The Saab 900 is a D-segment or compact executive car with a front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout. It went in production for two generations from 1978 until 1998, preceded by Saab 99 and succeeded by Saab 9-3. The 900 received numerous rewards throughout production, including Best Buy, Top Ten Sports Cars, Car of the Year, Best New Car, and Design of the Year.
The First Generation (1978-1994)
Commonly known as the Classic, the first generation had numerous design choices which made it distinct from the competition, including a longitudinally-mounted and 45-degree slanted inline-four B-engine, which delivered power from the crank at the front, opposite of conventional mounting. Transmission could be characterised as a transaxle fitted to the bottom of the engine and forming the oil pan, resulting in power coming from the front, then going down and back to the transmission. Unlike the Mini, which had the same layout, the transmission had a separate sump for engine oil on the Classic. It was available as a two-door convertible, a two-door or four-door sedan, and a three-door or five-door liftback/hatchback.
The design choices lifted inspiration from the aircraft heritage of the company, best seen in the deeply-curved windshield that offered maximum visibility to the driver. It also displayed a curved, user-friendly dashboard with well-placed gauges and controls, designed based on the frequency of use and the importance to keep the driver’s eyes on the road for as much time as possible. The same logic placed the radio high on the dashboard.
The engine was limited to a 2.0L (1985cc) B201 block which had a wide range of tunings, namely:
- single-carburettor producing 74kW
- dual-carburettor producing 79kW
- turbo producing 107kW
- intercooled turbo producing up to 114kW
- 16-valve turbo producing up to 129kW
- Naturally-aspirated 16-valve producing up to 96kW
- 16-valve low-pressure turbo producing up to 107kW
From 1991 to 1993, a 2.1L (2119cc) B212 naturally-aspirated engine was available, producing 100kW.
A facelift in 1987 brought updates to the grille, front sidelights, headlights, and bumpers. It introduced brake and wheel hubs, front-wheel parking brakes, and a better performing 16-valve version. Turbo models came with ABS as standard equipment.
Limited edition models:
- 900 GLi Gold: Available in the UK in 1981 as the first 4-door saloons, with velour interior in either blue or black with gold pinstripes as well as twin air vent hood.
- 900 Tjugofem: Tjugofem is a word for 25 in Swedish. The Swedish car manufacturer produced it in 300 units to celebrate its 25 years on the UK market. It had a 2.0L 8v engine with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and interior updates.
- 900c: Manufactured in Finland, this model used an 8v B201 engine with a single carburettor that had a power output of 77kW and included power steering as standard.
- 900 Aero or 900SPG: High-performance variant named Aero in Europe or SPG in North America used a 16v turbocharged petrol engine which produced 119kW (160hp).
- 900 SE: the luxury upgrade to the standard model, which featured multi-spoke alloys, full electrics, leather seats in grey, wood effects as standard, and Iridium Blue paint job with blue pinstripes on the sides. The original limited run consisted of 300 units but later expanded with the non-numerated units.
Other editions include 900 Lux, 900 EP, 900 CD, 900 Springtime in Sweden, 900 Enduro, 900 Carlsson, 1993 & 1994 Commemorative Edition, 900 Ruby and Swedish Special Edition.
The Second Generation (1994-1998)
The ‘New’ or NG900 (NG is short for New Generation) was based on the GM2900 platform. Instead of a facelift, it received over 1,100 improvements. Saab rebranded it as the succeeding Saab 9-3, which it produced until 2002 in the NG900 configuration.
The NG900 came in three-door and five-door hatchback variants, as well as a two-door convertible. The model choices included 900i I4 Non-turbo, S I4 Non-turbo, and the SE, I4 or V6 turbo. Depending on the market, the options included 2.0L or 2.3L 16v DOHC SAAB engines, naturally-aspirated or turbocharged (2.0L only), and 2.5L GM’s V6 engine.
Saab Trionic 5 with Direct Ignition and Automatic Performance Control managed turbocharged engines, while the naturally-aspirated models used Bosch Motronic fuel injection. Unlike the Classic, the NG900 had a common transversely-mounted engine.
Turbo variants came with an optional Sensonic clutch variant, a system that automatically handled gear changes, resulting in a configuration that had a manual gear lever but not the clutch pedal.
The Saab Information Display (or SID) provided the driver with real-time information, including fuel efficiency and temperature. It controlled vehicle components, such as audible warnings and horn. Night panel allowed the driver to dim the non-vital details on display, leaving only the essentials. SID could activate the dimmed information if it required the driver’s immediate attention, such as an alarming speed increase or low fuel reserve.
900i was a cheaper alternative to the S and SE models. It was available in Europe, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand with a choice of 2.0 or 2.3L engine. It had poor sales in Australia, where the luxurious models were more popular with the consumers.
Limited edition models:
- R900: produced in Germany in 1996 as a civil version of the Group A Saab, limited to 200 units, based on the 900SE Coupe, with mostly cosmetic changes
- SUN Beach: made in Switzerland in 1996/1997 by RINSPEED for the Swiss-imported Scancars, in only 70 pieces, based on the 900SE convertible and featured mostly cosmetic changes
- Aero: manufactured by SIDAUTO dealership in Italy in 1996/1997, with the exact number produced unknown but speculated to be 200 or less, based on the 900 SE and featured a sporty suspension and cosmetic changes
- Mellow Yellow: produced in Europe in 1997, in 350 yellow NG900 convertibles, with 32 shipped to the US; Rinspeed converted 210 units, with all of them featuring only cosmetic changes
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Author: Luka Kusic