The Saab 9000 came into production in 1984 and lasted until 1997. It was designed by the Swedish car manufacture to fill the executive car market and was eventually replaced by the Saab 9-5. It was designed as a five-door hatchback initially, with a later CD sedan version released in 1988. This was a little more aerodynamic at the front but retained many of the styling elements of the original 9000 concept.
The shape came about from a collaboration between Saab, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Lancia, each producing their own car from the basic platform. The 9000 series saw Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and Saab designer Bjorn Envall working together. It is also said that Envall based the 9000’s car seats around ones he saw on The Muppet Show.
The first designs were given a finishing off in 1988 with the introduction of the CD. The sharp edges of the body were smoothed out, and the headlights and grille were given a softer look. There were changes in engine size, transmission, and ignition switches in the intervening years but the major alterations came in 1993 with the ‘Aero.’ At this time, matching body and bumpers were brought in, as well as heated seating and other technological innovations.
The 9000s that were produced in the 1990s still had a boxy, angular shape, and Saab defied the convention at the time for redesigning cars with a more rounded, curvy feel. This did give the 9000 a slightly dated look in comparison to its rivals, but its body shape was a durable strong design.
In 1992, they released a remodelled hatchback, the 9000 CS, which featured a narrower grille, new headlights, a dipping nose, and redesigned rear end.
The first 9000s were powered by 2.0L DOHV water-cooled engines that produced 130kW of power. These were changed for naturally aspirated 2.0L engines that were capable of 95kW. Later in the models evolution, the 9000s were available with 2.3L DOHV injection, a distinct power advantage over their rivals’ engines at the time. All the 9000s were front-wheel drive and fitted with either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearboxes. In 1996, the Saab EcoPower engines became standard and were fitted across the ranges; this gave the Saab 9000 some credible green credentials very early on.
The 2.3 CDi kicked out some 110kW of power and had a torque rating of 212Nm. The engine could take the car from a standing start to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds and had an average fuel consumption rate of 10.7L/100km.
Safety features included ABS and electronically activated pre-tensioned seatbelts, along with the redesigning of the shape for better crash protection.
Saab cars always came well-equipped, and the 9000 series was no exception. As a part of the standard package, things like powered steering, powered and heat mirrors, alloy wheels, air-con, cruise control, quality adjustable, heated bucket seats, radio/cassette with 8 speakers, tinted windows, and a driver’s airbag were included.
The options around 1993 included traction control, front fog lights, leather upholstery, and a powered sunroof. By the late 1990s, they were installing CD players, memory seats, powered moonroof, remote keyless entry, telescoping steering, trip computer, front fog lights, rear window wipers, and leather interiors as standard on many models.
Many of the options choices came in the way of engine size, power output, and transmission choice. Most of the cars’ interiors came with a great list of buttons, knobs, and gadgets with which to play. Even the entry-level CS model saw plenty of equipment listed as standard that were options on many rivals.
The Saab 9000, as any car manufacturer competing in the luxury car market, came up against the Mercedes Benz 318i and BMW180E, while the Swedish indifference to body shape and fashion trends means the Saab 9000 looks a little out-dated and did even when new. It does, however, provide a great performing car that matches its rivals, and it is fun and enjoyable to drive.
It handles and holds the road better than the likes of the Nissan Maxima, Volvo 8, Honda Accord, Toyota Cressida Grande, and Audi A4, and it is a well-equipped car for the period. If well maintained, it will be a reliable car but uncared for, it may cost a bit in repairs and replacement parts.
The Swedish car-making mantra of safety, reliability, and well-equipped fits perfectly to the 9000s. They are not designed to set the car fashionistas talking but are a good, sturdy, well-made car. They have the capacity to hold plenty and provide comfortable space for all occupants. What more do you need?