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Saab 9000 Carlsson and CDi

Since his successes of nearly thirty years ago in international rallying (and particularly in the RAC Rally) behind the wheel of a Saab, Erik Carlsson has been continuously associated with the Swedish company in one form or another. It is therefore quite fitting that he should lend his name to a special edition of the 9000 turbo S, a model produced solely for the British market.

Announced at the Motor Show at the NEC, only 200 examples were originally scheduled for the model-year 1989, but such was the interest shown that this figure has since been increased.

As with Model T Fords, they are available in any colour as long as it is black, but the red pinstripe running its length and the Carlsson signature on the rear pillar set the car off. It is visually quite striking, made the more so by the additional aerodynamic styling, rear spoiler and 16in cross-spoke wheels.

Changes are not confined to outward appearances. Modifications to boost and fuel-injection and a new exhaust layout have increased the horsepower of the 1985cc turbocharged engine by 29 bhp to 204 bhp, while the torque is up from 201 lb ft to 214 lb ft at 3000 rpm. A top speed of over 147 mph is claimed and 0-60 mph is reached in only 6.9 seconds. As has become standard on all 9000 Turbos, Saab’s Direct Ignition has been fitted.

To justify its hefty £24,995 price-tag, the car features a number of other items such as anti-lock brakes, twin sport exhaust and long-range driving lamps, but at the insistence of Carlsson himself, the suspension has not been altered at all as he considered the standard Turbo suspension to be best-suited to British roads.

A quick spell in an example with the optional stiffer suspension on the twisty Jerez circuit illustrated the car’s handling and speed. At 2500 rpm the boost comes into play all the way round to 5900 rpm, when the rev-limiter cuts in. There is slight turbo lag, but since smaller Mitsubishi turbochargers are now fitted to all Saabs the delay has been clearly reduced. At the limit, the car will oversteer, but such is the handling that it can be easily contained. The front wheels will spin if one is brutal with the accelerator but torque-steer was absent.

£25,000 is a high price to pay, but since this is a very limited edition, Saab is sure to fmd enough customers who want their performance car to be that bit different.

Rather in the shadow of the Carlsson but of far greater importance to Saab in terms of sales are the new additions to the CD range, the Swedish manufacturer’s notchback line. Complementing the £26,495 CD Turbo, the normally-aspirated CDi and mechanically identical but higher-spec CDS model also made their debuts at the NEC.

Their greatest asset is the superb chassis and excellent suspension which when allied to Michelin’s latest MXV2 tyres ensure handling and steering are second to none. Both models are powered by the 16-valve 2-litre engine, now far more refined following modifications to the Bosch fuel-injection, electronic ignition and intake and exhaust systems.

The CDi marks a new entry level for Saab’s four-door range, but at £15,495 is still lacking in interior niceties; this does not detract, however, from the fact that it is Saab’s best yet. The CDS costs £17,795 and a cheaper version of the CD Turbo £19 ,995. WPK.