Norm's Car Review: Saab 9000 Turbo


Back in the day, I wrote about my 10 Best Performance Bargains. Since that time, I have owned two of them: the 300zx, and more recently, the Saab 9000 Turbo, specifically a '94 9000 CSE Turbo.

In the pic, you can see the car, and what killed it: a little old lady in a Prius speeding for a green light and hitting the front of my car. Sadly, I did not do my civic duty and take a Prius off the road. It will go down as one of the greatest failures of my life.

First, let me tell you that the rated 200hp is a complete lie. It has much more than that. I would estimate 230hp or so, a number backed up by a lot of owners and Saab insiders. You have to remember the time and context: back in '94, 200hp was a lot, and Saab was trying to sell the car as a luxury car as well as performance vehicle, while the range-topping Aero was given a higher hp rating. So they lied. And that's a good thing. This thing is a Rumpelstiltskinian sleeper.

The damn thing is fast. Granted, with front wheel drive, you get some torque steer, but it handles well too. I could take corners with this car at speeds which many modern cars would blush at. Remember that the car (due to '94 safety equipment) is light, only just over 3000lbs, which for a car this size is great. The 5spd manual is smooth and quick to shift, the clutch well balanced, the pedals well placed.

In terms of usefulness? The hatchback is amazing. What the hell is every other car company and Saab today doing not building sedans with hatchbacks? Do they weight too much? Do they cost too mcuh to build? I just don't understand it. It makes owning a sedan so much more useful. Fold down the rear seats and you basically have a Saab-camino.

Lets run through the stats: 230hp, 5spd manual, high 20's mpgs, 3100lbs, lots of interior volume. And the gadgets? Tons of them. Trip computer with everything a brand new car would have. Climate control. Leather interior (with a fallen down headliner usually...). Competitive in '94? Hell yes. Competitive in 2011? Actually, yes.

Long story short, if you have one in good shape, keep it. If you can find a nice one, buy it. If you have never driven one, drive it.

Sadly, Saab has made almost no progess since this time. I was just looking at and test drove the new Saab 9-5, which is quite a nice car. The base car is the only one which comes with a manual. 220hp, 3400lbs, 27mpg, trip computer, decent dashboard, good but not amazing handling, FWD... and no hatchback. The 9-5 could have been a strong competitor to the 5-series and A6. Instead, it is nice alternative to the A4 or a Volvo. Too bad, because it could have been so much more.

I did just buy a new Saab 9-3 2.0T, which I really like, but more on that another time.

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