Saab - Anything but boring

Bengt Gadefeld and Per Gillbrand. What did they have in mind when they tamed the turbo? The engine developers in Södertälje have been working on turbocharging since the early 70s - more or less under the management's radar, as was often the case at Saab. Then in the middle of the 70s came the big crisis, the sales figures collapsed.

Saab 99 Turbo
Saab 99 Turbo

In 1976, Sten Wennlo became a new boss. Saab has hardly any innovations in the pipeline - except for the turbo. Wennlo needs a sensation to save Saab. He visits Gadefeld and Gillbrand in Södertälje, takes the turbo back to Trollhättan - and is enthusiastic. On the return trip, he decided to go into series production. "Anything but boring" is born, and then everything happens very quickly. In September 1976 the Swedish dealers see the turbo, in 1978 the Saab 99 Turbo rolls to customers.

The Saab 99 is a completely Swedish car. Objectively down to the last detail, nothing that would be random or thoughtless. The playfulness of French or Italian manufacturers is alien to Saab. That makes the Saab a bit boring - at first glance. The Saab 99 Turbo changes that. It doesn't always stay at 145 hp, there is more. For the first time, you can hunt with a Saab Porsche and plunge Porsche pilots into a deep crisis of meaning.

It gets nice when a passenger who is inexperienced in turbo is on board. The solid Saab rolls through traffic until the track is clear. If the driver steps on the accelerator - nothing happens for a moment of thought. Then the turbo kicks in, brutally and hard. Saab eats asphalt, seeks traction, nothing can stop him. The 99 Turbo is a sports car that doesn't look like it. The driver is addicted, the passenger can't believe it. Saab - "Anything but boring". A concept is born.

Saab continues the turbo. With the 900 Turbo, the power increases to up to 160 hp, friendly tuners allow a surcharge. The turbo lag is getting smaller, the fascination remains. The turbocharger in the 9000 CC Turbo and 9000 Aero is cultivated. Up to 225 hp are possible. The “anything but boring” concept is taking effect again. The interiors in the 9000 are factually cool to classy. Nobody suspects enormous performance in a hatchback sedan. The greater the effect when a 9000 accelerates and leaves vehicles that are stronger on paper. Saab always delivers more than you think, which also makes the drivers happy.

The turbos are more sophisticated over the years, Saab holds on, provides more and more turbo power. The 900 II, as hatchback evolution of 900 I, provides velvety 185 PS, the 9-3 Aero breaks through the 200 PS brand, the Viggen is pure power with brute 230 PS. The chassis hardly brings the power on the road, so there is a Viggen Rescue Kit, boring it is not Viggen pilots. A Saab is more than just a car. A Saab is a family van, a business travel sedan, a sports car for the left lane. The Saab 9000 perfects this concept, reason and medicine against boredom enter into a symbiosis. But not for long.

Saab is now part of GM, and "Anything but boring" is no longer in. The concept by Bengt Gadefeld, Per Gillbrand and Sten Wennlo is slowly disappearing. Engine developers have a hard time, they are squeezed between increasingly stringent environmental regulations and cost controls. Drives that are absolutely oversized and designed for high performance and a long life, as we find them in the 9000, are no longer possible.

Saab should be compatible for the mass taste. Opponents are now BMW and Audi. The old Saab wisdom that it will go wrong if you deny your roots no longer counts. The new 9-5 comes as a sedan, the Aero has a miserable 5 hp more than in the 9000. Likewise in the new 9-3, also the sedan, and in the first few years the cost control of the Americans cannot be denied, the materials are so poor . GM is holding back the station wagon, the coupe will never come. For the first time, the new models are more sedate than their predecessors. That only makes customers who are new to Saab happy. For others, the route leads to Sankt Gallen, where Renè Hirsch conjures up "anything but boring" back into the Saabs.

The solution to become compatible for the masses fails. Vehicles are pushed into the market by price, fans buy Saabs more as a bond than out of enthusiasm. The situation is slowly improving, with the years 9-3 and 9-5, they get a few more horsepower, and now and then the old turbo spirit, the stupidity from Trollhättan, shimmers through.

It's not as if you had forgotten it in the Stallbacka, the “anything but boring”. It's in the brand's genes, you just have to let it happen. When Saab launched the Turbo X in 2008, sound and performance were back. The fans are thrilled, but unfortunately only 2.000 copies are distributed. More will not be given to the world. And then?

Everyone builds turbos now, they are extremely cultivated and therefore bland. The service must be submitted on a linear basis; the customer would allegedly no longer accept anything else. In Trollhättan, after 40 years, a concept is coming to an end - and yet it is being reinvented.

2010 is "Anything but boring" back - for a short time. In another form, defined by design. The new Saab 9-5 enchants the viewer, is traded as the most beautiful new release of the year. Designers and experts praise, Saab fascinates. Finally again! The brand's history ends in spring 2011 when the last vehicles roll off the assembly line. "Anything but boring" is at the end, even 9-4x, the 9-5 sports suit and the 9-3 successor don't get a chance.

The end? Or just a stopover? Is there a brilliant Swedish engineer sitting somewhere working on "Anything but boring" 3.0? Anyway, Saab gave us cars with a lot of goose bumps and fascination. Well thought out down to the smallest detail, as factual as only Scandinavians can be. But with so much sensible irrationality under the hood that the brand will be immortal. No matter what.

12 thoughts on "Saab - Anything but boring"

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    Hello Saabgemeinde, if you ever have the opportunity to drive a Viggen with the 306 hp engine, do it! It's unbelievable what forces are at work and how this car goes off! Press the tube once in 2nd gear at 40 km / h and you go really fast. Turbo at its best! Or turbo at its limit ... ..

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    ... and then the 9-5 was only available with the 2l 150PS soft turbo, at least for us for a test drive, narrower and slower than the 9k that was always available as a replacement car. When the dealer said he still had an aero9k with a few kilometers to go, the decision was quickly made! 🙂

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    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - I drove both and valued them primarily for their qualities. Everyone was special in their time and a bit off the mainstream. In particular, the seats were unmatched in both.

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    Well summarized.
    The only thing I wouldn't sign is the statement that a 9000 is factually hypothermic ...
    In my opinion, this is absolutely true of the 9.5I. Noble, well equipped, but a little bit emotion free.
    My 9000 CSE, on the other hand, reminds me more of a mansion library. Wood, leather, the furniture carved from solid ...
    Cosiness in its purest form. All that's missing is the fireplace and a neat single malt ...


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      Everyone feels in their own way. The 9000 seems cooler to me with its large window area and the abundance of light in the interior. For me, the 9-5 I is the “cozier” car.

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    Nice article about the turbo story. You can not summarize that better 🙂.

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    Can you customize your lightbox so that closing a gallery does not always throw you back to the top of the page? Thank you!

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    Anything but boring = SAAB for the heart! Direct hit and thanks for that! Saved the Monday!

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    I agree with the article on almost all points, but ...

    ... the linear power output may be boring, and I also dare to doubt that customers are interested in whether the power output is linear, quadratic or exponential to the accelerator pedal position (or whether they even know the difference ...), but especially in connection with rear-wheel drive ( yes, there is also something like that) it is the safest option. Imagine an explosion of rear-wheel drive performance on a slippery road. Or rather not.

    It would be interesting, however, quite what Trionic should actually be able to program different accelerator mappings and set up a choice, similar to the 9-5 for the suspension tuning. For the turbo-nostalgic, the sensible and the somewhat timid 😉

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      I would say it is safer for both front and rear-wheel drive vehicles. But less fun ...

      The Trionic is extremely adaptable. It shouldn't be a problem to program something. A Bavarian brand has the "driving experience switch" ...

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        That's right - understeer isn't safer either.

        Although I'm not sure whether the "driving experience switch" changes the accelerator pedal characteristic or only affects the shift points.

        Or if the car then just starts to yodel

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    Yeah, that's right:
    Experience the SAAB thrust as a passenger ... the eyes got bigger and bigger, the pressure on the backrest got stronger ... and the SAAB virus was implanted. 🙂
    I am looking forward every day to the carport and every mile of use!

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