Yes, it’s Big Truck Week here at Curbside Classic, but those of us not keen on these beasts of burden haven’t been forgotten. For readers who want a connection between big rigs and this December 1985 Car and Driver road test, Scania and Saab were merged into the same company at the time of the 9000’s development.
As you’ll see when reading this article, the C&D staff was quite taken by Saab’s then-latest effort. There’s also a short piece at the end of the road test detailing the car’s development, specifically that of its styling, which I found to be a treat.
One thing I didn’t know before reading this article was that the 900 (the revision of the 99) was also being developed at the same time as its larger sibling. The would explain the very similar interior and front fascia design. I also recall reading that the 1994 900 wasn’t supposed to be styled nostalgically, and was meant to be based on a shrunken version of the 9000’s platform. According to that account, GM insisted Saab use the Vectra A’s platform because the 9000’s architecture was too expensive (surprising given the 9000’s age) and that they style the new car in the vein of the outgoing model (this would have to be confirmed). As with all things Saab, there are many “what-ifs.”
Are you able to fix the first image so that it can be enlarged? There is no hyperlink. I am excited to read this; I love older SAABs!
I’m no Saab expert, but I recall watching history unfold as the 900 became quite a fashion statement. Very tough to move forward when your stock-in-trade is a distinctly styled car that sells mostly for that reason. This 9000 looks like a nice effort, if a bit generic ’80s.
man, that brings me back to when C&D was truly irreverent and entertaining. The layout of the magazine was simple and clear, folks like Bedard, Csere, Yates, and Ceppos were consistently amusing (not hit-or-miss like Jalopnik, and a lot more high-brow.)
now I have trouble seeing how they’re any different than the other print rags.
Agreed. This article is a stark reminder of how much we’ve lost, and I don’t mean Saab.
Totally agree. I grew up as a kid on C&D. And, at some time, it seems they lost their way. Some of their writing is still humorous, but there really isn’t any “differentiation” between them and the others. I’ve actually fallen for Automobile. And, I do like Jalopnik…..but I also like brown, stick-shift station wagons, so my views might parallel theirs.
Same here. I read C&D, and R&T, cover to cover. Now they’re all the same, and I rarely read most of each issue. Automobile is also my favorite of the mainstream publications.
I remember when this car came out, and while I really liked it, I thought that it was a little generic and (obviously) not nearly as distinctive as the 900. But it appealed to me in a different way than the 900, and I liked its clean sheet approach. The new ’94 900 was just a watered down old 900, without the same appeal or a really modern take. Now, so many years later, I can’t believe how clean and modern the 9000 looks – much better than many contemporary cars today. I also think it works best in its original, pre-facelift guise.
And am I the only one who likes the plain, disc-like alloys on this car and other cars of the era? Every car today has some version of the same multi-spoke design.
Yes, I love the understated elegance of the wheels, very Scandinavian. Looks like a jet turbine.
I have a mint condition ’97 9000 Aero 5 speed with 144K in the driveway, and this article made me smile. The car still amazes me with its performance, comfort, good build quality, best seats ever invented, and its ability to hold a washing machine in the back. Getting more and more scarce these days, but most mechanical parts are still available thankfully. Saab Parts is still a healthy business today.
I actually just did a full-CC piece on that exact car – a ’97 9000 Aero 5-speed. Here’s the link:
Nice… now it’s time to give the NG900 and 9-5 some love too.
I’ll keep my eye out for them. I do have a 900 post for next week. It’s not an NG, but a “Classic” 900 though.
Keep ’em coming.
I’ve praised these cars every time they show up here or elsewhere, but today I’ll concentrate on just one styling triumph — the upper surface of the dash. No, it’s not soft and squishy like modern cars, but it’s better because of its beautiful simplicity. Only one long lateral defroster vent disturbed its wide, flat surface. There was no domed bulge for gauges and no modern slashes and swooshes for superficial excitement. Nothing to reflect up into the windshield, either. The best part was how the dash met the hood line at the same level, as if you were in an airplane fuselage that happened to have a canopy attanched. It gave a powerful synthesis of interior and exterior, with free-flowing fung shui that drew your eyes down the road to where the turbo motor was moving you, rapidly. All that fit well with the overall feeling of driving a 9000- that it was carved from one solid block of metal.
The view from the driver’s seat of a 9000 was a lovely sight. It’s still my favorite example of great automotive architecture, a tasteful Scandinavian Modern cabin with just a few tasteful furnishings, drawn by designers who knew when to push away from the drawing board and say, “Done.”
If I had been promoted I was going to buy one in the same colour
It compares ok with the economy orientated BMW and the Maxima neither of which are great performing or cornering cars, I can see exactly why GM said use the Vectra platform it was better and cheaper to build.
Reading that makes me want one.
I’ve always liked SAABs but didn’t know all that much about the 9000.
I certainly had no idea that it was that fast. 0-60 in 7.7 is still quick today, specially from a 4cyl with 160 HP. And 141 mph!? Most sedans are governed to much less if they can even reached that.
I would certainly pick this over many sedans today. It just has more presence and personality. I just wish they’d kept the center ignition switch.
Top Gear did a great tribute to SAAB (S18E5) and they briefly talked about the development of the 9000 and how they would try to make the cars different from the platform they were being forced to use.
This is the the car that made me fall in love with Saabs. The shout-out about the key moving to the dash, like it was the end of the world…only to have the key move back to the floor in the NG900.
These 9000s were something else, a hot commodity, especially on the coasts…
pricey too for the day….
Moar back issues! This should be a regular feature of CC…I have a somewhat extensive collection of old car mag back articles, particular C&D but am ALWAYS on the lookout for more.
My Dad had an ’88 9000S (not a turbo). It was fun to drive and looked sharp, but had some design flaws and lots of electrical failures. As C&D called out, the auto climate control would ramp up the fan too quickly on cold days, before the engine was up to temperature, blasting you with cold air. Opening the sunroof without cracking the windows resulted in pretty bad buffeting at speed.
I remember the car suffering a failed brake light switch and turn signal stalk, plus a major issue with the emissions system; there may have been more problems in the few years my family had the car.
Funny that the C&D article called out a lack of remote fuel filler and hatch release; the 9000 did not need those because they were tied in with the central locking system. Lock or unlock the driver’s or passenger’s door and the other doors, hatch and filler are also locked or unlocked.
lovin’ me some Saab
Oct 1984, I bought a 1985 900 Turbo (first year of the 16 valve engine – same as used in this 9000). I was 25 years old, and thrilled to own such a cool car.
However, when this 9000 was released the following year, it was clearly a step up. Now most would think a young, single man would prefer a 2-door stylish 900 over a “family sedan” like the 9000. But I was sold.
And in Spring 1986, I did indeed buy the 9000. Just loved it, and kept it for 12 years.