Text: Philipp Bohr
Pictures: Philipp Bohr, Oswin Bohr
At SAAB and Tuning you think of Hirsch. More tech-savvy customers also like to think of Maptun, or the SAABs of the Troll and Viggen series. Well informed may still know the Rinspeed SAAB or the 900R. And somehow even tuned SAABs continue to act discreetly, continue to embody Scandinavian understatement, just as you would expect from a SAAB. Although the look is much sportier, the athlete wears a business suit instead of a tracksuit.
At Brabus, one thinks of Mercedes, albeit not the usual 'pensioner Benz'. It is not without reason that, in line with the company's location, the trade press likes to speak of the "Bottroper wagon". Brabus means opulence: every detail on a Brabus-tuned car expresses power and dynamism - the athlete now wears his competition jersey.
And this company should have worked on SAABs?
The Brabus SAAB was an emergency solution. The expansion stage "Aero" was planned and approved, but not yet produced, a bridging solution had to be found. Jens Becker, at the time managing director of SAAB Germany, entered into a cooperation with Brabus. As part of this liaison a total of about 100 copies of the SAAB 9-5 SE with the "Sport Package Brabus", so it is quite a rarity. But also a coveted? This is the difference between the spirits.
It is undisputed that the Brabus SAAB was an expensive fun. The sedan with 2,3-liter engine in the variant SE costs in the basic version 63.430 DM. In addition, the previous owner was not picky, but has almost chosen the full equipment variant: alarm system with glass break and tilt sensor (750 DM), cruise control (600 DM), leather upholstery (2900 DM), headlight washer system (500 DM), traction control TCS (620 DM) and seat heating of the front seats (620 DM) - in total, at least 70.000 DM were due. And the revisions made by Brabus are not even included here - Brabus did not even know on request that they were working for SAAB, let alone could call up a price list. The seller of the local SAAB center had spoken at the purchase of around 100.000 DM original price. Since DAT lists do not lead the model either, I give as the most reliable price estimate times the mentioned by Ralf Muckelbauer 80.000 DM, which I consider quite realistic.
On the other hand, the following picture is also available: If you search "Brabus" and "Saab" on Google, you will quickly get into the complaints threads of relevant forums. Of inferior quality is there the speech, of cheap appearance and improvement of the known deficiencies of the former SAAB interiors.
Do these statements apply? Let's check it out with a case study of a Brabus SAAB.
The Brabus SAAB
Engine and powertrain
Nothing has been changed on the engine - under the bonnet, the well-known 2,3-liter engine does its job, in the first version of 1998 with the LPT turbocharger put on the leash (hence the small "t" in the model name) that powers the engine on maximum 170 PS at about 5000 rpm drives. 280 Nm of torque are available from about 2000 rpm, so that can be more than live - for the neck muscles of one or the other rider that may even be schonmal too much. Everything is monitored by the Trionic 7, ignited by a black DI cartridge.
Switching is done by hand. In principle, I have never been able to really make peace with automatic transmissions (and then always choose the sequential shift mode), so that suits me. At this point I have to get rid of what I always say at the point: I miss the sixth gear painfully.
The translation of the fifth is so long that one should not upshift too early from the fourth, if one does not want to starve between 60 and 90 km / h. For the first gear is so short that he is really only good for the first meter. The brutal throttle response also ensures that you are inclined to disengage quickly so as not to shoot at the slightest touch of the accelerator pedal. Personally, therefore, I like to let the gear up to the third gear a little gas to spare not turbogewöhnte passengers, otherwise flee schonmal rear heads against headrests - no matter how soft you couple.
With 100.000 km mileage, the engine is in the best SAAB age, as measured by SAAB's usual mileage. Mechanically, it is still original, and ran smoothly so far. Non-mechanical components, however, have already shown signs of aging. Almost exactly after 11 years fell within a short time successively first the throttle potentiometer, then the complete Trionic. Anyone who knows a good electronics engineer - or even a SAAB workshop, who in turn knows a good electronics engineer - has a clear advantage because both components are very expensive spare parts.
The chassis is one of the known weaknesses of the Brabus SAAB, and in the forums it is the most frequently-mentioned technical weak point. Brabus has put the vote something in the sportier area, which helps the road situation, but another problem conjures up.
The built-in springs are coated against noise with plastic hoses - usually blue -. Nothing speaks against it at first, but in the space between the spring and hose water can drag in, and then not just dry, so that the springs are a popular starting point for rust. For me, this problem has occurred after about 80.000 km, other drivers report problems from about 70.000 km.
Is that a serious defect? Hard to say. I did not even notice it at first - only at the (otherwise impeccably passed) main investigation the examiner noticed the Brabus suspicious lowering, which was not yet in the vehicle registration on. And at second glance, he noticed two completely rotten feathers, broken twice left and right three times. When TÜV I was on the day so probably the canteen theme number 1.
It speaks for the SAAB that he did not let me feel it - apparently the SAAB is male, a Saabastian perhaps, and not a Saabine. Nevertheless, caution is advised, because without springs, the shock absorbers are more heavily loaded, it can lead to leaks and the failure of the shock absorber. With me, although neither the TÜV, nor the workshop at the inspections noticed what, but you should not take this lack on the light side and at least let monitor.
The replacement of the front axle springs cost me about 250 Euro. Not too high a price, I think, in terms of the purchased level of security. Incidentally, broken feathers can be recognized quite easily if you know what to look for. If you hear rumbling noises, the road situation is suspiciously lowered and the car does not spring back, if you lean briefly on the front or rear, you should plan a workshop visit. The repair is not too expensive as I said.
Body and exterior appearance
The body was changed by Brabus only in details, but the SAAB but contrary to the otherwise valid Bottroper philosophy its character. The air intake is covered with black perforated sheets, outside sit round fog lights. The exhaust tailpipe is oval, made of stainless steel and slightly larger than the standard model.
The tires are made of 225 / 45 radial tires from Nokian, mounted in this case three-spoke wheels from OZ, which are provided with the SAAB / Scania emblem on a carbon imitation disc. The rims are reminiscent of the SAAB classic and therefore fit seamlessly into the overall picture - I have kept the pictures of some current SAAB rims next to a picture of the car and can not really imagine me as a replacement.
Some complain about the inferior quality of the materials used. I can not comment on these negatively. It is just that the perforated plates are deep above the road and frontal in the direction of travel, and therefore an easy target for whirling stones and other dirt. Accordingly, at some point blunders in the paint, but you can also repair yourself. The quality is not quite as low as some forists claim - it's all a matter of care.
In the interior, Brabus undoubtedly made the most changes. You will step over chrome-plated kick bars (please do not step on it!) With the SAAB emblem. Settled in the leather seat, the carbon dashboard and the carbon applications on the steering wheel are immediately noticeable. While those in the steering wheel are still handsome after 13 years, with the dashboard that's a thing of the past.
No carbon solid material was processed, but apparently a carbon foil (or imitation) with a plastic coating, which after 13 years of sun exposure in unfavorable light already looks a bit shot. In addition, the gluing has been solved on two corners, but this deficiency can be remedied even with mediocre handicraft.
However, none of the alternatives (aluminum, wood light or dark) really looks better than the carbon. I do not know the cost specifications that GM Brabus set. With a little less savings, you could have bought a higher quality and thus a better look in old age. Even more details - especially the door handles and door linings - could have been taken so still.
Most faucets are covered with aluminum sheets over the plastic, they look very nice even after 13 years. Specifically, the radio / cassette / CD unit, the SID and the ACC (air conditioning) module that benefit therefrom, as well as the light switch. Here also the bonds do not dissolve. When replacing one of the components, the delusions can be transferred from the old to the new device with a sure instinct.
The pedal has also been revised. Stainless steel pedals protected against slipping with rubber knobs replace the standard models, all are labeled with the word SAAB, as is the footrest on the left. Over the years, the surfaces start to wear off, but that's the nature of things when you use pedals on street shoes. Polishing brings little here, except perhaps the cashier of the commissioned car care business.
More chrome can be found on the gearshift lever (which also has the SAAB / Scania emblem instead of a wiring diagram), on the handbrake lever and on the passenger side air vents. The chrome looks also after 13 years still fresh and untapped, also here it is probably a matter of care.
Will the interior be upgraded by the Brabus revision? Not for someone who does not like chrome. At first I had to get used to it, but over time I became more and more comfortable with it. In addition, the carbon blends in my opinion best with the rest of the dashboard. At least in the catalog, the wood finish did not look particularly high-quality, and the aluminum version with the black instrument panel and the unblinded fittings looked like something out of the metal construction kit. My plea is therefore towards revaluation, with potential for improvement.
And how does the Brabus SAAB go?
Outstanding. The classic SAAB virtues, especially on the long haul, are not lost, and the sportier suspension makes the SAAB not Hungaroring-capable, but still improve the road in tight corners. The 170 PS motorize not a bit overly sporty, but still good enough to have a lot of fun driving and accelerating. In addition, the comfortable interior, which also offers ample space in the back seat, and the large trunk, which swallows in addition to the luggage and sometimes larger measuring equipment. Everything leaves the SAAB much of its original character. The overhaul of Brabus has been limited to a few details, but was thorough in these points. With a more generous budget you would probably have been able to tackle even more details.
I would have been very happy to see what Brabus had done with the 9-5 II, perhaps with a more generous frame. Under certain circumstances, this might even have resulted in an alternative to Hirsch - and, as everyone knows, competition stimulates business. But we will never receive the answers to the questions arising from them - unfortunately.
By the way - where did we go?
The pictures for this text were taken at Hirbacher Weiher, just behind the French border. The pond was once a fortification, and is part of a series of artificially created waters along the "Route de la Ligne Maginot Aquatique", with the help of which the French wanted to turn the passage area of the Germans in the event of an attack in a marshy landscape - the success of the plan is known. Since the 60er years, the land around the waters were then leased or sold, and are today at least on weekends firmly in German hands. Nevertheless, it is wonderfully quiet and relaxing here - just the right area for a Sunday trip to sweep the turbocharged SAAB over empty French country roads.