I apologise for the recent rubbish weather.
All those bank holiday gales, days of incessant drizzle and February temperatures are my fault, because I recently took delivery of a Saab 9-3 Convertible to use for the time of the year we optimistically refer to as ‘summer’.
It was always going to be like this.
Although I can’t yet report its abilities for dreamily drifting about under a hazy summer sun, there’s still plenty to talk about.
Being the Aero version, it comes well-equipped, and looks great in its gleaming metallic black paintwork.
And, importantly for the company car market, it is a diesel model which is apparently proving rather popular.
I can see why, although once upon a time I had my reservations.
I have to admit that when I saw the first pictures of the revised Saab 9-3 I thought they had made a complete dog’s dinner of a rather handsome car, swapping that stylish face for a naff metallic, gawping effort.
But in the flesh it looks superb – one of the more effective refreshes of recent years, in fact – and fits in with the current vogue for cars to have an aggressive, confident character.
It might not be a traditional Saab approach, with subtlety and lack of ego their watchwords, but buyers will certainly be attracted to it.
In fact, I’ve noticed plenty of people taking a second look at it parked on my drive.
This is a good thing I suppose, although plenty have bought Saabs for their relative anonymity compared to more showy premium brands.
I had the good fortune to experience one of the best summers of the last 30 years in a 9-3 diesel convertible long termer a couple of years ago, and those halcyon days were accompanied by its rather rattly engine at low speed, a modicum of acceleration and 40-plus mpg.
All in all, I really enjoyed the car, and especially its gorgeous cream leather interior, but for outright refinement, it felt its age.
This year’s Swedish sun-trap comes with the new 180bhp twin-turbo 1.9-litre diesel engine, and early signs suggest it is going to be a glorious summer on this front, even if as I write the icy wind has reached breakneck speeds and it hasn’t stopped raining for three days.
Adding an extra turbo to the trusty GM 1.9-litre engine has turned it from workmanlike to wonderful.
What a transformation – it is noticeably smoother at all points of its performance, whether cold, idling, working at slow speed or accelerating hard. It revs more happily and with 180bhp has some useful acceleration.
Straight out of the box it was managing 43mpg.
Finally Saab has an engine to compete with the best in the sector.
The interior has had a big revamp too and although it still doesn’t have the build quality or standard of materials of an Audi or BMW, it is much improved and more elegant than before, with slivers of metallic plastic to give the dash a more contemporary feel.
A highlight, and fortunately something that hasn’t been changed, are the leather seats which are superbly comfortable and cheeringly summery in the light parchment colour of this car.
It’s funny how you get dependant on things that once seemed trivial.
I can’t remember the last car I tested for any length of time that didn’t have rain-sensing windscreen wipers and automatic lights, but this particular car does without such life-changing technology.
Having to adjust the rate your wipers sweep across the screen suddenly seems as arcane as having to start the car with a handle.
Spending £355 on a convenience pack will bring you back into the 21st century.
The car we have is in top-of-the-range Aero spec, which means it comes with sporty side skirts and rear spoiler, sports suspension and uprated brakes.
It’s still no athlete though – the basic structure of the 9-3 Convertible is not stiff enough to provide those sorts of thrills.
But flinging yourself about is so not the Saab way.
That sort of illicit, irresponsible behaviour is not for the sort of person who drives these cars.
Cruising along worrying about the social exclusion of inner city youths or your carbon footprint is more the Saab buyer’s mindset.
Personally, I shall be driving along worrying about a break in the clouds and so as not to miss a fleeting chance to get the roof down.
The manufacturer’s view - by Paul Adler, brand manager – fleet, GM UK
Clearly customers have been impressed with the combination of high power and high efficiency as this new 1.9 TTiD engine has been taking over a third of all corporate fleet orders.
We had seen growth in the high-power diesel segment from our premium competitors but, nevertheless, demand has been even stronger than we expected, especially for the Aero models.
I think this is because it compares so well not just in terms of performance and specification, but because it is a more interesting alternative to the ubiquitous German premium cars.
Equipment and options
Sports body kit
Front fog lights
Dual zone automatic climate control
Cornering brake control
Electronic brakeforce distribution
Active head restraints
Business pack £1,780
Metallic paint £500
Parking sensors £300