By on August 13, 2015

saab-900 the real thing

So I’m driving along the other day and I notice a badge on the tailgate of the latest Lincoln Navigator that says “EcoBoost.”

That’s right, folks: the giant, bold, shout-out-loud Lincoln Navigator is now using an EcoBoost engine. The V-8 is gone. The big, brawny, “look at me” V-8 rumble has disappeared. Lincoln has now dropped that stuff in favor of turbocharging.

It would be one thing if it were the MKZ, which is a midsize sedan that looks sort of like a woman’s shoe turned upside down. That thing is turbocharged, and nobody really seems to care. It’s just another car, in a sea of cars, looking to eek out the best possible fuel economy.

But the Navigator! The giant, truck-like Navigator. Lincoln’s answer to the Cadillac Escalade, even though it debuted before there was a Cadillac Escalade. The huge flagship model of the Lincoln lineup; something Lincoln drivers across the world aspire to own, from airport limousine drivers to Lincoln dealership owner spouses. It’s now turbocharged.

And, of course, the Navigator isn’t the only recent luxury car to include a turbocharger. Other turbocharged luxury cars that have debuted in modern years include, well, basically all of them. Lexus, once the champion of smooth engines with low power and big displacement, now has a turbocharged NX and IS. Mercedes has all sorts of turbos. And Audi’s entire lineup might be turbocharged, for all I know. I cannot be sure of this fact because it’s impossible to spend more than 10 minutes on the Audi website without falling asleep.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, Mercedes brought us two types of engines: naturally aspirated engines and bigger naturally aspirated engines. Lincoln and Cadillac gave us V-8s. And Lexus offered Toyota engines that inexplicably ran on premium fuel, even when the Toyota version had no problem with regular. It was a great time.

Actually, it’s a great time now, too, because turbocharged engines are kind of fun. I especially like turbocharged engines from the mid-2000s because of how they operated. First, you put your foot down. Then, you did your taxes. Then, you were launched into a hedge somewhere in the next area code.

And this brings me to the point of today’s column, which is that Saab was way ahead of its time.

Many of you think of Saab as a fledgling Swedish automaker who had just one or two distinguishable products and could only afford to redesign its vehicles every decade or so. Of course, many of you think of Volvo in the same way. But Saab was like that, too.

But Saab’s biggest unique trait — more than its three-spoke wheels, more than its hatchback designs, more than the fact that the Saab logo faded off its emblems after three weeks of driving around in regular sunlight — was turbocharged engines.

Do you remember this? Back in the 1990s and 2000s, Mercedes-Benz and BMW and Lincoln and Cadillac and Lexus and Acura were all using big ol’ naturally-aspirated engines; the kind of engine where you’d walk up to your neighbor at a party and proudly announce your displacement like you’d share your newborn daughter’s weight at birth. My Acura has a three point five, you’d say, knowing full well your neighbor’s Lexus was only a pathetic three point oh. Or: My Cadillac has a four point nine. Or: My Mercedes has a five point six.

All of these things were acceptable to say back in the day when displacement ruled the earth.

And then there was Saab, off in the corner, somehow extracting even more power than its rivals but with far less fuel engine size. Whaddya got there, a neighbor would say, proudly stroking his new 4.0-liter, V-8-powered Lexus LS400. A two point three? And then he’d run away laughing as if his great dane had just put your entire Pomeranian in its mouth and gnawed on it a bit like a corn cob.

What he didn’t know, of course, is that your puny little two-point-three had 250 horsepower, or maybe 280, a function of Saab’s basic idea at the time that by God, there are a lot of horses running around Trollhattan, and they need to be captured and stuffed inside front-wheel drive sedans. Back then, that was considered unorthodox. Weird. Strange. Odd. “A turbocharger?” people would say. “What the hell is that?”

But now…

Well, now Saab is dead. Unfortunately, its ideas live on in virtually all modern cars: turbochargers are good. Smaller engines are great. Fuel economy is nice. Aerodynamics are fun. And as I look at today’s crop of luxurious front-wheel drive two point threes and two point ohs, and turbocharged this and EcoBoost that, I can’t help but think one thing: the only thing separating these cars from a Saab is the faded emblem.

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86 Comments on “Saab Was Way Ahead Of Its Time...”


  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I dunno. There’s turbocharging and there’s turbocharging. Saab seemed to get decent fuel economy out of its boosted powerplants. Ford’s EcoBoost? Everything I’ve heard leads me to believe you can have Eco and you can have Boost. Just not at the same time. Late-model Ford owners, keep me honest here. Am I right or wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Depends on the engine and application. I’m of the mind that a few Ford products have an Ecoboost engine that is half a size too small.

      Based on my opinion:

      The 1.5T/1.6T is too small for the Fusion and Escape
      The 1.0T is too small for the Focus
      The 2.0T was too small for the Explorer/Taurus – so they bumped it to 2.3T in the Explorer
      The 2.0T is actually perfect in the FWD Edge. That seems to be the best, non performance application, of the 2.0T.

      The 3.5TT is a monster and should be in every Ford product. The 2.7TT is also a fantastic engine that needs to be in the Fusion/MKZ/MKS/Taurus and Explorer/MkT/Flex.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        +1 The low pressure turbo engines tend to a lot more fun than those relying on a lot of boost to make the power. You can make 300 hp from a blown 2 liter 4 but at the cost of lots of weak off-boost engine response.

    • 0 avatar
      jaydez

      2014 Escape 1.6 EcoBoost FWD here. I average 25 MPG with regular driving.

      My mom on the other hand has a 2015 CX-5 AWD and averages 28 MPG with normal driving.

      Only advantage the EcoBoost has is that nice flat torque curve

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      Comparing the following:

      “1st Gen” 06 Ford Five Hundred, NA 3.0
      “2nd Gen” 08 Ford Taurus, NA 3.5
      “3rd Gen” 13 Lincoln MKS EB 3.5

      The 3.0 powertrain is bested by both in fuel economy and power. Long-running average around 22.5 mpg mixed in my old Five Hundred. On the same workload, I see a long running average around 25-26 mpg with either newer car. The EB feels a whole lot better with premium fuel and full synthetic oil, but no MPG measurement difference that’s obvious on regular.

      The MKS EB 3.5 out of the SHO is an absolute screamer; if they could have taken 600 lbs. out of that car, that would have been a force.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      “Everything I’ve heard leads me to believe you can have Eco and you can have Boost. Just not at the same time.”

      Well, yeah, there’s no free lunch. You want power, you gotta burn gas. The idea is that normally you don’t need all that power, but it’s there if you need it. If you insist on treating every stop light like a drag strip, you’re going to be OPEC’s BFF. Someone who buys a turbo, drives it like he stole it, then complains that he can’t hit the EPA numbers would be better off with a larger motor. But that option is becoming pretty rare these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        This is the answer. If you constantly drive a turbo car with your foot in it, then you will save no fuel because you’re always at peak output. But if the boost is used conservatively, then you should save fuel because average engine output is reduced. Fuel is burned by output, not by displacement.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Ironically, turbos seem best suited to drivers like me who but for the occasional on-ramp panic never, ever put their foot in it.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            As is true with a hybrid, one can regard the turbo as a supplement that will wring more power out of a given engine. But these days, what it is usually used for is to make it easier for one to live with an engine that is less powerful during normal operation. You get the peak potential without the higher average level of consumption unless you drive it like you stole it.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “easier for one to live with an engine that is less powerful”

            I’m so easy for a less powerful engine to live with that I think I’ll categorically discount all internet juju about grenading turbos.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      Ecoboost engines get better fuel economy where it matters to Ford: on the CAFE cycle. They’re teaching to the test.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Everything I’ve heard leads me to believe you can have Eco and you can have Boost. Just not at the same time.”

      This is true. Saab’s turbocharged models had some pretty terrific (or terrifically bad) lag that would keep you off-boost (and keep you mileage reasonable). Which is fine when you realize that most people really don’t need more power than what a NA 2.0 can put out.

      Most modern turbocharged cars don’t have that lag. The bonus is in drivability; the detriment is that they use gas when you drive them like you drive a naturally-aspirated car of equivalent power.

    • 0 avatar
      j.grif

      I run an escape with the 2.0 turbo and average 25 mpg with front wheel drive, I notice very little lag with this car and the mileage is better than my wife’s saturn vie with the 3.0 v6, and smoother as well, also own a 2012 f150 with the ecoboost in a max tow pkg, no comparison to the 5.4 that preceded it, better mileage and more towing power, for me, these two engines do deliver what I think is great mileage and great power, when towing with this, it will during gas at the same rate as my v8 , when not towing better mileage.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    As both a Saab 9-3 (2T, big T) and BMW X1 owner i will say this much, whilst the bimmer has 30 extra HP and an 8 vs 5sp autobox, the Saab drivetrain is way, way superior.

    It’s a near 10 year older design yet despite very similar kerb weights an an 8 speed in the X1, they drink almost the exact same amount of fuel in city driving (X1 drinks 10% less on the freeway).

    However, it’s the feel of said powerterains that sees the gap open wide. The X1 is jerky, noisy and massively unrefined, the Saab is silky smoothe, quiet and very easy to drive.

    Quite unbelievable considering the X1 was near TWICE the price of the larger 9-3 when new.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Wow. That is a surprising verdict, considering both the age difference and who’s the respective master.

      Weren’t Saabs known to be priced above market, too. Or am I thinking of the 9000?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Yes, it is a great time for people that like turbocharged engines.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Just yesterday I was thinking… man a decade ago there were only a few turbos (Saab was still in business back then) and now every automaker has one. My parents for example are on their second turbo (Sonata, now Escape). I’ve had a turbo car since ’96 and always thought it would be a great truck engine (diesel or gas) and now you can get a turbo truck, CUV, SUV, sports car – pretty much anything. Yeah turbos!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Saab only turbocharged because they didn’t have the money to develop a new engine of sufficient power to compete with the PRV V6 and BMW 323i. BMW had been there first with the 2002Turbo, but they replaced it with M20 6-cylinder models on the E21. There really is no replacement for displacement, only compromise. Saab was screwed. Their layout didn’t give them the freedom to fit a larger engine, and their budget and lack of engineering resources kept them from making something light, efficient, powerful and compact.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Displacement is also a compromise in size, weight and efficiency to take into consideration. There are lots of factors that affect how a turbo feels, but more importantly thirty (40?) years ago turbo packaging and particularly cooling were still being developed and there were issues with wear, overheating oil/coolant and all the parts affected by boost (gaskets, rings, etc). That’s been addressed over many decades in the rest of the world (SAABs and Subarus in the US notwithstanding) to make turbos what they are today.
      In the US the general attitude to turbos is the same as diesels. Someone had or more likely heard of a bad experience in the 70s and they’re still scared.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Fear of technology runs twice as deep here, compared to almost any other auto site. That’s part of the appeal. It’s fun to laugh at the old timers (some of which may be younger than me).

        CJ, so you’re telling that Saab used turbos for the same reason that BMW and Porsche did: to get more power from an existing engine. What a revelation…

        BMW couldn’t control the power, and they didn’t offer anything with decent hp/l for another 10 years. Porsche stuck at it, but the 930 used a different fuel injection setup from the 911. Saab was the first to figure-out how to make turbo power reliable in a mass production car. They had the space for bigger engines, at least in the 9000, NG900, 9-5 and 9-3, but the people who bought those cars preferred the turbo 4s by a huge margin.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Saab didn’t have the money for a new engine. They were still using the old Triumph-based lump until GM replaced it. How do you know 9000 buyers preferred the ancient 4 to a V6 or V8 when one wasn’t offered? What was the take rate for the 4 once General Saab started offering V6s in their flagship?

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            They stopped using the iron block engine in 2002 (2003MY) on the 9-3, and 2009 on the 9-5. Not that there was anything wrong with that engine, it would still be competitive today in terms of horsepower and fuel economy, plus it was smoother than all 90 degree V6s and more narrow-angle V6s.

            The take rate for V6 Saabs can’t have been very high; they only offered V6s for a few years at a time (at GM’s pleading no doubt) and then discontinue them. Even on the used market it’s rare to find a V6 9-3 or 9-5.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        There are people having bad experiences with new turbos today. Look at the companies that stuck with turbos in volume models and you’re looking at the brands with the worst reputations for quality and reliability in the past decade.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          “Look at the companies that stuck with turbos in volume models and you’re looking at the brands with the worst reputations for quality and reliability in the past decade.”

          To be fair, that really means looking at Volkswagen, the German Engineering company that couldn’t build a working coil pack or power window either.

          I believe that VW singlehandedly did for turbochargers what the Olds V8 did for oil burners.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            VW’s NA I5 was the only engine in their lineup to achieve an average rating for reliability. I’m not saying turbos are the only reason VAG products reek, but they’re a factor.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          ” Look at the companies that stuck with turbos in volume models and you’re looking at the brands with the worst reputations for quality and reliability in the past decade.”

          So that excludes all Europeans, their volume models worldwide have been turbodiesels for decades. And Ford, and GM on the car side, and all Japanese (Kei cars are mostly turbos), and Hyundai’s been pushing their GDI Turbo a lot. What’s left? Chrysler! None of their volume engines are turbos.
          That’s not to say that Chrysler is turbo-averse. They’ve got the 1.4T, the Cummins and now the 3.0 in Rams and Jeeps, but those are arguably premium models, other than the base Renegade engine.

  • avatar
    wmba

    You need a reality check, Doug.

    Saab engines as listed by the nutballs from SaabsUnited. Not quite the horsepower you seem to think back in the 1990s.

    http://www.saabsunited.com/saab-engines

    Never had any trouble just burying my friend’s Saab turbo with my old Eagle Talon Tsi AWD. Similarly, the Saab 9-6 in 1986 couldn’t hang with a 5 speed manual Audi 5000T. Over in Europe, the Sierra Cosworth was never troubled by Saabs in the 1980s.

    Just more old wives’ tales dredged up to sit Saab on some pedestal it never deserved. Will it never go away? The navel gazers who think Saabs were some kind of super machine seem singularly uninformed on ANYthing else, preferring to believe in a race of supertrolls whose exploits in myth and legend stuck it to the man.

    And the moon is made of artisanal cheese.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Please don’t bring facts into this.

    • 0 avatar
      ZT

      The 9000 Aero had a 230 HP engine, which back in the early ’90s, was pretty decent. I guess from 40-70 MPH, the 9000 was faster than a same-period Porsche 911 Turbo, according to some magazine tests from the time and Jeremy Clarkson.

      That’s pretty good.

      Also, a SAAB 96 in 1986 was years obsolete.

      • 0 avatar
        doubleshooter

        The regular LPT 9000 with auto was good in performance when the tranny was not granading. Even the Saab mechs couldn’t fix. heard from the tech that saab auto’s last 100k and thats it. after that its rebuilding time. Sank too much money into that car than I would hoped to. but good seats though.. lol

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Bouncewell

      I owned a 9000 Aero. Alarmingly rapid vehicle. 230 hp was a blatant understatement. Bone stock Aeros will put more than that to the wheels on a dyno. If you wanted more it was a tweak away in the computer for more boost, the forged internals could easily take 20, 25, even 28 lbs. Quite a bit over the stock 15 lbs.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      The ’91 9000 Turbo 5spd with its new 2.3T was the fastest (0-60mph in 6.1s) 4door car in the world. Faster than an M5.

  • avatar
    olivebranch2006

    Wife and I just bought a new 2015 Navigator 4×4 L (long version). Comparing it to my Father’s Navigator with a v8, it has better acceleration and slightly better gas mileage. Better power curve, better mileage when you baby the pedal… Seems like a good scenario. I think we are averaging 14mpg in the city or hills. We live at 3000 feet elevation with many different grades so it is never flat. 19 or so on the freeway… All numbers are a bump up from the older v8 so we are pleased. It still doesn’t beat the mileage our 8,000 pound F250 gets with the 6.7 diesel but oh well :)

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Navi would be a perfect candidate for the 3.0L or 4.4L diesel.

      • 0 avatar
        Wolfsbane

        Or a FE 427 low riser double barrels. 425 horsepower (317 kW) at 6000 rpm and 480 lb·ft (650 N·m) at 3700 rpm

        “The Navi would be a perfect candidate for the 3.0L or 4.4L diesel.”

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Yikes! I get 16 city at 6k feet elevation in my 08′ suburban with the four sped auto. 19 on the highway. And I drive like a jerk, I might as well have some self awareness!

      Forgive me, but I am not impressed with the eco boost engine. I get better from a tired 5.3, essentially the same 327 CID motor from the 60’s with some updated electronics. I will give you that it is slow, but I suppose for a family hauler it is not trying to be a race car and behave like something it is clearly not.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        When my wife and I had a 2015 Navi for a week or so we got in the 20s for MPG. It wasn’t the L, but that shouldn’t effect it too much. The 3.5TT in the Navi is not tuned for economy. It puts out more torque than the GM 6.2L and has the highest HP of any 3.5TT application. If they threw the 2.7TT in the Navi or Expedition, it would get better MPG and still be better than ye olde 5.4L.

        • 0 avatar
          olivebranch2006

          16 city/22 hwy/18 combined mpg (Navigator 4×2) 15 city/20 hwy/17 combined mpg (Navigator L 4×2) 15 city/20 hwy/17 combined mpg (Navigator 4×4) 15 city/19 hwy/16 combined mpg (Navigator L 4×4)

          Mines a long 4×4 with 22s

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I really love the new front end on the Navigator and the Expedition. Hopefully those themes will carry over in the ’17 complete re-do.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    With regards to safety and initial push into turbocharging. Yes. But economics got the best of them and they were never able to capitalize on it like their cousin.

  • avatar
    ZT

    My wife and I have had five SAABs between us, all bought used from our teens (me with a 900S) to our twenties with a Viggen (her), a 9000 CS Turbo, then an 9-3 SE, and now a 9-5 Aero in our early 30s. We’re looking for a 9-3 Aero Sportcombi.

    I’ve always assumed that SAAB failed because it tried to go upmarket against great offerings from BMW and Audi, Acura, etc., but with rougher engines, worse QC, and problematic reliability. The cars were and are fantastic buys on the used market and especially if you can DIY repairs/maintenance, but their depreciation sucked. That doesn’t explain the allure of Land Rover, but that’s neither here nor there.

    I like the engines with their rush of boost in third-gear, but the target audience probably didn’t. Off boost with an automatic, I bet the cars were a bit dog-like. I wouldn’t know, though, cause my SAABs have all been stick-shifts. If the car doesn’t rip off the line and it costs a lot, that’s a hard sell.

  • avatar
    LUNDQIK

    Saab Owner [and Fanboy] sees article titled “Saab Was Way Ahead Of Its Time”

    *Rarely seeing Saab news on TTAC, excitedly clicks said article*

    …Realizes its another vapid clickbate Doug article.

    *Skips to comments and continues searching TTAC for new Jack articles*

    (Doug I do enjoy your writing about the experiences you have – like the Hummer or the Skyline. But these articles are the automotive equivalent of a bad Jerry Seinfeld joke. “Hey! What’s the deal with turbos?” At least they get some comments.)

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Doug, as a guy who owned pretty much every NA spec SAAB from the mid-80s to the mid-2000s versions (yep… all six models! ) let me offer the Cliffs Notes on SAAB.

    1. The early SAAB turbos were more about fuel economy than speed. This changed with the 9000 and the SPG models definitely had some solid oomph to them. But most 900 Turbos were about improving fuel economy with a low-pressure turbocharger. So your assessment on that is spot-on.

    2. Saab wasn’t even in the running when it came to turbocharger technology. SAAB turbochargers weren’t particularly bad designs. They just weren’t cutting edge for their time. Mercedes was the 800 pound gorilla as it relates to the US market from the 1970s to mid-1980s. But surprisingly Peugeot had some incredibly solid turbochargers as did BMW and Audi. Volvos were low-pressure units that helped the company extend the usability of ye olde red brick engines.

    I would argue that by the late 80s and early 90s European turbochargers were mostly about making outdated engines more competitive. Try driving an old Volvo 240 or the archaic shitbox that was a four-door Saab 900 and you’ll see what I mean.

    3. The Japanese were the aces, kings, queens, and jacks when it came to turbocharger design and longevity. They were so far ahead of everyone else that Detroit and European automakers used their components. Mitsubishi did more to improve Chrysler’s competitiveness than any other outside variable and their turbocharging technologies were a big reason for it.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Nothing wrong with a Volvo 240. I drove one daily until 2010. Never had any trouble getting on a freeway, or doing anything I wanted to do. Of course, if you know how to drive, you don’t need 600 HP to merge onto the interstate; and if you do your own repairs you learn what treating every stop light as a drag race will do for your car.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Having owned a bunch of turbo Saabs, I very much agree. The 3.0l engine in my ’11 328i is smooth and makes lovely noises, but the 2.0T in my ’08 9-3 was faster and more economical.

    Just because Ford can’t seem to get it quite right with turbos doesn’t mean the concept is bad. BMW has picked up from Saab and run with it, IMHO. Their turbo 4s and 6s are amazing in the amount of performance they achieve with stellar fuel economy.

    I do think that some makes are trying to take things too far with the really small turbo motors. The “LPT” concept of a reasonably sized motor with a low pressure turbo to bolster the torque works amazing well in the real world, but may not show as well in the artificial environment of the tests.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Is Saab really the best car company to be using in order to make the case for doing things “different” considering they went under and were an asterisk in sales in the US since they were founded?

    I like variety, I actually owned a turbocharged Saab, but I can almost guarantee you most consumers would have preferred a large displacement V6 if you drove both side by side in the same car. In Europe, I could see the tradeoff because of fuel prices, but in the US, it was a rounding error in savings and most luxury car buyers just don’t care about a few extra dollars per month spent at the pump and would prefer the V6 power band.

    And the turbo 4s of the Saabs 900s like the one pictured were putting out around 130hp. Ford at the same time in the mid eighties had 200hp turbocharged 4s in their Mustang. So I don’t know how ahead of the times they really were considering a Saab was around twice the price of a Mustang.

    Still a good looking car though

  • avatar
    Ihatejalops

    Doug bot at it again. Doug bot needs to go back to Jalopnik.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Turbos should be used for ‘sport’, not for slashing engine size and replacing lost cubes with forced cylinder pressure, for marginal fuel savings to ‘game’ CAFE or kiss up to the Europeans and the Euro car fetish.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Naah, both are valid solutions.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Where’s the benefit to consumer? All I see is downside. 10+ years down the road, it’s another big reason today’s cars will meet Mr Crusher way too soon, while otherwise perfectly good. It gotta be good for the OEMs though.’

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Turbo torque curves are better suited to the low-rev American driving style than those on most modern NA engines. Is that worth the additional complexity? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s a benefit.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            We were fine not knowing what we were missing. If drivers love the added low-end grunt too much, we’ll all be burning more fuel than before.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      I dunno, the 1.4T in my Cruze eco gets fantastic (better than EPA) gas mileage. I can wring its neck and get up to speed quickly if I have to.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    You know who else was way ahead of their time? GM and Ford.

    GM was building turbo Regals and LeSabres (yes, LeSabres) in 1978, and turbo Trans Ams a couple of years later. And Ford was pumping out turbo Mustangs in the late ’70s as well.

    As I recall, this was right after Saab got into the turbo game.

    Not sure why this wasn’t mentioned…

  • avatar
    stuki

    Their large tire circumferences and FWD layouts, in the pre Quattro/Subaru era, were vastly more brilliant than their famously laggy turbos.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Have to agree. The turbo-laggiest vehicle I’ve ever driven was an ’88 900 Turbo. In a relatively low-pressure, small-turbo application that’s quite a feat.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    We need more ’80s-style “Tᴜʀʙᴏ Cʜᴀʀɢᴇᴅ / / / ——>” graphics on turbo-equipped vehicles.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Of course Saab was ahead of its time, Europe went rotten with socialist environmentalism decades before they made it off the campuses in this country. European cars have long reflected that, in a market of displacement limits, shockingly high gas taxes, and a final exam conducted at light load on the stationary treadmill the turbocharger was and is the obvious answer.

    In our country of cheap cars, cheap gas, and expensive mechanics a turbocharger remains the question to an answer asked by no consumer ever, and if carmakers were permitted to cater to us instead of to the EPA the boosted engine would be extinct in one product cycle.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “if carmakers were permitted to cater to us instead of to the EPA the boosted engine would be extinct in one product cycle.”

      Comment.
      Of.
      The.
      Year.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        That’s totally untrue! Not really, but I wanted to reply in the same spirit of excessive assertion.

        Maybe in Ohio, displacement is the solution. But for those of us from Colorado to California, the greatest challenges to a car’s power come at altitude. My Denver-based car has lived its entire life between 5,000-11,000 feet (you can drive higher, but on a slow road). Small-plane pilots wouldn’t try to fly over the Rockies or the Sierras without a turbo engine, and I don’t want to either.

  • avatar

    Wow, my takeaway is that Saab was the best car company ever! I’m checking on used Saabs now and this article is causing a spike in prices, so please everyone, simmer down. It can be our secret.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    You just gotta know know how to milk the Saab’s turbo. I took a jaunt up to Austin this weekend and unexpectedly took my 9-3 convertible (wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for shifting and no XM…). It’s been a while since I had it on a roadtrip and I’m so glad I did. Cruising along at 85-90 (this is Texas) I got 29-30 mpg average.

    The return trip on Sunday I detoured through Bastrop and Buescher State Parks to view the renewal (natural and man-assisted) from the devastating wildfires in 2011, where 23,000 acres burned. It was a gorgeous ride through the woods and then back home. God I love that car.

    Saabs and Volvos had very distinct markets and character traits to themselves back in the day. Saab is gone, and Volvo is…well let me just say the day they return to squared Mennonite mobiles the sooner they’ll perk up in the market. I thought the C30 was a great start in that direct (expressive artisan types), but they’ve recommitted to getting the left over crumbs from the adult table. Too bad.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Who is trying to kid whom? Those old SAABs were comical. You put your foot in them and then checked your watch to measure the turbo lag. Once the turbos kicked in you hung on for life to control the torque steer.

    At one point SAAB advertised their product as being like a fighter jet. Maybe so. The turbo lag was remindful of the lag on the old Concorde when it got over the Channel and kicked in its afterburners. First the noise, then seconds later being forced back in your seat. The torque steer equates, I suppose, to what a fighter jet pilot experienced.

  • avatar
    Sob93

    Day late and a dollar short but…… fell in love with turbos after my 1984 Riviera 3.8 T-Type. Hauling that big heavy assed car in great style and my 04 9-3 is a cat quick joy. I would somewhat credit Saab with putting GM on the new expanded turbo track but they need to refine their 4 bangers. Recently test drove a 2015 turbo Terrain and it sounded like the engine was in the dash board, deal breaker. Saab, borne from jets-killed by ass holes.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    You either get it or you don’t.

    All I know is, my ’04 9-5 Aero was brutally fast. The mid-range turbo shove was exhilarating, and in all other ways that car was a blast to drive.

    I miss it terribly.

    • 0 avatar
      Nedmundo

      Amen to that! I had a 2001 9-5 Aero with 5MT, and with all that midrange torque and excellent steering, it simply OWNED the highway. I think the engine must have been underrated. Yes, it had some turbo lag, but I bought the Saab/Borla sport exhaust, which reduced lag while increasing punch and fuel economy. The Aero had its flaws, but I also miss mine, and wish I could find something with a similar personality and blend of virtues today. (But with better reliability!) The Focus ST reminds me of Saabs in some ways, but is more like a 9-3 hatch.

      For some perspective on Saab’s excellent blend of performance and economy, consider my Aero’s replacement, a 2010 Acura TSX with 6MT. It has considerably less hp and torque and weighs a few hundred pounds less, yet gets WORSE fuel economy on the highway, mostly because the torqueless NA motor cruises at much higher RPM — which partly explains why BMW, Ford, and everyone else has gone turbo. With all the torque, cruising RPM drops considerably, so highway fuel economy goes up. It’s the same reason the Corvette has respectable highway mileage.

  • avatar
    bkrell

    I miss my 9-5’s interior. It was a comfy cruiser. I miss all the little quirks of my 900 SET. I don’t miss fears of being stranded on the side of the road b/c I’ve already used my spare DI cassette and don’t want to spend $300 on another one to keep in the trunk. Six years after trading off my 9-5, I still refuse to throw out my last good DI cassette, for fear I may need it someday.

  • avatar
    PolestarBlueCobalt

    As an owner of a 2002 Saab 9-3 Viggen and a 9000 Aero, not only were they turbochraged, they had direct injection as a mainstream thing in the early 90’s. Don’t mention Trionic either, because that was ahead of it’s time as well.

    The Viggen is showing 26-27mpg on the computer right now. 80% city/20%hwy. It could be a lot better if I stayed out of boost–but how could I? It never gets old. That split second of “I just nailed it-why am I not going anywhere” and then you get thrown back into your (Supremely comfortable) seat and a huge smile emerges on your face. You could tell they would not budge to GM’s rebadging strategy, and that is why they are gone. Ever part on that car is 100% quality.

  • avatar
    melvin360

    This article said little as far as a decent point. And the fact that people would get around and talk about the displacement of their luxury cars seems highly debatable to me.

  • avatar
    Wolfsbane

    No, you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t mention displacement. You’d say it’s a turbo. Blown. Like your wife, girlfriend won’t do for you. Especially if he’s a tool. That would shut him up and wipe the smile off his face.

    “Whaddya got there, a neighbor would say, proudly stroking his new 4.0-liter, V-8-powered Lexus LS400. A two point three? And then he’d run away laughing as if his great dane had just put your entire Pomeranian in its mouth and gnawed on it a bit like a corn cob.”

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