(first posted 1/28/2014) For the latter part of the 20th century, the two Swedish brands could easily be distinguished by their shapes. Volvos were square and Saabs were distinctly swoopy. This philosophy held true for just about every Saab and Volvo produced from the late 1960s through the year 2000, with a few exceptions. One of these was the Saab 9000–the square Saab. While not as sharply creased as the Volvo 700-Series, the 9000 was decidedly more squared-off than Saabs both before and after, save for maybe the short-lived, badge-engineered 600.
The 9000 owes its difference in appearance from the iconic 900 largely due to the fact that it was based off of the Type Four platform that was co-developed with Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. The Type Four cars also encompassed the quite similar-looking Fiat Croma and Lancia Thema, as well as the significantly different-looking Alfa Romeo 164. Except for the Alfa, the other three Type Four cars were primarily designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, with Saab designer Björn Envall pitching in for the 9000.
The 9000 appeared in 1984, initially with a stubbier nose and only as a hatchback.
Despite looking similar to the Fiat and Lancia, particularly in its earliest years, the Saab 9000 shared little actual sheet metal with its relatives, although the doors from a Croma will fit on a 9000, as well as the windshield. Further distinction was added with the 1988 9000 CD 4-door sedan, and an updated 5-door liftback in 1992, known as the CS. The CS sported a more rakish roof line than the original liftback, now known as the CC. It also featured updated, more aerodynamic sheet metal at both ends, resulting in the sleekest and sportiest appearance of the three.
A signature difference between the 9000 and other Saabs was that it abandoned the company’s traditional center console mounted ignition switch in favor of a more conventional location on the steering column. Saab intended to continue doing so in future models, but the commercial appeal of heritage (nostalgia?) was too strong to ignore and the console mounted ignition returned in the 1994 900.
Notwithstanding these departures in design, the 9000 was distinctly Saab. It would not be mistaken for any other car, at least not in the United States, where Fiats and Lancias were not sold. Indeed, the 9000 shared many styling and engineering elements with the original 900, which was still in development when the Type Four cars were conceived.
Headlamp, taillamp, and grille design remained in-sync with the smaller model through the years, as did the roofline, following the introduction of the CS. Further differentiating the 9000 from its Type Four siblings was a more substantial inner structure, along with a solid rear axle and a power plant nearly identical to the longitudinally-mounted unit found in the 900.
The familiarity continued in the interior design, with a driver-focused layout similar to that found in the 900. This theme would continue to provide the basis for cabin architectures in Saabs up until the present, while
front seat design was essentially identical between the two models, similarly influencing those in later cars.
The 1997 9000 Aero that I’ve photographed is a special find indeed. Powered by a high-pressure turbocharged version of the standard 2.3L I4, making 225 horsepower and 252 lb-ft or torque at a low 1,800 rpm, it was the most powerful Saab ever produced upon its introduction in 1993 and would remain so until superseded by the 9-5 Aero seven years later. Turbocharged, small-capacity engines are all the rage today, but Saab was one of the first to successfully power a larger car with a boosted four cylinder.
This very highly developed version of the unit that debuted in the 99 powered the car (classified by the EPA as full-size) very effectively, enabling blistering in-gear acceleration while boasting competitive fuel economy and low levels of noise. Very smooth running characteristics were virtually guaranteed by the engine’s square stroke ratio, along with newly added balance shafts. Attachment to a subframe using hydraulic mounts, ample sound deadening and the turbo’s silencing effect on exhaust noise ensured refinement levels befitting the 9000’s status as an executive car.
Aeros also featured sport-tuned suspension, ground effects, a rear spoiler, and distinctive “Viking Shield” 3-spoke alloy wheels, whose design would appear on newer 900s, 9-3s, and 9-5s. The exterior modifications naturally added a more aggressive look to an already slick-looking car.
Inside, passengers were treated to special Recaro front and rear sport seats. The dash also featured rich-looking real wood veneer. I was happy to discover that this 9000 Aero sports the 5-speed manual; with the 4-speed automatic, output was limited to 200 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque. Savvy readers will note that, as a 1997 model, the featured car lacks the intrusive traction control system that marred the driving experience in earlier versions.
The 9000 ended production in 1998 and was replaced by the sentimentally styled 9-5. I’m sure by now, many are tired of hearing Saab’s sad story, but in truth, the company’s troubles are something to lament. Even when its bread-and-butter cars shared many components with Fiats and Opels, Saab dared to be as different as circumstances allowed. In a market where one can’t tell a Ford Fusion from a Toyota Avalon from a Nissan Altima, it’s thoroughly refreshing to see this old Saab.
It’s a shame what happened to Saab. You could never mistake a Saab for anything else, well, until badge engineering was foist upon them.
Saab hadn’t designed their own new platform since the Saab 900, which was actually an updated Saab 99 design that came out in 1968. At some point they were going to have to update their designs as they were becoming older than the people driving them. It is common for smaller automakers to share parts with others to save costs, AMC was a good example of this. Mazda is another, sharing parts with Ford and now Fiat with the upcoming Miata replacement. Hopefully Mazda does not end up like AMC, or even worse, Saab. As this article states, the 9000 was shared with Fiat. They actually did a pretty good job hiding the Saab 9-3’s Opel origins. According to Top Gear, they changed so much with the 9-3 that costs ballooned out of control, which in turn may have contributed to their own demise.
Although the featured car is almost old enough to vote, it is in excellent well preserved shape…it looks brand new. A big difference from the one featured by Michael Freeman.
There’s almost ten years difference between them. I shot that red 9000, and it obviously was nearing the end of its life.
9000s are getting pretty scarce on the ground here; I’m almost tempted to say that there are more classic 900s around then 9000s. And finding one of the early 9000s, with the short, blunt nose, has been impossible for quite some time.
Yeah I’d definitely say that 9000s are less common than 900s in my area. I don’t have figures, but judging by the similar ratio even say, 15 years ago, I’d say far more 900s were sold.
As for today, I’d say that 4 out of every 5 900s and first generation 9-3s I see are convertibles. Probably because they were driven much less than the more practical closed top models.
Father in law had a Saab just like this. Passed it down to my 22 year old sister in law.
It was a nice car. Got 230K out of it (with some effort).
It wasn’t really fast or quiet or smooth. The engine was a little thrashy. The seats were great, but the rest of the car was meh.
Saab should have died before GM bought it and kept it on life support for so many years.
I could never get past the feeling that the 9000 was little more than a Lebaron GTS for twice the price.
I always saw Saab as the European Subaru that couldn’t find its way and become successful like Subaru.
Comparing this to the Lebaron GTS is something Id call a major compliment. TurboMopars absolutely RULE…. And the 4 door liftback bodystyle should have supplanted the boring ugly and useless sedan decades ago…
A Chrysler GTS? LMAO!!!! SAAB died because of GM diluting the brand, this after taking technology thought of by SAAB and SAAB ENGINEERS….Something GM needed and still does (Thank You Opel). Take that Chrysler GTS and try slapping a Toyota or Subaru badge and then you know how ridiculous it is to pass off an Opel, a Sub are or the worst a Chevrolet as a SAAB. Then when you cannot ruin SAAB anymore sell it someone who does not have the funding to continue the brand and then block every attempt at anyone shape or form from investing and then kill off the brand, thousands of jobs and warranties on cars designed by, built by, parts made by you. That is what killed off SAAB. Ask one of us who spent 58,00 for a new car and got screwed by GM
A driver-focused layout and a griffin. Once family members.
Scania, are you still there?
Unlike Saab they’re still VERY alive and kicking (ass) !
A fully-loaded Scania with a hammering V8, a prestige truck.
Something like a fully-loaded Peterbilt 379 long nose in the US.
Well written article. You touch on most of the 9000 information Lance Cole covers in his book SAAB Cars: The Complete Story. Saab spent much money changing the structure of the 9000 to be safer than the cars with which it was co-developed. If I remember correctly they started co-developing the cars because the family that owned Saab had a historical friendship with the family that owned Fiat. I own a 1993 900S and have driven 9000 Aero, Viggen, and SPG. I just replaced my 900S as a daily driver with a Fiesta ST. The 21 year newer car is not as well built and intelligently engineered as the Saab is.
“The 21 year newer car is not as well built and intelligently engineered as the Saab is.”
At risk of sounding like a Luddite, you’ve hit upon a love-hate relationship I have with modern cars. Technology has made braking and handling more foolproof, but I can’t help but thinking that platform engineers have lost their ability to design a mechanical package with good balance and road feel.
Why bother, when ABS, traction control and stability control will cover a suspension’s inherent handling flaws?
And I won’t even go into my opinions of how touchscreens, and the trend toward many tiny buttons to control modern systems, have ruined the type of ergonomic-friendly design you see in this Saab…
SAAB wasn’t exactly immune to the tiny-button syndrome. My first had over 60 buttons on the dash; I counted. Most belonged to a cassette stereo with an equalizer that pout a little audio mixing board on the dash. My later 9000CS cleaned that up a lot, replacing the Eq with a CD player. My, I had arrived!
I can see why it isn’t built as well, or at lease perceived to be…it is in a completely different price class than the Saab.
Intelligently engineered…not sure how you can or can’t quantify that. I’d be curious to hear your comparisons.
The saab has a longitudinally mounted motor. If the wheel is on center it has little to no torque steer, even the SPG. The classic 900 wasn’t built to a price point. It is just more solid than the Fiesta. The way the doors are built into the lower sill for instance. Ingress and egress is easier. The classic 900 has nearly the same dimension as a Focus ST but it has much more space for storage with the rear seat folded. I would even venture to say that in the event of a collision the classic 900 might fair better structurally than my Fiesta would. Look at the old top gear when they drop a 900 upside down from a crane proceeded by an e30 BMW. There is no doubt the Fiesta ST is a better driving and handling car, but in many aspects Saabs were ahead of their time. I live in northern Michigan and the Saab does infinitely better than the Fiesta in the winter months, both cars having the same Nokian winter tires. If the gearbox in the SPG was more sturdy I’d have bought one of them rather than the Fiesta, Focus ST, or Volvo C30, all of which I test drove. The way the heater vent control on the Saab is nice. In the winter months you start it in the far clockwise position for defrost, next is defrost and feet, then feet, then warm air on feet and cool air on dash vents, then dash. Logical layout. The buttons for the A/C and etc are large enough that you can easily touch them with thick gloves on.
Hardly anybody used transverse FWD layouts in 1967. There were some BMC cars and the Autobianchi Primula, but that was it. Especially as the Saab engine began life as half of a Triumph V8, it just made more sense to do it longitudinally. And if you look at it, it’s hardly a sensible design, with the power output at the front of the engine, then routed through a chain drive and turned around 180 degrees to go under the engine.
As then, Saab worked with what they had, and they did it well, but the 99/900 engine layout wasn’t optimal.
I think the layout is optimal for the snowy conditions I live in. I love having all the weight on the driving tires. Longitudinal fwd with double wishbone is ideal for driving dynamics. Transverse is ideal for packaging and cost, and perhaps gearbox because the Saab gearbox is notoriously weak, but Toronado and LH cars made it work.
The Classic 900 engine layout is superior in many ways.. the more balanced placement puts good weight on the front wheels and how many other cars can you change the clutch from the top? Taking the Triumph developed 4 and mating it to a front drive transmission was genius and made a compact, efficient, and relatively accessible power plant. I think it is an elegant design that could have been further developed and refined.
both your 900 and your Focus have exactly the same weight distribution (60/40).
The Focus is about 800lbs heavier so it actually has more weight over the front wheels than the Saab.
It’s hard to argue with that logic. I like it for nostalgia and curiosity factor as well, although changing the belts isn’t fun. You are incorrect about it being half a v8 though. The v8 was cobbled together after the original triumph slant 4. My 900 has the h engine, which is a further refinement of the b engine, which was of relation to the triumph slant 4. My engine has 2.1 liters, bosch lh jetronic 2.4.2, 10 to 1 compression ratio, and develops around 130 hp. It is not as smooth as the 2.3 liter saab h engine. I like to imagine that the cadillac northstar v8 was developed with some of Saab’s help. It seems very similar to 2 h engines put together. I think Saab also pioneered direct ignition.
I hear you loud an clear on the nostalgia factor.
They are cool and getter more rare by the day. I can absolutely understand why you prefer it to your more sanitized Focus.
Just know, there is a reason you don’t see fwd setups like that, not much in the past and none now (that I know of).
Does it have a front anti-sway bar? I had read somewhere that Saab’s suspension philosophy was that if you designed a suspension properly you shouldn’t need anti-sway bars. Never got close enough to look.
The Focus is about 800lbs heavier so it actually has more weight over the front wheels than the Saab.
But then the Focus has 800 lbs more to get moving in the snow or pull up a hill. 🙂 More total weight is not better; just more of the weight on the driving wheels. And apparently both of them have the same proportion.
It has front anti sway bar and I’m glad it does, I believe they started installing them in the late 80’s. The rear is a curious setup and has a quasi anti sway bar. I drive a Fiesta ST, not Focus. The Fiesta ST is a completely different car. It is comparing apples and oranges. Though it seemed like the closest I could get to a turbo Saab.
Fiesta..ugg, sorry. Not sure why I thought I read Focus.
I have even more respect for your choice now than before.
In that case the weight between the two is a toss up and the weight distribution of the Fiesta is 61/39, so more weight on the front end too, although probably negligible.
I meant the Fiesta ST and Saab c900 are apples and oranges. Fiesta and Focus are easy to get confused.
Subaru and some Audis still have the longitudinal fwd layout.
It was interesting to read the 9000 was classified as a full-size car, it just shows that some human intervention is required at times, or at least the external size of the car be taken into account. The same system that labelled the Rolls Royce Phantom coupe as mid sized.
From a business case, I believe the original motive was that Saab needed modern small cars for some markets and didn’t have the cash to develop them itself. They signed a distribution deal with Autobianchi (owned by Fiat and paired from about 1970–71 with Lancia) to sell the A112 and then collaborated on developing what became the Lancia Delta. That led to the idea of having Saab and Lancia share a bigger car, new for Saab and a Gamma successor for Lancia. The Fiat version was added on later and Alfa Romeo got involved several years after that. (Alfa later ended up owned by Fiat, but not until the 164 had already been in development for three or four years.)
An interesting point is that despite the 9000’s rear beam axle, the consensus of British critics who drove the 9000 back to back with the fully independent Croma and Thema found that the Saab rode much better than the others and handled as well if not better, the main debit being a lack of steering feel (which had nothing to do with the rear suspension). Kind of an object lesson to people who insist that beam axles are categorically inferior to independent rear ends.
+1 on the beam axle. If done right it is probably the best compromise for a fwd car.
A rwd with a solid rear axle has more disadvantages though that can’t be overcome with engineering, for a “sporty” or “luxury” car anyway.
Is the 9000 double wishbone in the front?
Yup. The Thema and Croma also used MacPherson struts in back, supplemented on some models with rear self-leveling struts, a bit like those of the Rover SD1 (albeit not Boge, I don’t think).
Rear beam axle in a FWD car is similar to a “de Dion” axle in a RWD car. All the advantages in consistent wheel geometry and contact patch, without the unsprung weight.
Especially if you do as Saab did (or Alfa Romeo did on the Alfasud) and locate the beam with both a Watt’s linkage and a Panhard rod, which keeps the rear axle well in line without resorting to stiffening the springs and/or bushings to the point of discomfort.
Contact patch? What contact patch?
That’s the result of what’s called overbarring, which is a function of roll stiffness, not of beam axles per se, although in Volkswagen’s case, the torsion beam contributes to rear roll stiffness. If you add a massive rear anti-roll bar to a car with independent rear suspension, you can get the same effect, as many a Peugeot 205 driver can testify.
I believe the Saab rear axle was not a torsion beam, although I don’t know if they went to the extent Honda did with the 1983-87 Civic/CRX, where the rear axle was actually jointed in such a way that it would not contribute at all to roll stiffness.
IRS wasn’t really “perfected” until Mercedes’ multi-link set-up for the W201/W124 cars. Up until then, it was a work in progress.
This was likely the most mainstream car Saab ever did. I always liked the look of these and it surprised me when they didn’t sell better than they did.
There is one of these running about in my area. It is owned by a Saab-loving friend, and I believe that one of his kids is driving it. I have been meaning to photograph it and write it up. However, one of the little luxuries of having so many other contributors these days is that you have freed me from CC guilt. 🙂
I don’t know how well they sold in Europe, but here I think they really suffered from having only four-cylinder engines, at least until the ’90s. It wasn’t that performance suffered for it, but it was a matter of perception. At a guess, I think the 9000’s most immediate rival in the U.S. was probably the Acura Legend, which was priced in the same ballpark, but was a little bigger, had a V-6, and was a little more in tune with American tastes.
I still think Saab, Volvo, and to some extent Acura eventually suffered from price creep and a narrowing (and later disappearance) of the gap between the upper end of the D-segment and the cheaper German luxury cars. There was a niche for the big Swedes as something a little more upscale in feel than your run-of-the-mill family sedan. As the price gap got smaller and smaller, that niche started disappearing and it left a lot of the former midrange near-luxury players foraging for scraps.
I still have a copy of Car and Driver from 1991. The comparison test was with an Acura Legend, Saab 9000, BMW 525i, Mercedes 190e 2.6 and Volvo 940. And that was the order in which they finished. The Acura was given a few extra points for no identifiable reason. The Saab had better performance, better size, more comfort, etc ad infinitum. And a top speed of 149 mph.
The one statement from that article that stuck with me was that the turbo 2.3 four-cylinder motor was likened to a small V-8 in terms of power. So, that’s what I was expecting when I finally purchased my first Saab 9000. Forgot that they tested the turbo, I got the naturally aspirated version and was never truly happy.
My current 9000 has the turbo, and a light (+15%) power upgrade through a new ECU, so it’s about par with the Aero. The seats fold down and it’s a cargo hauler. A Broyhill wingback chair fits inside, it’ll see 30 on the freeway driven at 75 mph.
The Legend was about the same size on the outside, smaller on the inside, and far more American in nature. I’d love to have one of those too…
I own one of these – a 9000CDE – the sedan with the ‘economy’ 2.0 turbo.
There is much to like about this car. Comfortable and extremely solid. Would gladly do 95 mph all day. Given the car’s bulk it is surprising that I (nearly 6’3″) only just have enough room up front and that the safety-obsessed designers hadn’t noticed that the headrest isn’t high enough and that there’s a grab handle I keep meaning to remove as it threatens to brain me. It is possible to drive it with undue haste, though passengers will complain.
My previous cars were a BX and a Sierra, and the 9000’s doors must weigh more than theirs combined. Also, it has had the same bit of rust visible on the door which hasn’t got any worse in about 4 years. As my brother put at it the time when he helped me find it, these cars were being solidly engineered out of the best steel they could find, long before it became a ‘marketing’ thing – it’s the just the way they did them.
I live around the corner from an independent Saab garage and there are quite a few 9000s to be seen driving daily in SE England. The Alfa 164 isn’t extinct yet either.
I’ve almost forgotten about the 1987 Saab 9000s that I bought new (but already a year old in 1988—imagine that.) I do, however, remember the infuriating climate control system and how the vinyl trim would never stay glued down on the console lid.
Funny you should mention the “infuriating” climate control. The husband of one of my mom’s best friends owned a 9000 CS for some time. I rode in it several times, and one of my most vivid memories of it has to do exactly with that. If was a 90 degree day, and my mom’s friend was giving me a ride somewhere. I remember her getting really frustrated that she couldn’t easily get the A/C to blow colder air. “I don’t know what’s wrong with this thing” I remember her saying.
My DD is a ’96 9000 CSE, 5sp. Bought it 3+ years ago for just over $2k. as both my father and sister had 9000s with relatively few issues except those brought on by their own neglect. After fixing things that were wrong with mine when I bought it (speedometer didn’t work, AC hose leaked, leaky window washer fluid check valve, and replace the evap canister) I’ve had almost no issues. Had to replace the battery, and other than that have only had to replace a bad CV joint/axle. Upgraded it by having the computer reflashed with a performance tune, and installed a monte carlo bar that at the time seemed to do a good job with tightening up the feel of the front end and the creakiness of the dash.
These are structurally quite strong. I got rear ended in a chain accident: Escalade to Econoline to me. It was in stop-and-go traffic, and was strong enough to tweak the rear end. Had to replace the hatch lock and rig it up to be able to close the hatch, as the hatch opening has moved due to the impact. Despite this, the car still drives fine. I have to think a lesser or newer car would not have fared as well.
As I live in NYC, don’t put on more than 3k miles per year, and street-park the car I plan on sticking with the 9000, at least until the clutch needs replacing.
From what I’ve read previously about development of the 9000, the platform was developed jointly with Lancia, and then only later in development was it decided to add the Fiat model. Maybe it is just wishful thinking, but that could mean that the Fiat Chroma ended up better than it had to be, rather than the other way around.
A Saab with the key in the steeering column? I thought only mean, nasty, uncaring GM would do something like that.
No, rumor is they influenced its return to the console in 1994. If anything, they led a cynical effort to put it between the front seats of the Trailblazer-based 9-7x. *shudder*
That’s the best Trailblazer you can buy…
I’ve driven a few 9000’s. Mostly as loaner cars when my OG 9-3 would go to a Saab specialist for work and I’ve enjoyed the experience greatly. I drove a 94′ 9000 with the lovely Turbo 4 and it felt like a responsive and lively machine. It was eager to be driven, the one thing which confused me was the size of the accerator pedal on the one I drove seemed very very small, but I have size 11 feet so maybe that’s my problem.
If this is for sale in the next 1-1 1/2 years and costs under $2,500, I would gladly take this as a first car.
I dont know why but SAABs seem to be getting popular or is it the CC effect?
Anyway I’m noticing them more and there seem to be lots around especially in ragtop now summers here.
I don’t have the time for a full read up ATM, but that car is very similar to a mint one I see in my everyday commute. Down to the wheels. The one I see is dark blue IIRC. The bloke lives close (< 3 kms) from my place.
I love those Aero wheels. Difficult to find for NG900.
After eight years driving two 9000 turbos, I’m left with these memories:
— The way it felt that day in nowhere, Nevada, doing 135 mph.
— The seven inches of ground clearance that gave me confidence on forest roads and snowy days.
— Speaking of snow, the doors that closed over the lower sills and kept then dry and clean for entry and exit.
— The huge cargo area under the hatch, suitable for in-car camping.
— Great mileage for a big car (30+ mpg on the open road).
— Interior styling, with elegant, simple dash and big windows.
— The driving position had a seat too high and steering wheel too low–you could barely fit your legs under the wheel.
— Reliability? Yes, I could rely on replacing either the clutch slave cylinder or the heater core every other year. Finally, when the plastic speedometer drive gear down in the bowels of the transmission broke on the way home from the shop, demanding another $3000 repair, I cut my losses and left SAABdom forever.
It was my crafty, beloved Swiss Army Car, suitable for every formal or informal occasion. With those bugs worked out, and equipped with modern safety equipment, I’d be overjoyed to buy a new one tomorrow.
I never knew the hi-po turbo models were that powerful. Ive always had a bit of a soft spot for this bodystyle…5 door hatches are pretty neat and Ive always liked the trispoke Viking Shield wheels….
My 9-3 Aero, fancy Opel that it is, kicks ass. Solid as a rock. I get lots of compliments when it’s out and the top is down…it’s lines are lithe, especially in black.
I rue the day when something major needs replacing however…
When I think of Saab I think of honeycomb bumpers, early adoption of EFI and turbo, up high seats and that fish bowl windshield. This from reading magazines and sitting in them at car shows. When I finally got to drive a 900 Turbo the lasting impression was of torque steer and that buttery smooth engine, which I believe started way back as a Triumph powerplant. The shift linkage was awful and there was something very plasticky about the dash. I believe I felt it creak as in there wasn’t enough body rigidity (hard to do with such a large hatch). The door closing sound was nothing to brag about.
I drove a 9000 once and remember nothing about it. Hard to believe they made these until 1997.
Nice write up Brendan I haven’t seen a 9000 in a very long time though I do see at least a dozen Volvo 740 and 940s every day.
I was always struck with how similar this car looked to the Renault 25, which was actually quite a bit larger. The Renault actually came out a few years before the 9000.
Both were large four door executive hatchbacks, both had enormous, especially wide interiors and both had very distinctive dashboards. The 25 sold very well throughout Europe, many of them being the long wheelbase limousine version.
I always wondered why this type of layout (e.g. large executive saloons with hatchbacks) never captured a bigger share of the segment. But things may be changing now that the Germans have decided to annoint this configuration with the success of the A7 and the 5 series and 3 series GT models. It just goes to show you, the Germans could put four wheels on a well-formed rat turd and a significant number of Americans and Brits will buy it and then start babbling about how forward-thinking Audi and BMW really are.
I have been driving a black 98 9K CSE for a couple of years.. beautiful shape, now has 223K on it.. it is essentially an Aero.. drive like a dream..
I have a ’96 9000 for a daily driver. Has 211K on it and is a marvelous car. I’ve upgraded it with the Aero chassis and stiffer sway bars. The ECU has been remapped (240 HP, 260 lbs ft of torque) and it has no trouble on track days running against stuff like BMW 540s. Mine has been very reliable. Has needed normal stuff for a 9K, but nothing really out of the ordinary for an 18 year old car. I’ve had it since 2003 when it had 90,600 miles. I do 90% of my own work and they are easy to work on, too.
These things are a great combination of practicality, speed, comfort, fun and fuel economy. I get 23-24 around town and 28-30 highway. Averaged about 29 mpg on cross-country trip where we ran 75-85 most of the time, and a few 100 mph runs in the desert.
I kinda want to find one from the south so I have another one ready when this one gets hit by the tinworm. I live in New England, so it’s only a matter of time.
I couldn’t agree more Noel. I’ve had my current 9000, a 1997 2.3 Aero since 2008 when it had 119K miles on it and it’s been my daily driver since then and is now at 195K miles. The combination of superb acceleration when needed, driver and passenger comfort on long haul drives as well as it’s capacious boot makes it such a great allrounder. They built these cars so well. This car cost me £1400 in 2008 and apart from obvious things that go in cars this age/mileage like balljoints and regular service repairs like pads and disks, this has been the best, most enjoyable and cheapest car to run. This is my 5th 9000 in a row and if I had to replace her it would be with another 9000 Aero any day! 🙂
I owned one of these handsome beasts for seven years, from 2006 to 2013, and I have to say it´s a really good car. Awesome performance, great seats, very roomy, fairly reliable (I bought mine with 120,000 miles on the clock and sold with 180,000) and rather good fuel economy for a car of its size. A rare car where I live (Spain), too. And you could enjoy that “clubby” feeling of owning an old Saab, and a very enthusiastic saabisti community. That´s a very good thing when you´re running an old car and you need technical support.
The reason I consider this car “really good” and not “great” was I never felt happy with the suspension. I tried Sachs, Bilstein B4 and Bilstein B6 dampers, changing some bushes, but my 9000 was always hard when it had to be soft, and soft when it had to be hard. After all those years I sold it, to a finnish chap, that flew here to collect it, and drove away home. From southern Spain. To Finland…
When these were relevant, it seemed they were only bought new by university faculty types that already had owned a 900 in their past. At the time I thought they were great cars but realized no one wanted them despite being the much better yuppie mobile. Heck the 9000 is almost a pre-CUV except for its sedan height and no third row. The Legend got all those former Delta 88/98 types, the LS and then the RX got everyone in the upper echelons. Was it bad or lacking marketing? Consumer reports? It just turned off conservative buyers? They are just as appealing to me….Saab could make cars of the future everyone seemed to ignore.
Let’s see if anyone can identify the Ford part shown here that was a very popular retrofit in Saabs…
Yup, the double DIN coin drawer/cup holder above the radio. I considered one for mine, but never got around to it.
That’s it, from the 1990-95 Taurus/Sable, although it’s actually a single DIN device.
The 9000 uniquely had three standard-size DIN openings in the dash, usually used for audio components. Saab provided a radio/cassette unit and a lighter/ashtray as standard equipment, with the third slot open and used for storage. Optional (sometimes standard) accessories included a CD player and a graphic equalizer (combined into a single unit starting in 1992) and a triple gauge panel. But 9000s up to the early ’90s didn’t have any cupholders, so the Ford part was a popular addition. Saab eventually offered a double cupholder insert that fit into the storage compartment in the back of the center console (also sold as an accessory for earlier 9000s) as well as building cupholders into the folded rear armrest. The standard equipment DIN ashtray wasn’t of much use to non-smokers, but the 12v outlet used for the lighter was. Some Saab drivers, including myself, re-routed the 12v outlet to one of the blank panels to the left of the HVAC controls.