(first posted 6/7/2015) Some cars just seem to be born under a bad sign. They can be rather good cars, but you just know they can’t meet the expectations created, because their predecessors left the bar too high. The second generation (or NG for “New Generation”) Saab 900 is one of those cars.
At the end of 1993 the 900 NG was launched into a market in recession, something that never helps, but the biggest problem was, aside the fact that Saab was immersed in a deep crisis (despite recent GM´s ownership, or perhaps due to that), that the new car was never to be as loved as the old 900 (above). The car that made Saab´s fortunes in the ´80s was a bit old fashioned in the ’90s (it was based in the 1967 Saab 99, after all), expensive to make and lacking in some features, but it was THE Saab, and its fans were never going to take the new one to their hearts easily.
Anyway, Saab knew that they couldn’t survive selling cars only to Saabists. They were few and far between and, anyway, tended to keep their cars for a long time. So bearing in mind that the market for entry-level luxury sedans was booming, doing a more mainstream car trying to mimic the BMW 3 Series, Audi 80/A4, Mercedes C-Class, Volvo 850 and assorted Japanese near luxury sedans was the sensible option.
As expected, the car got a somewhat lukewarm press reception. The styling was nice, a successful update of classic 900´s lines (although the rear was far from pretty), the interior, again an update of the original, well styled and finished, and the 2.3 counterbalanced four cylinder (Saab) and 2.5 V6 (GM) engines rather competent; the four cylinder turbocharged 2.0 litre gave a very healthy 185 bhp. Why, then, the tepid magazine reviews? You guessed it: GM screwed it up. Its main contribution to the 900 NG, the chassis, was flawed.
Back in 1989, when Saab was really in its “state of independence” but cash strapped too, needed a buyer to take hold of the company and provide much needed funds. It seemed that Fiat would take the prize, and the 900 NG would carry the then-new Fiat Tipo platform. It wasn’t a technical marvel, but the Tipo chassis was more than competent, with a very acceptable ride and handling compromise (perhaps the best of European small family cars). Later, that platform was used in a variety of Fiat group cars: Fiat Tempra/ Coupé, Alfa Romeo 145/146/155/GTV/Spider, Lancia Dedra/Delta, and I´m sure that I forget a few more. Besides, the Tipo was a very roomy car, like almost all its descendants.
But at the eleventh hour GM bought Saab, and that was a decision that marked forever the future of the company and its cars. The 900 NG was hastily developed using the 1988 Opel Vectra platform, another example of a car slickly styled, propelled by good engines, but let down by its chassis. Nice work, Opel/GM.
So while the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C- Class, Audi A4 and Volvo 850 enjoyed very good road manners, 900 NG drivers had to make do with mediocre damping that felt like their cars had the tyres filled with concrete, crashing and bouncing over bumps, and understeering like a loaded trolley cart. The body rolled in bends, too, and the car neither rode nor handled particularly well. Another Vectra “gift” was the less than solid steering wheel column mounting, and a crack- prone bulkhead in right hand drive versions, a feature that wrote off a lot of 900s. High prices and low resale value compared to its German competition didn’t help.
In the beginning of 1998 the 900 NG was followed by the 9-3, a car very similar in appearance but updated very effectively in the suspension department; it was still no BMW, but at least the suspension worked serenely and it rode a lot better.
Never mind; despite the 900 NG being a bit of a dog, sometimes it’s easy to become fond of a dog. And this is the case with Marco’s 900 Turbo. Marco is a good friend of mine that bought this 1996 Imola red Turbo nine years ago. The car was parked in the street with a “for sale” sign; dusty and unloved. The poor 900 was very lucky when, in that hot summer afternoon, Marco and me were walking by and saw it. From that day forward, the car has had a pampered life, serviced by a Saab dealer, and getting everything it needed. Mind you, Marco has a lead right foot and he likes to give the car some stick, even drives it on track days, so the car doesn’t need any extra “Italian tune-ups” to clean its throat.
This 900 has a well-traveled past, being bought in Sweden by its first owner, a football player; then a few months later he and his Saab moved to Chile to play for a local team, and moved again to Sevilla (the city where I live). Marco calls his 900 “Tommy Norlin”, after the name of its first owner.
With almost 280,000 kilometres on the clock, the car pulls like a train and doesn’t drink a drop of oil. The B204 engine is a jewel and now that the ECU has been reprogrammed to a “mild” 220-225 bhp and a sports exhaust has been installed, the 900 is more than brisk. The body has little or no rust thanks to the dry and hot climate, the red paint has responded really well to a recent detailing session, and the interior, with that unattractive dark gray upholstery that holds you like velcro, is proving very durable (although I´m sick of telling Marco to remove that ugly 9-3 Viggen fake titanium dashboard). The car needs a bit of suspension work, through.
Marco is very attached to his 900 and he says he´ll never sell it. Now it is sharing space in a new and rather nice garage with Marco´s other cars, a 2002 9-3 Aero convertible and a 2001 9-3 Tid (a Isuzu diesel- engined version sold in Europe), so while some cars may be born under a bad sign, it’s a relief that you always find somebody who cares about them.
I actually like these Saabs, I guess it’s the styling inside and out. The rest of the car (chassis and mechanicals), comes across as being “competent”. I might even be induced to buy one if I could find a nice 4 cylinder with manual transmission example. But these are becoming very rare on our roads, a situation not helped by Saab’s demise.
M selling mine if any one is interested .95 900 se convertible. 520 2279 Deanna red black top .over 4 grand put into her . including new top and all new tires
I know people love to bash GM but I’m not sure the end result would have been any different under FIAT. Those Tipos had that ‘made-rusty’ look about them.
I know it sounds strange, but Fiat learnt (the hard way) a pair of things about rust, and the Tipo was back then one of the very few cars with galvanised body.
Of course, galvanised body doesn´t mean the Tipo was made to last…mechanics were more or less reliable but build quality and electrics were as usual.
Trying to guess what have would become of Saab under Fiat ownership is an adventure, I suppose the conflict between Saab, Lancia and Alfa Romeo was clear.
The old-generation 900s weren’t exactly wonderful either. While they were entertaining to drive especially in Turbo form, they weren’t trouble free. I knew a few owners of 900 Turbos who became disillusioned with their cars because of niggling fuel injection, body hardware, and electrical problems. My brother bought a 1982 Turbo sedan which in 1984 developed cracks in the fuel injection lines, allowing gasoline to spray on the engine, As a result, the car caught fire and burned to the ground with heat so intense that the headlights melted out of their sockets.
Saab was a dead brand walking by 1990. The aging 900 was based upon a 1967-vintage platform and the “upmarket” 9000 (which shared a Fiat/Lancia platform) was not the success that Saab had hoped for, particularly in the US. There was no money to develop a new and badly needed platform.
Agreed. I worked for a Saab dealer in 1989. They’d have been dead far sooner without GM intervention. You could still buy a Peugeot or Yugo in the US in 1989, so they might not have been the worst cars on the market, but they weren’t far off either.
My ’93 is still running strong with 312k miles. Haters gonna hate. I’ve always thought of them as the Swedish w124
How much would you want for your ’93 C900? I’m always in the market for older Volvos and Saabs. You planning on parting with it any time soon?
I grew up with the first gen Saab 900. No one in my family owned or drove one, but I remember admiring every angle of the car when I was a boy. When the second gen finally debuted, I remember thinking “I don’t know how they’re going to fill the shoes of the first gen, particularly since the first gen had been around for so long.” The only mistake Saab made was allowing General Motors to take them over.
nfs PJ. The dreaded nickel and dime things are fixed now and I don’t want to repeat that process. I suggest saabnet classifieds.
I disagree with the assessment that GM killed SAAB. The market was saturated and they were too much a niche player. If anything they lived longer because of GM.
Really? How did GM prolong Saab’s existence?
Financial injection. If it hadn’t been for GM, Saab would have run out of cash much sooner, since it no longer had any means to invest – exactly what tonyola wrote. That development happened anyway, just a little later when GM had lost interest.
So is my ’86 900 with similar mileage. 🙂
The old, pre-GM Saab 900s are very durable if maintained properly. Well, except for the transmissions, which are pretty much made of glass and tissue paper. Even those can be made to last once you know how to treat them. The engines, on the other hand, are very overbuilt. Biggest problem really at this point given the age of these cars is rust unless you live where road salt is not used.
But as others have said, by around 1990 Saab was in pretty bad shape with their volume model based on a 1960s platform and no money to develop a new one. (I think they were going to try to chop the up 9000 to make a new 900 before GM got involved.)
Rather unfairly dismissed by Clarkson and his imitators in Britain as a Vauxhall Vectra in drag. The trouble was a lot of British drivers believe everything he says and writes.It was almost always called not a proper Saab in tests and write ups and compared to the previous model.I’ve only been a passenger in a non turbo 99 but I thought it was a comfortable,quiet and well made car.
Very true. While I find Clarkson entertaining to watch, I’d never rely upon any of his observations in determining whether I’d buy a vehicle or not.
Clarkson is full of it, especially when it come to US cars. I used to to get CAR magazine in the 80s. As an example, he penned an article on vintage Corvettes, referring to to a C2 as being Rochester fuel-injected. Well, that round air cleaner sure looked funny to me! As mentioned, just one example, he’s full of crap like this all the time.
Clarkson wasn’t wrong – a C2 (or C1) can be Rochester fuel injected – although they are pretty rare, as that was a pricey option when new. I have it on my ’63 split window…
The ones with round air cleaners are, however carb’d…
If you’re opinionated & witty on TV, it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, as long as you’re entertaining. High ratings matter more than truth.
And poking fun at Stupid Americans has been a hobby of British literati ever since Frances Trollope. Rednecks make especially tempting targets; often I see patronizing articles about these creatures & their strange ways on the BBC website.
I watch Top Gear on BBCA here on American tv, and I actually find the show, if nothing else, entertaining to watch.
The older (earlier seasons) episodes are the best.
I’d been a Saab fan since the late 1960’s when the 99 came out. Really tried to find a way to afford one in the mid-1970’s as Erie had a very good Saab/Datsun dealer (Porreco Motors), but the prices were way above my Vega. And my wallet.
However when I read a magazine article shortly after GM’s purchase of Saab, that purported that someone high in the GM heirarchy looked at the current model and publicly stated, “We can build a car 90% as good from the Opel parts bin” I knew in the long term that Saab was doomed. You don’t take a car that sold to an ownership base that was statistically proven (in the US) to have absolutely nobody who voted for Nixon in the 1972 election, and then try to get them to buy “just another GM car”.
My sister and brother-in-law bought a ’94 and kept it for a number of years. Don liked the car for all its little oddities and quirks, but hated the way it nickle and dimed him to death. In the end, they didn’t even trade it in, but sold it on Craigslist (prospective dealers weren’t thrilled about taking it in on trade), and replaced it with a Subaru Forester.
Which seems to have been a rather usual occurrence.
I had a boss in the mid-70’s who was so rigid and conservative, retired Army, that I’m sure had voted for Nixon, and drove a 99. But he was always complains about its reliability and traded it for a Ford Granada (US).
Haha, mine nickel and dimed me to death and was replaced with an Outback.
In 2003 I bought an off-lease 2000 9-3SE 5-door with the “HOT” high output turbo to replace a much loved 1993 9000CSE (which sported the same imola red paint color as the featured car). I loved the 9000 for its roominess, excellent road manners and amazing (for 1993) level of equipment. The 9-3 was also an exceptionally well equipped car for its “entry-luxo” niche, and was quick and sprightly and a good time to drive, but at about 3 months of ownership I found myself reviewing it to people who asked as “a Corolla with leather and a turbo”. I liked the car, but that’s about the best I can say about it. The 9000 was a substantial and impressive car, the 9-3..not so much. The ’86 900 sedan that my former wife drove, which started the Saab story in my household, on the other hand, was (despite its age by the mid 90’s and numerous niggling gremlins) probably one of the endearing vehicles I ever owned. I miss Saab, but by the end the product was diluted to a point where its demise was almost a blessing.
I owned a ’99 9-3 turbo for a couple of years. It was a really sharp car and quite versatile. I could fit just about anything into its cavernous hatch. Part of what drew me to the Saab was its funkiness, but also the fact that the resale value was such a fraction of the original price. This was tough on first owners, but wonderful for those who bought them used. Parts were ridiculously expensive. I jettisoned mine after deciding that I didn’t want to make $1,500 in repairs every calendar year.
I’d agree that these are not as popular as the classic 900, and the author is correct that the chassis is a weak point.
But he misses a couple of key points.
the 9-3 successor has more or less the same suspension. No major changes. Yes, the chassis is twisty. And you can use a rear multilink. And yes, having the steering attached the the firewall is not good.
But the improvements are basically swaybars and larger tires. A lot of the suspension issues are with the 15″ tires. I never had the dreaded torque steer issue until I went with 15 inch snow tires. At 16 the standard tires work fine. The Viggens and upgraded engines really need the 17.
Hard to tell from the pictures, but the wheels on this one look like the upgraded 16″ wheels which also got larger brakes.
The worst GM contribution was using the GM clutch cable, rather than the saab hydraulic clutch.
Effectively, the 900 NG and 9-3 suspension hardware is more or less the same. In the 9-3 launch, Saab cited “1,100 changes” between both cars, without been more specific…but it seems shocks, springs and perhaps bushes are different. After driving the 900 (shock absorbers are about 60,000 kilometres old) and the same owner´s 9-3 coupe and 9-3 Aero cabrio, it´s easy to see the 9-3s ride a lot better and feel nimbler. The 9-3 coupe has 300,000 kilometres on the clock.
The red 900 has 16 inches “Viking” alloys , standard in the 900 SE. The owner has a set of 15″ winter tires, but I´ve never tried the car with them.
I’ve never driven a 900, but I’ve ridden in several over the years. As a passenger, the biggest letdown in my mind was always how cheap the interior seemed. Nicely styled, but acres of cheap monotone plastic.
The convertible versions always seemed more popular here, are definitely the most commonly seen 900s present-day. I still wouldn’t mind picking up one as a summer touring convertible, if the price was right and it was in good mechanical order.
I fell in love with the 900 convertible in the late ’80s, although I knew it would be a long time before I could afford one. I also thought the 9000 was a spectacular premium entry, although priced too high.
I finally was able to pop for one – my ’04 Aero convertible. This thing is fast. It’s got beautiful lines considering it was crafted from a sedan and seats four somewhat comfortably….I just received a high compliment on its lines last weekend when I had it out.
Although mine only has 45k miles, it does cost more to maintain than I first expected. Parts are sometimes hard to get but you have to do your research. A little yellow plastic clip for the clutch return spring cost $8 and took a month to locate without replacing the whole spring unit. The top hydraulic system has needed 2 repairs, both over $1000.
Meanwhile top down this thing is a charmer, handles great and flies. Love the whistle of the turbo. “Kids” today don’t have a clue about Saab – a few weeks ago a young lady complimented the car and asked what it was. I replied “Saab”, to which she replied “huh?”. I guess that’s to be expected 6-7 years after its crash and burn.
When the demise happened, I totally blamed GM because I’ve been exceedingly unhappy with their slovenliness these past 40 years. But the reality may in fact be that GM perhaps even helped extend Saab’s life when they stepped in back in 1990. Sure the 9-7x was a joke, perhaps the 9-2x as well (although I really wanted one during the 2005 fire sale), but those are the cars that kept at least part of the flame alive. I’d love to find a 9-4x personally….almost a unicorn.
I guess there was only so much room at the premium/near-luxury table with the rise of Acura, Lexus and Infiniti. More reliable, too.
Here’s a great research paper regarding the demise of Saab – scroll about halfway down the page for the document:
Meanwhile – cruise on!
It’s nice to see one of these at last. Oddly, despite what sounds like pretty bad press, I remember seeing more of this generation than the classic 900 in the early-mid 90s. It was easy for a kid to see that this was a design update and I thought these were very good looking cars.
I never really “got” the Saab thing…but I definitely had forgotten how nice these looked. Don’t see many Saabs these days.
It’s too bad these cars had so many mechanical and quality issues because I think they’re just so pretty. But after owning a VW Jetta I don’t think I’d ever want another European car. Period.
I loved the shape of the new Saab 900. The old 900, while attractive in its own right, was getting long in the tooth, and in need of something new to replace it.
General Motors sure knows how to screw things up, don’t they? They took over Saab and made something of a mockery of an otherwise great car. Of all the companies that could’ve taken over Saab, why GM? Why not Fiat, why not Daimler-Benz? They both produce good chassis and engines.
Saab fever was always something a mystery to me. I guess it was because Saabs were incredibly rare in the South when I was a kid. We thought they were simply weird. “I’d sob if I had to drive a Saab” was a little joke in my circle of buddies in the late ’70s/early ’80s (though perhaps we were the joke because we wanted Trans Ams and 280ZXs).
The brand definitely had more of a coastal following, and was particularly beloved in the Northeast. When I went to college there in the 1980s, I was suddenly submerged in Saabs. Plenty of students at my school, especially ones from the Boston and New York City suburbs, came from families who had them and loved them. So I saw lots, and rode in many of the original 900s. They were nice enough in their own functional, Swedish way, but I never wanted one.
I thought it was preposterous when GM bought the company. I assumed it was because The General lost out in the bidding frenzy for Jaguar, so this was their next best scramble for a “prestige” European brand. Mistake #1 was not understanding that the “prestige” conveyed by Saab was a functional, frumpy, “anti-status” status, which I think was a completely foreign concept for GM. So they made a ho-hum car look like a Saab and assumed that would capture the magic. Talk about a deadly sin! It did nothing to attract new buyers to the brand and completely alienated the true Saab aficionados.
The people I knew with Saabs did indeed keep them forever. Tough business model for the brand. Loyalists who loved the cars but didn’t buy new ones, combined with a quirkiness that limited the total available market, made it basically impossible to grow the brand into a viable long-term business. The demise of Saab was absolutely no surprise–frankly the fact that it lasted as long as it did was the shocker. I’m now wondering if the same fate will ultimately befall Volvo as well.
Saab was a perennial favorite of college profs and other intellectual types in the 70s and 80s. Thus they tended to cluster in the Northeast and California. Certainly being from a country that favored unglazed pottery was a big selling point for your typical Saab owner.
I knew a few 900 owners back in the 80s. They swore by the aircraft inspired design, the turbo power, and the unique character. They also swore when stupid things like the cooling system would explode and cost stupid money to fix. But seriously, I really did appreciate the Saab 900. In a sea of jellybean wedges, it looked like nothing else. I remember the interiors had a distinctive smell that I haven’t experienced in nearly 20 years, but blindfolded I could tell you “That’s a Saab with cloth seats” if I were to inhale it today.
Saab fever was a bit of a mistery to me, too. I owned a 9000 Aero for seven years (a picture of it below), but I bought it because I loved the 9000 “as a car”, not “as a Saab”…there is a certain “snob appeal” in the brand, and owners that declare that they will never drive another brand.
You´ve done a very good point. Saab´s appeal was all about function (for a few years they published a small book called “Form and Function”…), cars that were relaxing to drive, comfortable over long distances, fuss-free…GM never undestood that, neither a lot of people. And yes, I also think that the real surprise was how Saab lasted so long.
Love the allusion to the classic Albert King song!
As an owner of a 2002 Saab 9-3 Viggen and a 1996 Saab 9000 Aero, I love them both, and they both feel as if they were milled from one block of metal, even though they are 13 and 19 years old respectively. Viggen at 134k and 9000 is at 160k.
If you don’t let the stealership or American workshop rob you 5000$ to change a bulb, then you will be fine. Do your own work.
Both cars have amazingly comfortable seats made of the best leather and pull like stabbed rats. The Viggen will, however, have you 2 lanes over to the left/right if you floor it in 2nd gear 🙂
I only have one picture of them together. The Viggen is painted and on the road (I bought it crashed)
I have a coupe from this series. N/A and no heated seats :(. SE and turbo versions of this model are thin on the ground here. However 9-3s are plentiful.
Easiest FWD car I have put a spanner so far. The starter was toast when I got it, replaced it in 1 hr, without even jacking the car. The oil change was a cake too.
Closing the door makes a solid thunk sound. The boot is gigantic, bigger than my Commodore.
Would love to get an early 9-5. The styling and external detailing on those is beautiful.
Nice-looking cars, to be sure. Never drove or rode in one, but compared to the original 900 (which I was never a fan of) these were quite lovely. A friend of mine “influenced” his girlfriend at the time (maybe 2003 or 04?) to buy one, I think partly because he wanted one himself. ’95 or ’96 900 NA 3-door. He was definitely a car guy (owned an Audi Coupe Quattro, two W123’s, BMW 540i, SAAB 9-5, Miata, and a few other interesting motors) so I doubt he’d have picked out for her something that didn’t handle at all. Maybe they’d already made some tweaks a few years into the model run?
She seemed to like it well enough. Plus she ended up marrying him so it must not have been too bad a suggestion!
Thanks for posting such beautiful words about this car.
A few weeks ago I published this article on my SAAB 900NG:
And here I am regularly collecting information gathering:
Brings back very fond memories of my 1996 900 – Imola red, just like this one. No repair bills, and even moving house didn’t fill the boot. Would love to have it back.
What a cool read!! I know this is an old thread but I had to post at least a simple thank you. I recently purchased a 96 900 SE 2.0 Turbo, 3 Door Coupe in Imola Red. 1st Saab I’ve never so much as even rode in a Saab until I found this one so my input here is truly as unbiased as possible. That being said, I’ll be a Saab fan for life. I absolutely love my Saab. A joy to drive, easy to wrench on, fantastic sounding and a real joy to look at!! I get tons of compliments on mine.
Being an old thread, does not mean we are in front of a car to be discard, on the contrary.
I can confirm after 21 years (11 of which in my possession), the 900NG is a car still very enjoyable for small rides as great routes. It is true that you should not forget a good preventive maintenance but it is worth the reward of your enjoyment.
I hope to continue many years affections for SAABs.
I’m in the UK and would like to add my thoughts to this very interesting thread.
I bought my first Saab in 1996, it was brand new and a N/A 900 5 door. My wife and I loved its looks and interior and bought it primarily for safety. We looked at the “classic” 900, but this car had no air bags and was far too old fashioned for our young family.
We kept the car for 14 trouble free years and 40,000 Miles, I currently own 7 Saabs including two 9000s and two Classic 900s. I am also the Classic 900 registrar for the Saab Owners Club of Great Britain.
I have very recently returned to where my Saab obsession began back in 1996, having bought a 1997 900 SE turbo 3 door.
Yes, I fully understand the cars shortcomings in the chassis and handling department, and the heavy clutch operation. But in my mind the car is not as bad as it’s made out to be by the press and is beautiful to look at and still stands out in a crowd.
Well, two years and a half after I wrote this and I can say that Marco´s 900 Turbo is still going strong and looking better than ever. A set of new Bilstein B6 shocks didn´t do any harm at all, so 900´s handling has improved a lot.
In this part of Spain where I live people usually run their cars into the ground because they think “it makes no sense to spend money on an old car”. The “disposable car” mentality prevails. So seeing a 22 years old car in such good condition is always a delight.
You know, Phaly.
Bilstein B6 is good improvement.
Whenever I talk of the NG 900 i feel a need to put air quotes around “900”. Let’s face it; this is not the car people think of when they think of a Saab 900, and the classic 900 – the real 900, is the Saab people most think of if they think about Saabs. GM made sure to make the new one at least look like the old 900, especially the coupe and convertible, but the essense of Saabness was still lost. GM seemed to think as long as the keyhole was in the center console, it was a real Saab and ignored too many other of their unique attributes.
I don’t defend weirdness for weirdness’ sake, so I’m not bothered the engine in the new one wasn’t mounted longitudinally and backwards. I am bothered, however, that the doorsills no longer covered up the edge of the floor so there was no ledge to climb over, or that the center of the dash wasn’t wide open with spaces to install audio gear, gauges, storage compartments, or cup holders in your choice of order. I missed the zero-liftover hatch door that opened right down to carpet level. The forward and reverse-facing cornering lamps. The narrow A pillars. The lack of sway bars on earlier models – hey a soft ride is more important! The radio right at the top of the dash, which today is a great place to mount an aftermarket full-screen AirPlay/Android Auto aftermarket unit.
The GM 900 lacked all such uniqueness. There was also something vaguely offputting about it. For one, It felt very narrow inside, with the sides of the console rubbing against my inner leg. The original 900 didn’t even have a console except as an accessory. It was just another car, masquerading as a Saab. At least it still had a hatchback; later Saabs jettisoned even that until they became the ultimate generic cars; what a sad ending for Saab.
I agree about adding quotes. When I first saw this I was thinking the real 900 and not this 900. So which one gets the quotes just for clarity.
As a Saab lover and former owner (1988 900, 1999 9-3, 2001 9-5 wagon auto), I would definitely call these real Saabs in that they would surprise you by doing certain things very well and a few things below par. My 9-3 actually handled corners and off ramps way better and flatter than my 900, but it had more extreme trailing throttle oversteer in certain situations. And, my turbo 9-3 was as fast as an SPG 900 and had a nicer shifter too.
For my wife and her super, super long legs the marvelously long seat travel, telescoping column, and excellent seats made for a great daily driver that ran well enough on the highway and met her needs on the smooth southern US highways. For her, the suspension and chassis were perfectly compliant for her driving style.
I was looking at Integras, G-20s, a few others and she stopped at the SAAB.
Bad luck for SAAB being purchased by GM . Europe`s management isn`t the same for America. Greatest wise decision to keep apart its big tractors-truck division : enough to say Scania big lorries and buses are still owning 60% share on mostly Latino countries
( not to mention Scania has facilities`plants both in Brazil and Argentina ).
Once upon a time China was a doubtful brand`s operator . Wrong prediction .
Great luck for Volvo since was bought by Chinese Geely . What if Geely was the boss` destiny to further Saab`s projects and developments ? No euphemisms apparently GM wasn`t either capable to manage Vauxhall & Opel , automobiles of their own DNA, who finally finished in the hands of PSA Peugeot-Citroen . SAAB got the worst stepfather .
My dad had a dark blue (Le Mans Blue or Embassy Blue) 1996 900 S (P-reg) here in Scotland when I was a kid as a company car from 1996-99, which was then replaced by a dark green (Scarab Green) 9-3 (V-reg) from 1999-2002. I think the Saabs were simply due to a deal his office had with the local dealer, but he fell in love with them. After that it was clear we needed 4WD for snowy rural winters so he switched to a Nissan X-Trail. He’d wanted another Saab and had considered moving to a 9-5 estate, even borrowing one for a weekend, but the lack of 4WD was a dealbreaker.
I loved those Saabs as a kid, they had supremely comfortable seats and were overall pretty roomy. A lot of great memories. I remember some trouble though. One time at a supermarket another car had slammed their doors open into the side of the 900 leaving harsh dents, and it had been a nightmare to get the doors repaired. Also during one particular cold winter the locks froze on the 9-3, and after finally managing to get into it we discovered the gearbox had frozen too, after all the sales material and handbook suggested it wasn’t possible due to being designed for Arctic winters etc. – turns out all the lubricants and other fluids used in non-Scandi market models were different and less able to deal with extreme lows. But both of them succeeded well at long journeys, daytrips, etc. into the deepest depths of the Highlands and Islands. One particular evening in the Highlands I distinctly remember, after having set off from a parents’ friend’s house in the late evening for the 2-3 hour drive home, neutralising the various midges that had gathered in the car when we left on the headliner with wet wipes with my older brother. I also remember the one time my mother had to drive the 900 because the Nissan Serena she drove was being serviced and my dad had become stranded somewhere, and she’d had to take us with her. She was mildly terrified at how powerful it was vs. the relatively gutless Nissan which until that point was the only car she had ever driven, and managed to stall it at a major road junction in the area to the rage of many other drivers.
Anyway, when doing my masters recently in Sweden, my Swedish classmate and friend returned from being home one weekend with his car – a sort of mid hazy faded forest green 900 of the same vintage as my dad’s one, with the same interior. It was like stepping into a time capsule, I loved that car, many trips to hockey games and beaches and such too, plus it was super useful for moving architectural models and vast material supplies. It soon died though, first the radio/sound system went, and not long later the turbo did too. Instead of fixing it at high cost he was rid of it and inherited his parents’ late 90s big black Volvo S80 that was falling apart (including most annoyingly having to manually lock the passenger door while getting out of it every time) but has perhaps the most comfortable car seats I’ve ever sat in. That thing’s still going strong somehow.