PERHAPS THE Almighty was trying to compensate for the evils of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. How else to explain the sun that shone only when I was on that road on a recent, 1,500-mile round-trip journey from Northern Virginia to Chicago?
The sun would come out, chasing away the damp chill of otherwise overcast driving days, allowing me to drop the top of the test 1990 Saab 900 Turbo Convertible.
There seemed to be a balance in all of this -- lousy weather, good roads; good weather, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I should've been grateful. But I had difficulty finding happiness on that unfortunate stretch of highway.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is always being "improved" by construction crews who never seem to finish their work. It twists and turns, narrows and gets even narrower, shifts "temporary" lanes left and right, and plays host to legions of double-trailered trucks that thunder along its horrific miles with wanton abandon.
Under such circumstances, the Saab 900 Turbo Convertible proved a welcome mate. It darted away from truckers who seemed to enjoy riding the rear bumpers of passenger cars in the right lane. It moved nimbly over the turnpike's "uneven pavement," grooved concrete, potholes, ripples and other distortions.
The car stopped quickly and accurately, too -- a talent that proved valuable when the driver of a double-trailered truck, apparently frustrated by a right-lane driver's insistence on going 55 mph, plunged into left-lane traffic without giving a signal.
Those engineers at Saab did a good job.
Background: Saab made its first car, the Saab 92, in 1949. The car looked more like a weird airplane than a car, a styling characteristic still visible in Saab cars today.
All Saab cars are front-wheel drive, as they have been since the rollout of that first Saab 92. All use four-cylinder engines.
Saabs now are sold in America as the 900 Series and the more expensive 9000 Series. Eight variations of the 900 series are offered. The 900 Turbo Convertible is second from the top of that line, which is headed by the limited-edition Saab 900 Turbo SPG.
Complaints: That dumb theft-alarm system. Get rid of it, Saab! It goes off too often for the silliest reasons. It sounded in a parking garage in Chicago for about four minutes. I was standing there, deliberately letting it whine, to see if any of the garage attendants would come to check out the noise. No one came! Also, Saab needs to give us a manual shift system that works in all gears -- including the reverse gear. Currently, getting into reverse in the Saab 900 is much like working a Rubik's cube: very, very difficult.
Praise: Overall excellent engineering. With a standard driver's-side air bag and anti-lock brake system, the Saab 900 easily is one of the safest cars on the road.
Head-turning quotient: The weirdest-looking luxury convertible for sale. Definitely different. It gets attention.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent ride and acceleration. Superior handling. What's notable here is the relative lack of body shimmy in the 900 Turbo Convertible. Convertibles, in general, tend to twist and flex a lot, especially on rough roads. The 900 Turbo, by comparison, was a study in poise.
The car is equipped with a four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged 160-horsepower engine -- more than enough power for normal pursuits.
Sound system: Four-speaker AM/FM stereo radio and cassette by Clarion. Far better than most Clarion systems I've heard. Gets an "excellent."
Mileage: About 26 miles per gallon (18-gallon tank, estimated 458-mile cruising range on usable volume), mostly highway and driver only.
Price: Base price on the Saab 900 Turbo Convertible is $32,995. Dealer invoice price is $27,452. Price as tested, including a $383 destination charge, is $33,378.
Purse-strings note: It's far more "want" than "need." But, if you want it, it's a buy.
Warren Brown covers the automobile industry for The Washington Post.