Saab 9000 CDi 2.3 16 vs. BMW - Volvo - Mercedes - Nissan

In December 1989, Saab sales reps found a new training video in the mail. The Swedes launched the new Saab 9000 CDi 2.3 16v. The sellers were given arguments to make the new prestige sedan from Trollhättan palatable to customers.

More than 30 years later, the film is a relic of bygone times. Nonetheless, it remains surprisingly relevant. We're talking about efficiency, and arguments that spoke in favor of buying a Saab at the time are still valid today.

It must be noted that the 9000 was the brand's first entry into the upscale segment. A surprise success that cannot be taken for granted. The CD version was followed up and a classic prestige limousine was added to the range.

Saab Spotlight 1989. Saab 9000 CDi 2.3-14 vs. Competitors.
Saab Spotlight 1989. Saab 9000 CDi 2.3-14 vs. Competitors.

The Saab 9000 and its competitors

The new 2,3 liter with 16 valves and two balancer shafts was the most modern art of engine construction. Officially, Saab even spoke of a running culture comparable to a six-cylinder. Objectively you were close. The positioning was accordingly characterized by self-confidence. And not without reason.

Some of the competition saw the small, aspiring brand in Germany. The BMW 525i with a six-cylinder was rightly considered an active sedan with a comfortable drive. In addition, it was considered the most beautiful contribution of the Munich in the upper vehicle class. The Mercedes 260E of the 124 series was traded as an insider tip of its time. In no way as dynamic as the 300, which was also available, it made a cultivated contribution for connoisseurs. Ford drove up with the Scorpio. It was inexpensive and a fixture on the market. Rightly valued by buyers, but with long-outdated technology under the hood.

The American contribution seems strange for Europeans in comparison. The Pontiac Bonneville never played a role in Europe, but the Spotlight films were produced for the international market. In the US, the Bonneville was what many vehicles of its kind represented. Great equipment, robust, cheap and with a lot of displacement. However, there were worlds between the Pontiac and the Saab. The American's technology was consistently kept simple, with drum brakes on the rear axle providing deceleration.

The Volvo has nothing to oppose the Saab

In the 90s, Japanese manufacturers dreamed of the upper class. The Nissan Maxima is a representative of that time. The big plus was its affordable price, great features and a sophisticated, powerful six-cylinder. The big Nissan, with its somewhat simple exterior, could not prevail in Europe, it was popular in the USA. In this country, he was mostly driven by Nissan dealers or their relatives.

Of course, local rivals Volvo should not be missing in the comparison. Saab met Gothenburg with the 9000 in the upper class, of all places, which was previously an undisputed domain of Volvo. The oldest car brand in Sweden had nothing to counter the attacker. The 740 GLE was obsolete and it took until 1991 to find an answer to the challengers from Trollhättan. Then it came all the more convincing in the form of the 850, which was born with the help of poached Saab engineers. At Göta Älv you then need until 1997 again to counter with the 9-5. But this is another story.

The comparison goes six-cylinder against four-cylinder, classic rear-wheel drive against front-wheel drive. Saab argues very well for the 9000 CD and shows its strengths in real life. Ample space, very good passage in everyday situations, efficient use of resources. The film's themes could also be from 2020, but the vehicles are not.

The look behind the scenes, on the other side, the desk of the seller, is interesting. The Saab is not the high-flyer in the test. The BMW is undoubtedly more dynamic, the Mercedes more solid, the Nissan and the Ford cheaper. It is the alternative for everyone who has a feel for cars beyond prestige and many cylinders. Intelligent, very well suited to real life, responsible in dealing with resources.

18 thoughts on "Saab 9000 CDi 2.3 16 vs. BMW - Volvo - Mercedes - Nissan"

  • Dear Kochje: That's how it is! Only Saab!!!

  • This 9000 CD was my first Saab in 1991, and I was also convinced by a test drive with the Saab.
    Since then, I've been driving on Saab as a real love affair. From the 9000 over all 9000 CS's (my finest was a CSE Aniversary in eggplant color) up to the 9-5 NG.
    I am still in love with Saab and will never drive another car. This brand gives you a safe feeling that you cannot find anywhere else.
    Now I drive a 9-3 convertible and have two old-timers (a 96 two-stroke from 1961 and a 900 convertible from 1987.
    So I can continue to drive Saab until the end of my life. Driving pleasure: only with Saab !!!

  • I had one of the first 9000 CC with the 2,3i and DI ignition, which was a great, very quiet engine back then. The gearbox was quite short, so it had a great pull from below, so the equally strong BMWs only saw the taillights in the acceleration lane. But at 205 the nominal speed was already over. I had no other car that was so lazy to drive !!
    Today I still have this engine in the 902 Cabrio, unfortunately with mechanical instead of DI ignition, because you can feel a difference and notice that it is electronically easier to knit. But in the convertible it does a good job and is significantly more economical than the turbos.
    The 2.0t (LP turbo), which replaced the 2,3i in the 9000CS, was a real step forward. I wouldn't want to exchange it back!

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    Thank you for this time documentation, I like the clear and distinct pronunciation in the old videos. I would like all cars from that time, the cars were even more different and independent compared to today.
    I also know the Nissan quite well, an acquaintance of my family still drives one as the first owner

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    These were the vehicles of my childhood. I had a 9000 in red with a bright interior from matchbox. All other participants in 1:87 from the Herpa company. Thanks for the great video!

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    What a journey back in time. The cars somehow held up better than fashion. The video reminds me of the Telemotor tests back then (in case anyone remembers them). Against the background of today's viewing habits, very - well sober. By the way, my favorite would be the 9000 before the 740, but that's probably no surprise.

  • My wife once had an E280T (W124) with 195 hp, I had a 9000 CC 2.3 Turbo, 194 hp some time before. In terms of driving dynamics, the Mercedes was actually like a tractor compared to the 9000. However, I would never let anything come to the chassis of the Mercedes. I have rarely encountered anything so stoic.
    @Tom: 6 out of 5 stars for the video alone.

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    Class. Thanks.

    I remember the engine well, but had completely forgotten how good it was in comparison to 6-cylinder engines.

    Wonderfully bizarre contemporary document. “ABS” on the rear of the Ford looks like it was stuck on itself - with letters from the locksmith or from the hardware store. The old, limp engine is also creepy. What you won in the wind tunnel melted away in other departments ...

  • Very interesting, thank you! 🙂

    In comparison, I found it particularly interesting (as a technology dummy):

    Saab's expressed respect for Mercedes and BMW.
    That Volvo was not only terrible in terms of design (as is well known, the designers lacked the curve ruler), but also hopelessly out of date in every other discipline, with the exception of safety (I only expected this from Ford and the other Ami).
    The memory of what an outstandingly good exterior and interior design BMW had back then (of which nothing is left today).
    That the 5 Series was only a four seater!
    What a straight "wooden bench" without headrests Mercedes expected the rear passengers.

    It was clear to me beforehand how technically advanced and far superior Saab was back then.

    Well, a lot more customers would have found their way to the Saab dealer and a test drive (very strong argument!) And let themselves be convinced by the sum of the arguments for the 9000! Maybe then everything would not have turned out the way it sadly finally happened more than 20 years later ... 🙁

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    Slowly I get the impression that SAAB was deliberately broken ... Cars that held up for too “long” were probably (as often read here and elsewhere), not “timely” and thus “Consumption-based” ...

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    A video characterized by an unexcited, self-confident nonchalance, especially in these times ...... and as far as the engine downgrading of the upper class is concerned ...... Saab was also easily 20 years ahead of the other manufacturers, even if that was not entirely voluntary. For me, driving a 6-cylinder petrol engine from BMW or Mercedes from that time always meant: ok, I drive like a diesel tractor in terms of torque, but I know that there is a little more going on above 4.000 rpm.
    Thank you Tom for this great look behind the scenes!!

  • You almost have to hold back a small tear, great document of the time. Thank you for publishing!
    I can still remember the presentation of the 9000 2.3i at the dealer. They were very proud of the engine. And yet the question keeps popping up as to why this car doesn't come with a six-cylinder.

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    What a treat!!!!! thanks tom

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    Thank you so much Tom! These movies really are a cozy time capsule- especially these days!

    • That pleases me very much! To take the readers back in time, and if it is only for 15 minutes, it was our intention.

  • I'm still sorry to have ever sold it! I have never been in a car for a long period of time without any great quirks during its entire life.

  • .. and still tops the list!

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    just great!

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