Today you would not build such a car anymore. The Saab 9000 combines Swedish engineering with an almost Italian elegance and nonchalance. The best of two worlds would drive some marketing departments to madness today. But almost 30 years ago, things could be realized that would no longer be debatable today.
The Saab 9000 is based on the Tipo4 platform, created under the leadership of Saab and Lancia and the unlucky quadruplets Saab 9000, Lancia theme, Fiat Croma and Alfa 164 on the world. While Lancia, Fiat and Alfa are almost forgotten, the 9000 is more alive than ever. The 1992-released Saab 9000 CS, designed by an external English design studio, is, according to Sweden, the second generation of the 9000 series. The first generation, the 9000 CC built from 1985, is rare today, and very good specimens are in collector's hand. This includes above all the first turbo generation.
Our focus is therefore on the 9000 CS. The 9000 is the final construction of the Saab-Scania era and Saab's first contribution to the upper middle class, as it was said so nicely back then. The Swede with southern elegance is an exceptional car and a classless one. Even today, he dresses his owner well, like an Italian bespoke suit. Not too much, not too little. Just sitting well. He transported the genes of the classic Saab 900 into a higher class and a new decade. The Saab 9000 is very fast, because up to 224 PS meet a lightweight with a maximum of 1.450 kilograms. A full-blown luxury sedan in the weight class of a VW Golf!
The 9000 is versatile, because a huge tailgate gives access to a large loading compartment with folding rear seats. Hatchback in the luxury class. Today manufacturers lack the courage to do so, which is regrettable. It has endless space because it has revolutionary interior ergonomics. With a smaller vehicle width, the 9000 has more interior width than its successor. The Saab 9000 was squaring the circle for the cult manufacturer, and one can say: Operation succeeded!
But some things are too good and can therefore become a problem. The 9000 became it for Saab when the successor appeared. Few of them wanted to swap their hatchbacks for a notchback sedans, and those who drove a 9000 series often stayed with them. The problem that Saab experienced with the generation change from 901 to 902 experienced its comeback. A chance for us, but more on that later.
Some think the 9000 is the best car ever to run on Saab bands. There can be something in it. With the backlit cockpit in the jet design, presented in a phase when BMW, Mercedes and Co lit the instruments from the front with small bulbs, Saab attracted attention. Aircraft construction was not a marketing slogan, real knowledge flowed from the jets into the auto division. Awards for exemplary ergonomics and the entry of the 9000 into the design museums of this world were the result. Nice little details, such as illuminated buckles in some versions, at a time when ambient lighting was a foreign word, rounded off the look.
That the 9000 2.3 Aero showed the taillights in the intermediate sprint to the Ferrari F40, was good for the turbo-image and made the 9000 a coveted object and understated sports car.
Can a Swede be eccentric? He can, and the 9000 is proof of that. As an option, instead of leather or velor, there was a woolen outfit made by Italy's luxury weaver Ermenegildo Zegna. That wool is cool in summer and warm in winter was the logical background to this seemingly eccentric decision.
Buy Saab 9000
The first complete restorations are underway in Sweden, and the 9000 is considered an upcoming classic. The choice of engines is abundant for Saab standards, there are Saab naturally aspirated engines from 128 to 145 hp and Saab turbo engines up to 224 hp. In addition, a 3 liter V6 from the GM shelf and two equipment levels as CS and CSE. A cool and timeless hatchback sedan that is still suitable for everyday use.
The 9000 is, as written, an exception Saab. The first customers knew that. They were exceptionally loyal and that has consequences.
It's crazy, but it's reality. The most recent 9000ers are now 15 or 16 years old, and there are still first or second hand copies. You will find what you are looking for first and foremost at the traditional Saab farm. Often one has carried out there the first delivery and then the vehicle maintained. Also in Frankfurt, on the site of the former Saab factory, the team from Saab Service Frankfurt accompanied the 9000er from new cars to classic cars.
Checkbook-maintained copies, which were sold by the senior manager as a new car with verifiable Saab history, are still feasible today. Not always are these treasures advertised on the internet, and a friendly request can help the seeker. Often the dealers also know an older owner who would give his Saab in good hands.
What to look out for?
The 9000 was designed as a long-term car and it is. With good care, the engines are good for half a million kilometers and more. The machine should present itself in a dry state. Turbo hoses can be old and leaky and you should plan for a replacement. The revolutionary Saab Trionic, which celebrated its premiere in the 9000, is reliable and sophisticated when using original parts. Because the ignition cartridge is now also available as a cheap replica from China - in poor quality.
As always, it is important to ensure that the body is in good condition. While spare parts for mechanics are available from original sources for little money, work on the body can be expensive. The 9000 does not have a rust problem in the traditional sense, but there are some neuralgic areas. Typical weak points are the rear wheel arches, and rust also lurks under the rubber seals on the tailgate and the lock mount. The frame of the windshield can be affected by moisture penetration. Doors, however, do not necessarily have to be a weak point. Copies from model year 1995 are significantly more resistant, whereby in my experience the treatment by the previous owner is the decisive factor for the condition.
The interior is sturdy with a sympathetic because honest mix of leather, wood, textiles and plastics. The fabric inserts on the door panels resent poor handling, and with rare color combinations replacement is not always easy to find. The mice cinema of the typical 80er years like automatic air conditioning should work like the whole system without problems.
Spare parts & workshop
It's amazing what's in Nyköping for the 9000 still in stock. The Saab Parts AB provides a lot at a reasonable price, and the Saab Traditions partners are well sorted. A workshop with Saab experience is important and the Saab Helpdesk in Trollhättan also has one or two older Saab employees with Saab 9000 backgrounds. With many possible problems the workshop chains are overwhelmed, and therefore the 9000 belongs in knowledgeable hands. Accordingly, he is just as suitable for everyday use as a new car, just 20 years old and with much more individuality.
The price situation
The price development is inconsistent. They have only been climbing for good 9000s for some time. The emphasis is on “good”. This has to do with a shrinking supply and the increasing acceptance in the youngtimer scene. Driving a Saab is cool, and that goes for the 9000 as well. Although the reflexive aspect is “far too expensive” here and again on the blog, the market teaches us that 10.000 euros or more are also paid for exceptional items.
That is a good thing, because it ensures the preservation of the 9000s in the long term. Investments have to be real, and the days of cheap copies are over. A cheap entry and a fabulous first-hand copy from retirees are still possible with a little luck. If it doesn't have to be a turbo with leather at CSE level, then there are beautiful 9000 CS with a naturally aspirated engine for between 2-3.000 euros. Good turbos start a little higher, and anything is possible depending on the condition and equipment.
If you want to get in cheaply, you can buy a 9000 CS or 9000 CD - the unpopular notchback version. These wood class variants also have a lot of Saab charm and equipment that is not poor. With the higher CSE level, you have automatic air conditioning and high-quality leather on board. Real wood in the interior is widespread. The complete wooden interior with panels on the doors, dashboard, switch gate and cover for the storage space of the center console is rare and in great demand. Retrofitting missing parts is ruled out, because wood is a natural product and there are color differences for this reason.
Aero versions, which are rare because they were often burned up in tough everyday use, are particularly popular. The anniversary models from 1997 get collector status, which differ from the series by embossing the aircraft logo in the leather seats, different rims and other details. An anniversary model is traded at a surcharge compared to the series, and “real” anniversaries also rolled off the production line in 1998. A look at the proof of first delivery in the service book will tell you whether you have a real anniversary ahead of you.
The wallflower among all Saab 9000 variants is the 9000 CD Griffin. With 3 liters V6, opulent equipment and huge trunk, it is a kind of insider tip for those who like it. Because the Griffin is forcibly married to the V6. This comes from the GM shelf and is - it was feared - beaten with a toothed belt and not turbocharged.
Avoid tuned versions with unclear background and especially with automatic transmission. The ZF-supplied 4-gear automatic harmonizes very well with the turbo technology, but is limited by the torque. Saab therefore limited the 9000 Aero automatic to 200 PS, which still provides ingenious performance. Wild tuned specimens may overload the gearbox and cause costly damage.
On the other hand, it is worth striving - but very rarely - to see improved specimens from Saab factory tuner Rene Hirsch. Every now and then one comes onto the market and is sold again just as quickly. If you are looking for something, you will find what you are looking for in Switzerland and if you are successful you can be sure that you are in possession of something like a one-off.
The 2.3 liter, which is only moderately turbocharged with 170 hp, is harmonious and an insider tip. The driving performance is good, and due to its low weight, this Saab can also cause confusion for company car drivers during intermediate acceleration. If you don't want a vacuum cleaner and a reasonable, robust turbo with low maintenance costs, the 2.0 liter soft turbo with 150 hp is well served.
The 9000 offers car for every taste. Power hungry people resort to full-turbo, cool calculator to soft-turbo or sucker. If you are looking for luxury, you will find it at the CSE. Purists who value timeless forms, function and a clear shape will be happy with the CS. The great thing: it is always a Saab! Always fast, always beautiful, always practical, always individual! And for a small price.
The cult factor!
Looking for intelligent solutions? The 9000 is the other Saab. Inside big, compact outside. Transport potential and comfortable leather armchairs that encourage cruising. Addictive turbos and strong suckers. Those who do not run with the herd will be happy with the 9000 for a long time and may not drive another car.
The cult factor quick check:
+ Boarding. For those who have not had anything to do with the Saab brand before, the 9000 is the ideal entry-level drug. Caution: Addictive!
- Get out. Because the ignition switch is in the wrong place.
+ Insider tip. The accountant versions. Often meticulously maintained. We did it. A white 9000 with blue interior. Just awesome.
+ Cult ranking. Younger than the cast iron fraction. A car with a future.
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