A less glorious chapter for the 9-3. When the road is uneven, it rattles on the passenger door, crackles and rattles somewhere on the armrest and something is cheering there too; I suspect the leatherette upholstery. It crackles in the ceiling lights. The luggage compartment blind could also use damping, from there a rattling can also be heard. The C5 does not know any of this. At least not with the same mileage.

The materials used in the C5 appear consistently higher quality than in the 9-3. And when you keep in mind that the C5 was a few thousand euros cheaper at the time, you wonder whether you haven't even seen the bigger picture at SAAB or GM. On the other hand: BioPower engines, in which the alcohol provides more power, not only Citroën could not do that.

How is it now, do you notice a difference when E85 is used? A very clear one. Yes and no. I couldn't determine anything from the noise. You can see that the consumption is increasing, the consumption was around 9,5 to 10 liters; also thanks to the speed limits in Switzerland. However, I had the feeling that the car pulls through a little better. But I have to verify that again.

In total, I drove 1.150 kilometers with the E85 on this trip. I refueled again at the Agrola gas station in Regensdorf and at the Carrefour gas station in Scheibenhard on the Franco-German border in Alsace. The liter of E85 in Diessenhofen in Switzerland cost 1,40 francs per liter, which corresponds to about 1,29 euros. In the photo above you can see what the other types of gasoline cost.

At the Agrola gas station in Regensdorf, the liter was available for 1,36 francs, the equivalent of 1,25 euros. At the Agrola petrol station in Worb near Bern, the liter was available for 1,52 euros, the equivalent of around 1,40 euros. The differences were not due to the time of day. According to my observation, there are no such frequent jumps in the fuel price as in Germany.

The density of E85 filling stations in Switzerland has fallen sharply. In addition to Agrola's 13 petrol stations, there are also four Agip / Eni stations. The north of Switzerland in the Zurich area is better served than the south, where you often look for the E85 in vain.

In France - I had deliberately made the return trip via Alsace - it looks very different with the E85. There you will find four petrol stations on the way from Basel to Scheibenhard, which lead to the E85. I left the Autobahn in Rixheim for a conference call and parked across from the Total petrol station there.

Total gas station in Rixheim
Total gas station in Rixheim

The price is amazing, isn't it? So E85 is a real savings!

In Scheibenhard, E85 was more expensive at 81,6 cents per liter; these are prices like at the other motorway filling stations along the way.

It is very unfortunate that E85 was banned from the market by a political decision in 2016. Another way of dealing with alternative fuels would have made it possible to reduce the CO2 emissions of the existing fleet more quickly. This applies to both gasoline and diesel engines.

Laundromat on the site of Scheibenhard
Laundromat on the site of Scheibenhard

Flex-fuel vehicles have practically not been for sale since 2014, and they too would have taken their share. However, that was not politically wanted and it is currently not if you look at statements from the political parties and listen to them; even those groups who ought to have an interest in it negate it.

A5 - electric driving in Germany
A5 - electric driving in Germany

It should just be electric. Maybe I will mount a double pantograph on my roof, then I can at least drive electrically on A5 and A1 - and soon in Bavaria too, thanks to the funding notification from the Federal Ministry of Transport shortly before the end of the legislative period 😉

And I leave it at that; who thinks which view is good or not good should not be the subject of discussion here. We enjoy driving long-term vehicles, which secretly represent a good example of the reconciliation of economy and ecology.

7 thoughts on "Drunk in traffic - trip to Switzerland with the Saab 9-3"

  • Thank you Christian for the great report. Especially for the informative comparisons of the quality of the C5 and 9-3. At the moment I drive a lot with a new member of my Saab family: a 9-3 Sedan Aero from 2005. Interesting and courageous, what was built in the interior back then. Especially in a direct comparison with older Saabs, the mania for savings that prevailed at the time is particularly noticeable…. But shortly after starting the engine, your eyes should be turned to the road. And the steering wheel is leather-covered and feels good. Driving this car is just terrific. Saaabiger is hardly possible. The 4 cylinder turbo is a stunner. The chassis is a perfect mix of firm, sporty and comfortable. And the seats are more comfortable than expected. I find its shape more beautiful than ever. Especially when I park next to the modern bead monsters, which increasingly seem to come from the pool of utopian sci-fi films a la “Mad Max”. Congratulations again on your purchase.

    The Lizi

    • Agree with you, Lizi. And: thank you 🙂

      Perhaps another impression from the comparison: I drove on the A2 for a long time yesterday on the A200 from Göttingen to Potsdam. The freeway was clear. The 9-3 lies like a board on the road. The steel-sprung C5, very comfortably tuned, was rather spongy from around 170, so I didn't really like going that fast. The C5 with Hydractiv chassis was better, but did not come close to the 9-3. A really good set-up of the chassis.

      And another comparison that I was able to make on Saturday on the drive from Leipzig to Göttingen on the A143. I was there with a C5 with a steel chassis, a Volvo V60 with a “dynamically designed chassis” and the 9-3. With the C5, I didn't notice the joints on the roadway. With the 9-3 there was only slight rocking, nothing else. The V60 clearly stucked at every joint. And that is exactly what would make the difference between these two Swedish vehicles today.

      Next week we're going to Gdansk for the second time this month. I will pay a visit to Saab Rumia there. Thanks to Adam for the tip!

      • Saab Rumia - I just looked at the website…. Really makes you want to visit. The short films are very iconic…. Absolutely worth seeing. I also thank Adam unknown for the tip.

        The Lizi

  • Great report, thank you very much! 🙂 Exactly such a trip (Lake Geneva to visit relatives and Alsace on the way there or back) we have been planning for a long time - of course as a nice side effect, so that we can finally refuel with the E85 in the convertible. The fantastic prices and the exemplary sensible energy policy of France in this regard can also be "observed" very well from a distance over the network (and where you can fill up with E85 at what current price, there are, for example, French apps "Stations E85" and "Stations Carburants" ), so I always had the petrol station in Scheibenhard in view as my first stopover. For the trip within Switzerland, I only hoped that there would in fact still be a few Agrola petrol stations that still offer it, I couldn't find anything about the price. Now, thanks to this interesting travel report, I know about this and I am looking forward to our trip - hopefully in the not too distant future.

  • Very nice and informative report beyond the SAAB box, thanks to Christian
    Keep Saabing, Daniel

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