Seeing Saab In a Entire New Means

From the October 1977 situation of Automotive and Driver.

You may’t belief automobile firms today. A few of them have completely no re­spect for custom. The topic of this highway take a look at is an ideal working example. All we did was flip our backs for a couple of minutes, and Saab jumped out of its pigeonhole.

All people knew the well-built Swede; stout of bumper and roof helps, it was the right automobile to have in the event you had been plan­ning a few endos in your summer time trip. At one time, the corporate even went as far as to make a particular pitch to this form of driver with an advert that confirmed a 99 being dropped on its roof. The automobile was so robust the touchdown barely scratched the paint. Such is the stuff of legends—boring legends, principally.

And the identical applies to the electrical bun-­hotter seat and the side-window defrost­ers and the slush-deflecting mud flaps and the thigh-high floor clearance that retains you from being high-centered on a snow­financial institution. Saabs are made in Sweden, the place the snow generally comes as much as your ear­lobes, and no one reckons that to be an excuse for staying dwelling. In the event you reside in Bemidji, Minnesota, nothing extra must be stated. You simply signal the order type and be completed with it. However, in the event you reside a lot south of there and are like most folk, you do not signal the order type and are simply as completed with it. As a result of all people is aware of that Saabs are nice for chilly weath­er, however based on standard knowledge, not a lot else.

So it comes as one thing of a shock to all of us to find that secure, sane, snow­-proof Saab now has fetched up a mannequin that’ll get second-gear rubber and double the double-nickel any day of the week. Who is aware of? Possibly the regulation of gravity will likely be repealed subsequent.

We’re talking right here of the Saab Turbo. By no means thoughts that it appears like a joke, proper up there with Henry J Turbo on the snort meter. Do not be embarrassed. Go forward and indulge your self. It is not like laughing at a cripple. Saabs can take it. And once you get all completed cracking Saab jokes, you will discover the one factor that’s much more enjoyable is driving Saabs. They’re nice, good-na­tured vehicles, as strong because the Swedes who construct them, and true, rugged individualists in a market of me-too vehicles.

The Turbo just isn’t a radically totally different Saab. It’s noticeably totally different in the way in which it acts, to make sure, however principally it is only a higher Saab. Earlier than 1975, the Saab 99 was simply one other household hauler, heavy on passenger area and really mild on driving enjoyable. However for 1975 the two-liter engine was upgraded to the Bosch Ok-Jetronic gas injection. This, together with a cautious job of valve-train and ignition tuning, uncovered a mom lode of horsepower within the single-overhead-cam, four-cylinder engine. On the identical time, throttle response was improved to the purpose of being one of the best of any emissions-­managed engine wherever. And to finish the package deal, Saab redesigned the transmission and the shift linkage. The gearbox and differential are effectively ahead of the passenger compartment so a really lengthy shift linkage is required. In lots of vehicles—the Porsche 911, for examination­ple—this lengthy distance is sufficient to hold the transmission from ever getting a transparent message from the driving force, however it’s no trouble within the Saab. The shifting is as correct and positive as it might be if the lever poked proper out of the highest of the field. So with simply these few adjustments, the Saab 99 went from a rath­er environment friendly dullard to a glowing carry out­er. It abruptly grew to become one of many neatest manual-transmission vehicles round. The en­gine would provide you with revs once you or­dered them. No ready. And the shifter would lower a brand new gear as quick as your hand might transfer. Mustangs and Monzas could not handle that, Fiats felt like that they had millstones for flywheels, and even BMWs had been hard-pressed. So the Saab moved proper well into the small circle of hero vehicles.

And yearly since then, the automobile will get somewhat higher. The steering will get simpler, the upholstery is plusher, and infrequently there’s a spring charge or shock-absorber change. Nonetheless, there’s little or no which you could level out with absolute authority as brand-new. However yearly the brand new fashions really feel higher. The physique appears extra strong and extra rat­tle-free, the trim is anchored on a bit tight­er, all of the buttons and levers appear extra predictable of their motions.

Because the stuff of legends, the previous 99 Wagonback’s mud flaps, bun heaters, and endo-resistant construction pale earlier than the horsepower of the Turbo.

Whereas the upright and stolid exterior form encourages jokes, there’s actually nothing in any respect that’s humorous a few Saab. Fairly the opposite, it is likely one of the most critical vehicles round. There aren’t any market­ing gimmicks. You will not discover digital clocks or climate eyes in residence on the dashboard. No jewelry-tooled filigree moldings or imitation hand-stitched pad­ding will meet your gaze. And there’s not a sq. centimeter of brocade to simulate class. There may be solely gear: levers to regulate the peak and rake of the entrance seats (along with the standard fore-and-aft and backrest angle changes), levers to fold down the rear seat for extra cargo area, levers to control air flow movement and a storage bin on high of the sprint the place it’s simple to succeed in. And never least, probably the most handy three-point security belt of any automobile in the marketplace. That is a Saab for you, operate as an alternative of flash.

And that angle, greater than anything, explains the turbocharger. What guess­ter strategy to mix efficiency and effi­ciency beneath the identical hood? Saab’s turbo set up provides extra pleasure per greenback (by no means thoughts that the value is but to be an­nounced) than another in the marketplace just because it has so some ways of inform­ing you that it’s there. First off, you may see it. The turbo itself is up there in the fitting entrance nook of the engine compartment. All you need to do is peer in over the fender and there it’s. Porsche buried the one within the Turbo Carrera beneath a lot sheetmetal you need to crawl beneath the automobile to see it, and Buick’s turbo is so hidden by pipes and hoses that what you do see seems extra like an EGR valve. However Saab’s engi­neers, bless these Swedish elementalists, have positioned the turbo and all of its valves and piping proper out in plain sight in your viewing pleasure.

You can also hear it. Throughout straight and degree driving, it makes no extra noise than the battery, however once you toe into the ability anytime above 2500 rpm, you will hear a small whistle. It is not very loud. In all probability your passengers will not even no­tice it. However it rises in pitch in a short time because the compressor velocity builds up, and falls simply as quickly in the event you elevate out of the ability. In case your foot is agile, you might in all probability even play a tune with it.

After all, you may also really feel the turbo when it goes to work. It comes on with a good rush, not very like the slam of a Tur­bo Carrera however a mighty exhilarating push nonetheless. Most torque is 160 pound-feet at 3500 rpm, a quantity you’d by no means get from a streetable two-liter that was usually aspirated. Energy peaks at 5000 rpm with 135 SAE internet horsepower, up 25 hp at 500 much less revs—and that too is a gen­erous determine for a two-liter.

Saab has chosen a slightly uncommon approach of controlling enhance strain. The AiRe­search turbocharger has a built-in waste­gate to bypass exhaust movement across the tur­bine when a predetermined strain is reached. To this point, that is completely regular. However Saab differs from Buick and Porsche in that the wastegate senses exhaust mani­fold again strain. Though the others enhance as much as a predetermined consumption mani­fold strain after which maintain that degree all the way in which to the redline, Saab boosts as much as a given exhaust again strain after which holds it to the redline.

The 2 strategies produce far totally different energy curves. The Porsche-Buick technique tends towards a really degree torque curve from the purpose of most enhance on as much as the redline. On the identical time, the ability curve rises steadily, and the automobile appears to speed up higher and higher because it ap­proaches the redline. The Saab motor, however, seems like a standard engine, solely stronger. The torque curve is tender beneath 1500 rpm, rises abruptly between 2000 and 3000, then drops off after 3500 a lot as a standard engine would. So the output may be very robust within the midrange however fades no­ticeably within the higher reaches.

Saab spokesmen say that their fixed­-exhaust-pressure system lends itself extra readily to emissions management. The engine is provided with a three-way catalyst and suggestions sensor—the identical Bosch system that is called Lambda Sond in Vol­vos—and the constant-exhaust-pressure system blows much less scorching exhaust fuel via the catalyst at excessive engine speeds than the extra traditional constant-intake-pressure ar­rangement. Due to this elaborate emis­sions-control gadget, the Turbo will move each federal and California necessities and is meant to function on unleaded reg­ular gasoline.

In comparison with a usually aspirated Saab—a 1977 California mannequin with the identical emissions-control gear—the Turbo is far faster, clearing the quar­ter-mile in 17.5 seconds at 81.9 mph, for an enchancment of 0.5 seconds and eight.9 mph. The Turbo’s 110-mph high velocity can also be higher by three mph. And that is ac­complished towards the handicap of substances ratios within the transmission which have been lengthened by about eleven p.c. (Additionally, the Wagonback take a look at automobile is 159 kilos heavier than the two-door sedan, examined.) Truly, longer ratios work effectively in turbo­charged vehicles. The additional torque greater than offsets the change in gear ratios so acceler­ation is improved, however the brand new ratios im­show gas economic system and engine noise degree throughout regular driving.

Turbochargers additionally settle into the har­ness higher once they have a protracted gear to drag towards. It’s because the velocity of the compressor—and subsequently the quantity of enhance—relies upon totally upon the vol­ume of exhaust fuel flowing via the turbine. Throughout regular driving, when the throttle is simply cracked open, there’s little or no movement, so the compressor idles very like a pinwheel in a faint breeze. However once you open the throttle vast for extra energy, exhaust movement will increase, which then drives the compressor quick sufficient to make enhance. However this speeding-up course of takes time, and it’s this delay that is called turbo lag. With a manual-transmission automobile, you undergo a lag cycle each time you elevate off the fuel to shift, which signifies that the ability is a bit tender for the primary second or so after you interact the following larger gear. And it follows that in case you have a really shut ratio five-speed mated to a typical turbo engine, you could be working within the tender zones sufficient of the time to truly decelerate the acceleration course of though you theoretically have practically superb ratios more often than not. Porsche feels the identical approach and makes use of solely a four-speed transmission with the Turbo Carrera.

Clues to the Saab’s identification aren’t laborious to search out. The enhance gauge and turbo are in plain sight.

As a result of turbochargers function on ex­haust-gas movement, at very low engine speeds there won’t be any enhance just because the engine does not produce sufficient exhaust fuel to run the compressor. This has noth­ing to do with turbo lag. For instance, in the event you give the Saab full throttle at 1000 rpm, it accelerates purely as a usually aspirat­ed engine. There is no such thing as a enhance in anyway. And no lag. Only a scarcity of exhaust fuel. However by the point you attain 1500 rpm, the exhaust movement has elevated sufficient to professional­duce a slight enhance. And from there as much as about 3500 rpm, the enhance climbs in direct proportion to engine velocity.

This mixture of turbo lag and mini­mum engine velocity needed for enhance makes a turbo automobile difficult to drive in site visitors. The Saab is so clean and relaxed that there’s a nice temptation to get it up into third gear as quickly because it reaches strolling velocity and ease on down the road. However you may actually catch it flatfooted that approach too. You see a gap you need, nail the throttle and intention for it—and nothing hap­pens. The tach reveals 1300 revs, and the fantastic turbo motor remains to be asleep.

Preserving it awake requires somewhat dexter­ity with the foot pedals. You must hold the revs up, not less than to 2500 for greatest outcomes. And you have to plan forward. Search for these openings upfront. Simply earlier than you pounce, you may crank up the turbo by rid­ing the brake a bit and holding the throttle open to keep up velocity. If in case you have sufficient eyes to look at site visitors and the enhance gauge too, you will discover the needle transfer as much as the optimistic strain space—or not less than much less unfavourable in the event you’re operating at low revs. And in case your ears are clear, you will hear that whistle. Then once you take your foot off the brake and open the throttle farther, you get that big-motor lunge. Individuals who wish to drive alongside half asleep do not like turbo motors because of this. An excessive amount of work. However for the driving force who’s prepared to concentrate, the turbo provides not solely an unbeatable mixture of efficiency and economic system; it additionally pays dividends in your crafty methods.

Saab expects to have manufacturing Turbos on the market on this nation in January. At this level, the plan is to supply the engine in each the common two-door EMS physique and within the three-door Wagonback. The take a look at automobile was one among 100 pre-production Turbos that Saab constructed as trial balloons to check each public response and sturdiness within the palms of non-factory drivers. For probably the most half, the Turbo has the identical gear—forged­-alloy wheels, 175/70HR-15 tires, entrance spoiler, and Bilstein shocks—that’s stan­dard on the EMS. Two additions are an consumption air scoop on the fitting facet of the spoiler and an oil cooler on the left.

Regardless of all of the uplifting of Saab’s picture in the previous few years and the truth that now you can purchase a high-technology turbo mo­tor proper from the manufacturing facility, Saabs are nonetheless a good distance from being your regular vehicles. We had been reminded of that simply yesterday when one of many attendants within the Pink Ball Ga­rage delivered the Turbo to the bottom ground for us. He eased it again off the eleva­tor, discovered first gear and, with a chirp from the entrance tires, aimed it for the entrance door. These guys transfer so many vehicles every single day that they have the supply down to at least one clean movement. Simply earlier than he got here to a cease he pushed the lever into impartial, pulled up the parking brake and turned to open the door in a transfer that might have had one foot within the floor simply because the automobile stopped rolling. However the door did not open. As a substitute, there was a form of annoyed scratching sound on the interior door panel adopted by a rolling skyward of his eye­balls. He could not discover the door deal with.

No one finds the within door deal with of a Saab on the primary 5 tries. Saabs are differ­ent. That is half their appeal. The opposite half, after all, is that they work.

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May or not it’s that Saab does not wish to be Swedish anymore? That the stolid, custom­al Scandinavian virtues of rationality and predictable accountability are not crit­ical components in each product resolution? The agency has its sights on a courageous new picture, and the revised recipe requires a BMW-like mix of technological refinement, advertising bra­vado, and quick vehicles. Saab’s promoting has been beating this drum for the final yr. With the debut of the Turbo, nonetheless, be ready for a full marching band.

And rightly so. The brand new Saab Turbo is a real efficiency automobile: robust, supple, good off the road, quick via the corners, whisper clean, and lovingly screwed to­gether. Pace comes so effortlessly that the one strategy to keep out of site visitors court docket is to drive your self to verify the speedo each 30 seconds—and I can promise what you discover there’ll delight you. —David Abrahamson

Years in the past I obtained taken with Saabs due to their engines—in these days, two-stroke, three-cylinder affairs completely suited to the calls for of sidecar racing. With time, although, the remainder of the automobile advanced ample­ly to seize the world’s consideration, and the powerplants grew to become extra mundane. However now they’ve given us a pleasant blower-mo­tor, and as soon as once more I am fully beguiled by the quirky, paradox-laden Swedish automobile. As a result of the Saab Turbo just isn’t solely fast, it is also a real Fourth-of-July driving ex­perience, filled with sudden pleasures and excessive spirits as you battle to maintain the revs and enhance up, twist the thick leather-based wheel laborious to attenuate torque steer, and take heed to the tires howling like demons. They’ve all been com­petent machines, however this newest Saab has an enormous dose of that new-old magic. And who is aware of? Possibly the turbo motor would make a superb sidecar engine. —Steve Thompson

The relative youth of my associates right here at Automotive and Driver has led a few of them to the mistaken conclusion that Saabs solely not too long ago grew to become good vehicles. They are often forgiven their youth, however not their ignorance. Saabs have at all times been good vehicles. I noticed my first one in 1953, drove my first one in 1957, noticed Eric Carlsson drive one in 1960, and I’m right here to inform you that Saab did not want a tur­bocharger to go quick. Nevertheless, the addition of a turbocharger to the already-spectacular Lambda Guard engine is totally guaran­teed to make your eyes bug out. It is a rocker, pal, and also you’d greatest be carrying your shorts and sneakers if you are going to attempt to sustain with it. One heroic blast down the freeway is sufficient to convert anyone. With out prior information of the Saab energy­plant’s configuration, the common keen-type would not know what on the planet he had maintain of. It is clean, quiet, and fast. It’d wind proper off the clock with out the 5700-rpm rev limiter, and it would be weeks earlier than the chagrin of a busted engine would change the euphoria of the Saab Turbo’s efficiency. If in case you have by no means pushed a Saab, you’ve been culturally disadvantaged for too lengthy. You owe this to your self. —David E. Davis. Jr.



1977 Saab Turbo
Automobile Kind: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door sedan

As Examined: N/A

turbocharged SOHC inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port gas injection

Displacement: 121 in3, 1985 cm3

Energy: 135 hp @ 5000 rpm

Torque: 160 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm 

4-speed guide


Suspension, F/R: management arms/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 11.0-in strong disc/10.6-in  strong disc

Tires: Pirelli Cinturato CN-36


Wheelbase: 97.4 in

Size: 174.0 in

Width: 66.5 in
Peak: 56.7 in
Curb Weight: 2667 lb

30 mph: 3.2 sec
60 mph: 9 sec

1/4-Mile: 17.5 sec @ 82 mph
100 mph: 36.5 sec

Prime Pace (noticed): 110 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 212 ft 


Noticed: 22 mpg