The Brabus-Saab - history repeats itself (not) (1)

When you think of Saab and tuning, you think of Hirsch Performance. Tech-savvy customers also like to think of Maptun, or the Saab of the Troll and Viggen series. Those who are well informed may still know the Rinspeed Saab or the 900R. And somehow tuned Saab continue to look decent, continue to embody Scandinavian understatement, just as you would expect from a SAAB.

Even if the look is significantly sportier, the athlete wears a business suit instead of a tracksuit.

When you think of Brabus, you think of Mercedes, if not the usual pensioner Benz. It is not for nothing that the trade press likes to refer to the "Bottrop handcart" as a reference to the company's location. Brabus means opulence: every detail of a Brabus-tuned car expresses power and dynamics – the athlete is now wearing his competition jersey.

The Brabus Saab
The Brabus Saab


And Brabus is said to have worked for Saab?

The Brabus Saab was an emergency solution. The sporty Aero expansion stage was being considered and approved, but had not yet been produced, and a bridging solution had to be found. Jens Becker, at that time still managing director at Saab Germany, entered into a cooperation with Brabus (Link) a. As part of this liaison, a total of around 100 examples of the Saab 9—5 SE with the Brabus sports package were built.

So it's quite a rarity. But also a coveted one? Opinions differ on that.

It is undisputed that the Brabus Saab was expensive fun. The basic version of the sedan with a 2,3 liter engine in the SE variant costs DM 63.430. In addition, the previous owner of my copy was not picky, opting instead for the fully equipped variant: alarm system with glass breakage and tilt sensor (DM 750) , cruise control (600 DM), leather upholstery (2900 DM), headlight wiper system (500 DM), traction control TCS (620 DM) and seat heating of the front seats (620 DM) - a total of at least 70.000 DM was due.

And the revisions made by Brabus are not even included here. When asked, Brabus didn't even know that they had worked for Saab, let alone a price list. The salesman at the local Saab center had talked about a new price of around DM 100.000 when he bought it.

Since DAT lists do not list the model either, I give Ralf Muckelbauer's price estimate as the most reliable one (Link) mentioned 80.000 DM, which I consider to be quite realistic.

On the other hand, the following picture emerges: if you search for “Brabus” and “Saab” on Google, you will find complaint threads in relevant forums. There is talk of inferior quality, of cheap optics and improvement of known deficits of Saab interiors at the time.

Are these statements true? Let's check it out with a case study of a Brabus Saab.

Engine compartment Brabus Saab
Engine compartment Brabus Saab

The Brabus Saab: engine and drive train

Nothing has changed on the engine - under the hood the well-known 2,3-litre unit does its work, in the first version from 1998, with the LPT turbocharger put on the leash (hence the small "t" in the model name), which drives the engine to a maximum of 170 hp at approx. 5000 rpm. 280 Nm of torque are available from around 2000 rpm.

You can more than live with that - it can even be too much for the neck muscles of one or the other passenger. Everything is monitored by the Trionic 7, ignited by a black cartridge.

Shifting is done manually. In principle, I've never been completely at peace with automatic transmissions (and then always chose the sequential shift mode), so that suits me. At this point I have to get rid of what I always say at this point: I sorely miss sixth gear.

The translation of the fifth is so long that you shouldn't upshift too early from fourth if you don't want to starve between 60 and 90 km/h. But the first gear is so short that it is really only good for the first meter. The harsh throttle response also ensures that you are inclined to quickly disengage the clutch, so as not to explode at the slightest tap of the accelerator.

Personally, I like to keep my foot on the gas when changing gears up to third gear in order to protect passengers who are not used to turbo, otherwise the back of their heads will hit headrests - no matter how soft the clutch is.

With a mileage of 100.000 km, the engine is in the best SAAB age, measured against the usual mileage for SAAB. Mechanically it is still original and has run without problems so far. However, non-mechanical components have already shown signs of aging. Almost exactly after 11 years, first the throttle valve potentiometer and then the entire Trionic failed one after the other.

Anyone who knows a good electronics technician - or even a Saab workshop that knows a good electronics technician - has a clear advantage, because both components are very expensive spare parts.

The chassis of the Brabus Saab

The chassis is one of the well-known weaknesses of the Brabus Saab, and in the forums it is the most frequently mentioned technical weakness. Brabus has shifted the set-up somewhat to the sportier range, which helps with road holding but creates another problem.

The built-in springs are encased in plastic hoses – usually blue – to prevent noise. There is nothing wrong with that at first, but water can get into the space between the spring and the hose and then not simply dry off, making the springs a popular starting point for rust. This problem occurred to me after about 80.000 km, other drivers report problems after about 70.000 km.

Is this a serious deficiency? Hard to say. I didn't even notice it at first - it was only during the main inspection (which otherwise passed without any problems) that the inspector noticed the Suspicious Brabus lowering, which was not even on the vehicle registration document. And at second glance he noticed two completely rotten feathers, broken twice on the left and three times on the right. At the TÜV, I was probably the number 1 topic in the canteen that day.

It speaks for the SAAB that he didn't let me feel anything. Apparently the SAAB is male, maybe a Saabastian, and not a Saabine. However, caution is advised, because without springs, the shock absorbers are more heavily loaded, which can lead to leaks and failure of the shock absorbers. In my case, neither the TÜV nor the workshop noticed any during the inspections, but you shouldn't take this defect lightly and at least have it monitored.

Replacing the front axle springs cost me around 250 euros. Not a very high price, in my opinion, given the level of security that is being bought. Incidentally, broken springs are quite easy to spot if you know what to look for. If you hear rumbling noises, the road holding is suspiciously lowered and the car does not spring back when you lean on the front or rear, you should plan a visit to the workshop. As I said, repairs are not that expensive.

- Sequel follows -


7 thoughts on "The Brabus-Saab - history repeats itself (not) (1)"

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    Brabus was at the Messe Essen many years ago
    Believe with the name NORDIC (Think those had nothing to do with the family clock)

    Greetings from the SAAB village

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    On the subject of workmanship, I would like to add another comment from me. I recently had to take off the interior panel of a door for a repair. The way the insulation material and the plastic covers were cut, especially at the top of the door panel, was adventurous - it is reminiscent of a kindergarten child's first exercises with scissors. Accordingly, the assembly was only possible with force and strong expressions. My compliments to the SAAB factory employees who managed all of this under time pressure on the assembly line. I struggled with bringing the upper and lower arches together for three quarters of an hour. When it comes to screws and metal parts, you can enjoy the ease with which 13-year-old screws can be loosened and tightened again - without breaking off and having to pick up the hammer.

    The cockpit is a child of the 90s in terms of its standards - some Mercedes interiors looked comparatively cheap when I think of various taxis. Even when I think of my last BMW rental car (a brand new 318d, January 2009), I remember a rather cheap-looking plastic center console with fiddly, small air conditioning controls. The premium wave with the soft plastic craze is still relatively young.

    If in doubt - and if there is availability - you should perhaps contact Hirsch and buy an upgrade ... the increase in value should be considerable. I won't do that - for the age of the vehicle, the cockpit is really still in good shape, no squeaking or cracking noises, and if a bond comes off ... as I said, glue is quickly at hand.

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    With all one must not forget that SAAB is a small series manufacturer, was or was. After Tom moves us gently towards Youngtimer

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      It remains to be seen whether these German cars will be sooo perfect ...

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    Very nice report on what is certainly a delightful, interesting SAAB version.
    As far as the processing quality of the SAAB is concerned, I can only agree with Marco. I have only driven 93 models but unfortunately the workmanship cannot compete with that of comparable premium manufacturers. That hadn't bothered me in the past, you could sell your SAAB after 3 - 4 years and replace it with a new one. Driving fun was more important to me than it was to many of us. Since we are now allowed to drive our youngtimers, it would have been nice if the processing quality was better or the material quality was a little more selected. At the new price level of a fully equipped 93-2 convertible, one should actually have expected a better quality level. But as a SAAB fan you turned a blind eye a little. Even KIA has managed to build solid dashboards today. But that was perhaps due to the influence of GM who influenced or even dictated purchasing policy etc. It is not really like being highlighted here in the forum, but the decline of SAAB somehow has its reasons. You just have to meet the quality requirements of the buyers as an option Audi, BWM or Pensioner-Merc .. We're not talking about Opel or Vauxhall. Therefore, the report of the SAAB 95 Brabus is certainly constructive and reminds of the good driving qualities of our youngtimers.

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    Maybe Saab should have stayed with Brabus? In any case, the quality of the deer products is also very good, but this also results in a high price level. Basically, the processing quality of the 9-5 series was never comparable to that of other “premium manufacturers”. Was it GM's fault?
    Nothing rattles on my 9-5 Aero SC (model 2007), even if the “plastic wood” in the interior takes some getting used to.
    The quality of leather has deteriorated over the years, i.e. the animal hide has become thinner and thinner. Therefore care, care and again ………….

    Very nice report!



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    Very nice article about an exotic among the SAAB exotics

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