Saab 9000. Driving dynamics or dromedary?

It's autumn now. The Anna project has a workshop appointment in Frankfurt, the air conditioner licks, which was not so pleasant in summer temperatures. Now also the dampers are exchanged, and during the pickup I'm curious like a little boy, who should get a new toy.

Saab 9000 Anna Project
Anna project in January 2018

Our Saab can be used as a reference, as 1998 a 9k must have felt as a new car. All the suspension parts except for the springs are now new, and the Saab should drive almost as if it were fresh from the showroom roll.

A quick glance already shows the change. The stern no longer sags and the first few meters are really shocking. The streets around Saab Service Frankfurt correspond to what one would expect in the North Ossetian province - but not in the rich ECB city of Frankfurt. The roads are scandalously bad and the Saab has an ungraciously hard suspension. Is that my dromedary still rocking that has accompanied me over the past few years? Or a sports car that is a little too tightly tuned?

Things get relativized as the roads get better. The Saab is sporty, well defined, but not unpleasant. On the highway he runs at high speed as well on rails, the tail no longer resonates at bumps.

When cornering, its body roll is extremely reduced, and it is already quite agile for an 80s project. Anna experiences my home route in the Spessart, consisting of small, winding streets of the 3rd and 4th order in a completely new way. If the chassis previously set the limit, it is now the brakes that urge restraint.

And yes, the 9k is now refreshingly rustic. A mixture of fat, fat sedan and agility that you would not have expected. Back when the 9000 was constructed, humans were still considered the measure of all things. The immediate notification of the road condition to the driver was a top priority. The human interface received information, processed it, and made decisions. Anyone traveling with Anna receives a message in real time about how miserably patched up our streets really are. This is analog driving, the chassis of the 9k consistently implements the philosophy of the time. Fast and safe on motorways, with good feedback on country roads, but stucky when driving slowly on poor roads in the city.

Unfortunately, that's the passage of time, the analogous things are disappearing. Active chassis in combination with an armada of assistance systems decouple us more and more from the environment. Digital mobility will further perfect that, driving will be safer. In turn, our ability to self-assess and make decisions disappears. The cloud takes over, the human interface is no longer the measure of all things.

After a few months with the new landing gear, it's time for an assessment. The 9000 is a car with a large turning circle. One tends to classify it as sedate and not very dynamic. Undercarriages that are 20 or 30 years old contribute to the assessment. And in general, every chassis is much older and much more used than its owner would like to admit.

In fact, the 9000 is quite dynamic and can do more than you expect. His great strength is the perfect communication between technology and people. Anyone who has not yet forgotten driving without computer support will appreciate the original suspension in the first big Saab. It opens up new horizons, and you see the 9k with different eyes.

However, and this is not to be concealed, the Saab suspension also has disadvantages. Especially on slow, poor routes it shows the limits of the concept. The Saab likes it faster, and he loves the highway.

The investment has paid off, even months away. The assembly was done by Saab Service Frankfurt done. Easy, with a usual good service and at a very fair price. At the moment, the rear dampers are no longer available and listed as Orio backlog. It is hoped that there will be a post-production.

The Anna project is an anachronism, just like any analog car. It is a bit better and more attractive. The Saab is fun that stays. Especially when you have forgotten over time what work and money went into the project. The chassis is now almost completely new. There are still a few items on my list. The story of how a disliked, neglected Saab becomes a great classic, goes into the next round.

It should not be forgotten that this is a car that is now 20 years old. Small things happen that are not planned. The wash water tank, a common problem, has logged out as an incontinent after 2 decades. Scandalous, and new there is no longer buy it (Hello, Orio?). The problem must be solved anyway, because without it is not possible. Can they be repaired, or are they better replaced by a used part? Sequel follows.

14 thoughts on "Saab 9000. Driving dynamics or dromedary?"

  • Hey Tom, very nice article. I see the SAAB driving experience the same way. I work for a large premium automobile manufacturer in southern Germany and have the opportunity to drive the latest cars with assistance systems, but I always look forward to getting into one of my SAABs and enjoying the rustic but “real” driving experience.

  • Hi Tom,
    a great article, for me just at the right time.
    Because I had to keep an appointment, I was on the way from Cologne to Stuttgart faster than usual in my 9-5 Griffin station wagon that evening. I realized that my earlier 9000s were much more confident on the road. I think I should have something done on the chassis ...
    Only what? So my question: what has been done to Anna on the chassis (except for the dampers)? Which gummies did you swap? I would like to have exactly that feeling of driving back that you describe so accurately ...

    • All chassis parts that move in themselves are subject to wear. Plastics * (brittle / fragile) and rubbers ** (porous) even age when standing and without stress ...

      A look under the car (preferably together in the trusted workshop) helps. But a lot can also be deduced from the vehicle's history. How old? Mileage? What was done when (or maybe neglected for too long ...)?

      * / ** Plastic parts and rubbers are a hot topic. See “Wash Water Reservoir” in the article. I'm curious about the solution and the next article ...

      After all, it's the biggest I've ever found. With the 9000 you can drive hundreds of kilometers through fog-like swarms of mosquitoes. But I digress ...

      Plastics and rubbers are the main weak points of my chrome glasses SC. 3 parts that are relevant to the engine management have already been changed under the hood. The outside becomes unsightly because rubbers crumble. For example under the roof antenna or at the front ...

      On a Volvo 240 station wagon (built in '84) I had to rebuild the wiring harness for the engine compartment (around '94) because the car was a single short circuit. Otherwise perfect. Plastic annoyance ...
      The recipe for the insulation was probably already environmentally friendly in 84, but not yet durable. As I said, a hot topic!

      To cut a long story short: take a look under the car. There's something there. More than 4 shock absorbers that have never been changed. Then he's back on the road like a new one ...

    • In principle everything was done. New wishbones, stabilizers, trailing arms where necessary, all suspension rubber bushings completely new. It was similar with the “Paul Project” and the 9-3 I Aero. You should pay attention to good quality. Control arms and all other parts were available from Saab Original, and in Bamberg I could see what a Saab original part and a cheap replica looks like. The material is worlds apart! A trustworthy workshop that builds really good parts should therefore be at hand.
      In the chassis bushings, experiments such as Powerflex were omitted. Needless if the chassis is in good condition robs too much ride comfort.

  • Great report. The bottom line for me is, SAABs (even older ones) are fun ...

    They were probably ahead of their contemporaries in many respects, are perhaps still amazingly contemporary, but without care, an old SAAB is of course just an old car ...

    You can understand that right away. Also that a 9K with good chassis is still a great pleasure today. Opinions are divided between this car and its successor. I like them both ...

    But there are enough 9K drivers who claim that the car is better than anything SAAB would have brought onto the market until 2010 or even ever ...

    You can, but you do not have to share that opinion.

    Either way, the bottom line is: that was a damn good car! ! !

    Every carer of a 9K has, in my opinion, earned a reindeer, a moose and a few liters of blueberry syrup for free.
    Other SAABs have interested me before, and sometimes also fascinated me. But it was the 9K that finally got me excited and won over to SAAB ...

    • ... it was similar to me, with the 9k, SAAB became a companion for me. We consciously decided against the 9-5 and for the 9k. Sure there were a few things in the 9-5I that were better in cars from other manufacturers, but in terms of concept and implementation, the 9k is still the reference vehicle for me in this car class ... and even my 9-5II can do a lot better far from everything, ... in terms of trunk, heating, consumption, the 9k has the edge ... (both aero)

      • Since I can sign every sentence, that's exactly the way we went!

      • Yes, the trunk ...

        He has something magical. Open, flap to. Two different cars!

        Back then, the 9000 was something of a “compact upper class”. Flip open he's a blue whale. Perhaps no wonder that German motor journalism did not do justice to the 9000. There was simply a lack of suitable drawers and practiced phrases ...

  • Rear shock absorbers not available for SAAB 9000 ???????????????

    I joined Bilstein's B6 for my SAAB 9-5 and changed to the original old Sachs.
    So you can not get better, also for SAAB 9000.

  • Great project. Really cool youngtimer. I want too

  • “The human interface received information, processed it, and could decide. ”
    That's exactly how I want it, no wannabe AI making the decisions for me. Analog is fun 🙂

  • Hi Tom,

    Thank you for this exciting post again …… ..You write “… ..all chassis parts except for the springs are new”… .. and further, Saab Frankfurt would have done everything “with the usual good service and at a very fair price” …… ..because I also have such a darling and after 22 years and 200000km it seems a bit soft to me, can you give me a rough house number, what was made for what price? Or should we better make a phone call?

    • Hej Mattes, the price sovereignty lies with the dealer. Therefore, in part 1 only the list prices for the parts, everything else you should please discuss with Frankfurt. I do not want to intervene and set price ideas in the world.

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