April: the month of Saab 9000 love

Could the Saab 9000 be the modern Saab that time forgot?

The Saab 900 is a cult classic and even the NG900 and OG9-3 have a following that we explored here a few months ago. The 9-3 Sport Sedan and 9-5 are current models and as such have their solid appreciation – but the 9000 is a car that doesn’t get much of a mention.

For example, when I was looking up photos for this introductory article, there wasn’t a picture to be found at GM Media of a Saab 9000 prior to 1989. That’s a whole initial generation of the car – missing. This was a real blow for me as the first Saab I ever drove was a late 80’s Saab 9000 Turbo.

Funnily enough, I finally found an early 9000 on the pages of a regular visitor to this site. This is Greg Abbott’s old 9000, which he owned for 10 years.


It’s hard to believe, but the Saab 9000 in my driveway right now was first conceived out of a partnership that was forming when my age was still measured in single digits. In the mid 1970’s Saab’s Marcus Wallenberg got together with Lancia’s Giovanni Agnelli. They started the co-operation that would see the Saab-Lancia 600 produced to less than modest success. There were also some stalled merger talks with Volvo during this period. After several meetings and false starts, they finally shook hands on an agreement that would see a vehicle platform designed for use by Saab, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo.

The Saab 9000 was first unveiled in May 1984 and deliveries began later that year as a MY1985 vehicle. The queue was reasonably long, too. There were great expectations for this car, being only the third entirely “new” car in Saab’s history.

And the vehicle didn’t disappoint either. It was well received in various markets with many praising it’s superior build quality. One publication claimed that it’s driving position and ergonomics approached perfection. It was regarded as a genuine entrant in the premium field and a real competitor for BMW’s 3 and 5 series.


MY1985: Saab 9000 released to wide acclaim. Initially designed as a replacement for the 900, it soon became apparent that it would be a complimentary, larger vehicle that would expand Saab’s range.

The first model had a 2-litre turbocharged engine producing around 175hp and a very high equipment level including Saab’s first full climate control system. The car won a bunch of awards both in Sweden and abroad.


MY1986: The car, being so well received the year before, was largely unchanged. The one major addition during this year was the 9000i. A non-turbocharged injection engine producing 130hp


MY1987: The 9000 range had ABS added in this model year. Whilst it wasn’t the first application of ABS braking in the automotive world, it was a system developed especially for Saab and the first developed for a front-wheel drive car.

This year also saw a new watercooled turbo introduced as well as a new 4-speed automatic transmission.


MY1988: Late in 1987, Saab unveiled the sedan shape for the 9000 range, which had been strictly a 5-door hatch until this time. The 9000CD came in a turbocharged form only, but came quipped with Saab’s new Direct Ignition unit on the engine.

If Ebay were around back then I’m sure they would have started trading DI units in quick time πŸ˜‰

1988 also saw the first Saab Talladega models in commemoration of The Long Run, two years previous.



MY1989: There were a number of tweaks during 1989, but nothing bigger than the introduction of elecrically adjustable seats. Well, nothing bigger than that in my eyes, at least. I love electric seats.


MY1990: The big news in 1990 was the debit of Saab’s 2.3 litre 4-cylinder engine. For this model year it came as a normally aspirated engine producing 150hp and 212N of torque.

The 2.0 litre engine received a new turbocharger, lifting its rating to 185hp. The 9000 Turbo also received some new wheels and body kit bits for a special edition in England and other parts known as the Carlsson. Other markets had a similarly equipped car still under the Talladega moniker.


MY1991: In 1991 the 2.3 litre engine released the year before also received the turbo treatment. My resources for this article indicate that there was a Saab 9000 Turbo 16S Aero available in this model year, however I’ve never come across one before so I’d have to guess it was for limited markets.

The turbocharged 2.3 litre produced a full 220hp and 330Nm of torque.

The front of the 5-door model changed slightly, receiving the same slightly slanted front-end as the 4-door model.


MY1992: This new model year saw the revision of the 5-door model in the form of the 9000CS. The 9000CS had a much lower dipping front area and a new rear section as well.


Other developments for this year included Saab being the first company to offer CFC-free air conditioning.

Spring 1992 also saw the first production of the 9000 Griffin, a luxury 4-door model with “all conceivable extras”.


MY1993: Model names were standardised across all markets to CS/CSE and CD/CDE. A more basic 9000CC was also available in limited markets. The Griffin was once again the range-topper and was offered with optional, factory fitted wool upholstery.

Trionic also debuted during 1993, but by far the biggest debut of them all was the Saab 9000 Aero at the Paris Motor Show. Producing 225hp and 350Nm of torque it’s credentials became well known as the motoring press got their hands on it. Extreme midrange acceleration was the talking point, but how about them seats….



MY1994: There were minimal developments in this year, save for the debut of the 2.3 litre light pressure engine using the light pressure turbo. This was rated at 170hp, which surprises me as we have one and with the Automatic transmission it seems slower than a wet week. But I digress….



MY1995: Saab received it’s first V6 engine in 1995, a 3.0 litre unit originating from GM and producing 210hp.


Cosmetically, the 9000CD and Griffin were given the same sloping front as the 5-door 9000CS. In addition, vehicles from 1995 also had clear glass for the front indicators (except in the US and Canada).

The Aero and V6 models also came with traction control.


MY1996: The name Ecopower is now used for all Saab’s turbocharged engines.


MY1997: This was an anniversary year, being the 50th year of Saab vehicle production.

As such, a special anniversary edition 9000 was launched with plenty of wood and leather and demand for this model was quite high.

The V6 didn’t last too long. It was not produced in MY97.

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  1. Personally I have only experience in the driving of two second hand 9000. A 9000 CD( 163 hp, 1992-1998 ) and a 9000 CSE ( 195 hp, 1998-1999 ).
    Formerly we drove three 99 ( 1973-1988, 1988-1992 Ford Sierra ).
    Regarding the qualities of all these cars we stated a remarkable progress with the 9000 line.

  2. I had a silver 9000 16S – the non-turbo- slow but smart – and yes the ergonomics of the driving seat to steering wheel/fascia were the best.

    Of note, the Saab 9000 – version of the Saab- Fiat Type 4 shared platform had a unique front-end structure – much safer than the Lancia/Fiat/Alfa versions. The German ADAC tested the Fiat Croma version at 35mph -offset test like EURONCAP. The whole front end split apart at the A pillar, sills dropped, and the firewall/fascia/steering wheel came right back into the drivers seat.

    Saab’s version was much safer and when they revised it, the back end changed because they added a massive roll hoop under the C pillar. The rear needed improvement too – but at least Saab did not let the weak- fronted version onto the market -like the Italians did.

    The only shared panel between the original versions was the roof and outer door skins.

    It might not be the purest of the Saabs’ but it is a hidden gem.

    I reckon Swade is right about the Aero seats too- the best ever.

    Here in the UK, late model 9000s fetch more than early model 9-5s….

  3. I’ve always liked the second generation much better than the first. At the time, I thought that the first generation 9000 was a lot like a Swedish Volkswagen.

    Now, I really appreciate the interior design (especially those seats) and a few of the other niceties (5-door layout, anyone?) of the 9k. I’ve considered a 9k as a third car for the EnG household just recently.

    Make mine a 2nd generation Aero, please.

  4. “This was rated at 170hp, which surprises me as we have one and with the Automatic transmission it seems slower than a wet week.”

    Try a stick shift naturally aspirated CSE with the A/C on.:D
    I could’ve gotten out and pushed it faster.
    Then I got my Aero, and it was like night and day. They may as well be completely different models of cars.

    I don’t know about any of you, but I think the 9000 is a better car than the 9-5. Don’t get me wrong, the 9-5 is a great car, but the 9000 blows it away in my opinion.

  5. Yes baby Yes!!!
    I love the 9000 series. I have owned 3 Saabs; two 9000T and a 9-5 Aero.
    It seems to be that the 900s are the favorites among most Saab people but, not with me. I have always preferred the 9000. While I like the 900SPG and the Viggen, I would never take either over the 9000T or the 9-5 Aero(the 9000 part 3)
    I glad to see thi 9000 lovin’. I am looking forward to this month’s articles on Saab sleeper.
    keep up the good work.

  6. @Matt
    “I don’t know about any of you, but I think the 9000 is a better car than the 9-5. Don’t get me wrong, the 9-5 is a great car, but the 9000 blows it away in my opinion.”

    Yes I agree that the 9-5 is magnificent car but there is something about that 9000 (second gen.)that makes me go into “lust mode” every time I see one.

  7. I had to write again. I love the 1991 9000T in dolphin grey or black. I still own one but, alas she must be put to sleep now… what a ride.
    Also the ’95 9000 Aero in black or red. Best interior of any car that year. Those seats… those seats… man those seats were soooooo HOT. I would still like to get one some day.

  8. Well, temporarily at least, I am no longer 1/2 way around the world from Swade, but only 3/10ths, vacationing in Hawaii.

    And a lovely week we’re having here on the Big Island. But fitting in with the month’s theme, I have only seen one Saab, an early 9000 non-turbo.

    Imagine my surprise to see my old 9000 turbo highlighted on my infrequent internet visits while on vacation.

    I believe that the 1986-89 9000 turbo’s are the only Saabs ever to make Car & Driver’s “10Best” list.

    Aloha πŸ™‚

  9. “I am no longer 1/2 way around the world from Swade, but only 3/10ths.”

    LOL! This just caught me as funny. Making a distinction about such distances seems rather Python-esque.

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