Is he better? Saab 9000 CDi 2.3 16 vs. Competitors

In December 1989, sales people found a new training video in the mail. The Swedes launched the new Saab 9000 CDi 2.3 16v. The vendors were given arguments to make the new Prestige limousine from Trollhättan appealing to customers. More than 30 years later, the film is a relic of times past. Nevertheless, it remains surprisingly current. There is talk of efficiency, and arguments in favor of buying a Saab at the time are still valid today.

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

It must be noted that the 9000 was the brand's first contribution in the upper class. A surprise success that cannot be taken for granted. The CD variant was followed up and a classic prestige sedan was added to the range. The new 2.3 liter with 16 valves and two balancer shafts was the most modern art of engine construction. Saab officially even spoke of running culture, comparable to a six-cylinder. Seen objectively, you were close. The positioning was accordingly characterized by self-confidence. And not without foundation.

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 Rightly valued by buyers, but with long-outdated technology under the hood.

In comparison, the American contribution seems strange to Europeans. The Pontiac Bonneville never played a role in Europe, but the Spotlight films were produced for the international market. In the United States, the Bonneville was what many vehicles of its type represented. Superbly equipped, robust, inexpensive and with a large displacement. However, there were worlds between Pontiac and the Saab. The American technology was consistently simple, with drum brakes on the rear axle causing deceleration.

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, the local rival Volvo should not be missing in the comparison. Saab hit Gothenburg with the 9000 of all places in the upper class, which was previously an undisputed domain of Volvo. The oldest car brand in Sweden had nothing to oppose the attacker. The 740 GLE was out of date, and it took until 1991 to find an answer to the challengers from Trollhättan. Then it came all the more convincingly in the form of the 850, which was born with the help of recruited Saab engineers. At Göta Älv you need again until 1997 to keep up 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 too "Is he better? Saab 9000 CDi 2.3 16 vs. Competitors"

  • .. and is still at the top of the list!

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  • 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.

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  • Thank you so much Tom! These films are really a comfortable time capsule - especially these days!

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

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  • You almost have to hold back a little tear, great document of the times. Thank you for the publication!
    I can still remember the presentation of the 9000 2.3i at the dealer. They were very proud of the engine. And yet again and again the question of why this car would not exist with a six-cylinder.

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  • A video characterized by a self-confident nonchalance, especially in these times ...... .. and as far as top-class engine downgrading is concerned ...... ... Saab was easily 20 years ahead of the other manufacturers, even if it wasn't entirely voluntary. Driving a 6-cylinder petrol engine from BMW or Mercedes from this period always meant to me: ok, I drive from the draft like a diesel tractor, but I know that a little more happens above 4.000 rpm.
    Thanks Tom for this great insight behind the scenes !!

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  • I'm beginning to get the impression that SAAB was deliberately broken… Cars that held up for “too long” without a problem were probably (as has often been read here and elsewhere), not “time” and therefore “Consumable”…

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  • Very interesting, thank you very much! 🙂

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

    Saab's express 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 just a four-seater!
    What a straight “wooden bench” without headrests Mercedes put on the rear passengers.

    It was clear to me beforehand how technically advanced and far superior Saab was at that time.

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

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  • Class. Thank you.

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

    Wonderfully bizarre document of the times. “ABS” on the rear of the Ford looks like it was glued - with letters from the locksmith or from the hardware store. The old, dead engine was also creepy. What you have won in the wind tunnel has melted in other departments ...

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  • 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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  • What a journey through time. The cars have somehow held up better than fashion. The video reminds me of the telemotor tests back then (in case someone remembers it). Against the background of today's viewing habits, very sober. Incidentally, my favorite would be the 9000 before the 740, but that's probably not a surprise.

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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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  • 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, a friend of my family still drives one as a first owner

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  • 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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  • 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 always been driving down Saab as a real lover. From the 9000 over all 9000 CS's (my finest was a CSE Anniversary in eggplant color) 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.
    I can continue to drive Saab until the end of my life. Driving pleasure: only with Saab !!!

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  • Dear Kochje: So it is! Saab only !!!

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