Initially, it had been so slight that I’d put it down to rough road surfaces feeding back through the tyres.
Well, that was until a week ago when the shimmy became more pronounced and a quick check confirmed the nearside front wheel had lost a counterweight.
The Saab was booked in to ATS Euromaster in Bourne, Lincolnshire, where all four tyres were given a quick once-over while still on the car before tackling the offending wheel.
As a precaution, the front right wheel was also removed for balancing.
It’s just as well – a 15cm section of inner rim had taken a right hammering and had a flat spot knocked into it (see photo). ATS thought it most likely to be pothole damage (not guilty), but were perplexed by the Continental tyre’s total lack of damage.
Despite the wheel’s damage ATS were able to balance it, but advised replacing it with the spare. Trouble is, the 9-3 has one of those awful space-saver wheels, with a 50mph speed restriction, that wouldn’t look out of place on my garden wheelbarrow.
So we decided to swap the damaged wheel with the relatively lightly-loaded rear-right and then tackle the issue of ordering a replacement wheel.
Given the option, I’d delete both the TwinFloor boot arrangement and that huge 10- inch subwoofer loudspeaker mounted on a thick hinged panel-cum-second boot floor. They eat into valuable wheel well depth that could house a full-size spare.
And while, figuratively speaking, we’re in the boot, I found two handfuls of broken car window glass in the lower boot well.
Any ideas, Saab?
This car was a replacement, supplied at short notice, for the dark blue SportWagon written off by a lorry back in March, but it seems to have also seen battle at some time in its short life.
All this drama aside, I spent a few days at the wheel of a German rival manufacturer’s car – albeit one a model class higher… The interior reeked of quality, and its superbly muted turbo-diesel engine never dared raise its voice least it should intrude into one’s conversation. Yet it left me cold. It was just too sterile to be comfortable with. The 9-3, in contrast, despite (or because of) its little idiosyncrasies is just that bit more real world usable. And fun.
I decided to test BP’s claims for its Ultimate Diesel. It is a few pence more expensive per litre than regular diesel but promises cleaner emissions, smoother running and increased engine combustion chamber cleaning power. So I couldn’t resist donning my imaginary lab boffin’s white coat and clipboard and brimmed the Saab’s tank with the stuff.
400 miles later: No improvement in economy (that’s my fault). But the engine certainly felt perkier and smoother.
Price: £24,165 (£24,885 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
Company car tax bill (2006) 40% tax-payer: £175 per month
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 47.9
Test mpg: 42.3
CAP Monitor RV: £8,225 (34%)
Contract hire rate: £521
Expenditure to date: £11.99 (wheel balancing)
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles