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Saab 9.3 for good mileage, towing horse and dogs

My wife and I have a small truck (Mazda B2300, 2002, 4 cylinder) that we keep because sheneeds to occasionally (once per month) tow her horse (horse and trailer are about 2200 pounds). Now that we have a one-year old daughter I hate the truck (no cab room, drives poorly, etc) and we are looking to replace it with a station wagon. The Saab 9.3 SportCombi seems to have what we need for the dogs, towing the horse (3300 lb capacity) and pretty good mileage (23-30mpg).

I have heard that Saabs have mechanical issues later in life, but the other options in our price range ($10-15k) usually don’t have sufficient towing capacity (Jetta TDI wagon, Mazda6 wagon, Taurus wagon).

The relatively high gas mileage of the Saab (23-30) is very important to us. I have tried talking my wife out of the horse to get a more efficient car, but no dice. Our other car is a 1999 civix hx that gets about 38mpg (150,000 miles on it now).

Is the Saab worth the trouble?

Other options?



I certainly don’t think of a Saab as a vehicle to tow a horse trailer. Your Mazda pick-up is marginal, but it does have the advantage of rear wheel drive. I’ve never pulled a loaded horse trailer with anything smaller than a half ton pick-up truck. I did tow the horse trailer empty behind my 1965 Rambler Classic and it was, I am certain, a strain on the car.

Your Mazda pick-up has a frame–the Saab is a unibody. My recommendation would be a Toyota 4Runner with a V-6 engine. The mileage on ours runs 21-24 on the road and about 16 -18 around town. It’s roomy, has frame construction and could handle the horse trailer. In older vehicles, a Chevrolet Astro or the equivalent GMC minivan might be a possibility.

I read the online info PDF on the Saab 9-3. Nowhere is towing mentioned. However other sources list the max towing at 2000 lbs. For either engine. Your 2200 pound horse and trailer are outside the limit. Your fuel mileage estimates are also bit optimistic. The most frugal of Sportcombi (2WD I4 turbo) gets 19 MPG city and 27 highway. The V6 AWD model gets 15 MPG city and 24 highway, this is according to the EPA’s new methodology that has proven very accurate.

I don’t think this vehicle will meet your needs for towing or fuel efficiency. Actually there are very few vehicles (if any) that can tow a horse and get 30 MPG on the market right now.

I’d never think of pulling a 2200 lb trailer with a Saab, for the reasons others have stated. Where did you see 3300 lb capacity for the Saab? That sounds like more of a V6 suv/truck kind of #.

As far as I know, it is only in Europe that the Saab is approved of a towing weight of 3300 lb (1500 kg.), and it would not scare me one bit to tow that weight with a Saab (of any kind). I frequently tow 1500 lb. with my Morris Minor (legal limit is 1850 lb), and that car only weighs 1900 lb. As long as your brakes are up to it, no problem. If not, don’t tow anything.
Why is it, that in US, you are so scared of towing a trailer?. Legal matters?. Over here (Europe) you can get a hitch for almost any car and the factory/authorities sets the towing limits. In DK = 90% of road weight of towing vehicle for 2wd cars, 4wd, different, = more.
Just for fun; In France and Belgium (and maybe other countries), speedlimit on the highway is 80 mph. with a 2 axle trailer.
Good luck

Saabs are not known for their reliability, so putting a trailer on one doesn’t sound like a good idea. Also, don’t lots of your small towing vehicles have diesels? Not here.

Actually, if you get the Saab, you’ll need the horse to pull the Saab around rather than vice-versa.

You REALLY need to lose the horse…But until you do, keep the truck…

I’m surprised that a 4-cylinder Mazda can handle a loaded horse trailer. You must not have to run 70 mph on the interstate or climb steep hills. European towing specs are more generous than US specs, but I suspect they are content with low maximum speeds.

Check the towing limits for any prospective new vehicle and don’t buy anything rated below 2200 lbs. If you can’t find anything on the manufacturer’s web site, check the research section of

Don’t waste time trying to talk your wife into giving up the horse. It ain’t gonna happen.

My advice would be to buy whatever fits all of your needs BUT the horse trailer and get yourself an older full-size truck for hauling the horse around. If you only haul the horse around town, you can even sell the horse trailer and get a stock rack for your truck.

EDIT: Hmm… while looking for a picture of one, it seems like at least among internet equestrians, hauling a horse in the back of a truck is no longer a generally acceptable practice. Although it may just be because trucks have gotten narrower and taller. For what it’s worth, out where I live I still see ranchers hauling cows and horses short distances in trucks with stock racks.

It’s easier to walk a horse into a trailer because the trailer sits lower to the ground. Your advice about a full-sized truck is sound. I’ve pulled horse trailers and even with a 3/4 ton pick-up, every time the horse moves I feel it in the cab of the truck.

legal matters about sum it up. Since only VW offers diesel engines in small cars over here, we don’t get that extra torque in every other car. Sure, they could say you can tow up to 1000 pounds with a Civic, but one wrong move and the trailer jackknifes and injures someone…

Thank you all for your helpful replies. The towing capacity and fuel mileage are from Consumer Reports. Friends with Saabs report similar mileage. As for towing the horse, the collective (and taken) advice is to get some sort of truck that can actually tow the trailer safely and relatively easily. For some reason, used Toyota trucks are very expensive, so we are looking at Ford F150s (5-8 years old).

Thanks again,