Last year Motor Sport road-tested two Saabs, a 900 Turbo-A and a 900 GLS. We praised both of them and I was reminded of what well-made, individualistic cars these Saabs are, cars which should appeal to discerning enthusiasts, when I tried another 900 Turbo, now with the ingenious APC engine control that enables any grade of fuel from 92 to 98 octane-rating to be used without knocking, while low-speed response is improved because the sensors permit a higher compression ratio to be used. The length of the test did not allow me to experiment with different-grade petrols and the claimed reduced fuel consumption was not apparent on 4-star, being the same 20.9 m.p.g. that another driver got from a hard-driven 900 Turbo Saab without APC last year. In this respect, it has to be remembered that in F1 a turbocharger is regarded as more than doubling nominal engine capacity, and although this may not quite apply to production cars, if we regard the Saab 900 as being akin to a 3½-litre, such fuel-thirst is by no means excessive. The engine certainly responds with only slight turbo-lag, making it acceptable with the automatic gearbox, and its smooth-running is one of the Sub’s notable features, along with fast cornering, a comfortable ride with some roll on fast bends (it is more choppy at low speeds than the Alfa 6 which formed the meat in my “sandwich” between testing Sierra and Saab, however).
This 5-door Saab is very fully equipped, with finish and appointments of high quality, has big comfortable seats, its automatic gearbox is ungated, a big knob recessed in the top of the selector-lever controlling conveniently inadvertent over-running, and the powerful all-disc brakes now have long-life asbestos-free pads. There are many individual items that go towards making Saabs irresistible to those who wish to remove themselves from the “sameness” of today’s cars — like the console-mounted ignition-key that will lock the transmission in gear, the well-stocked, aeroplane-like fascia, the glass rear ¼-lights, the substantial bumpers, the rear wing (useful, too, for putting bottles and glasses on!), the very effective heating and filtered ventilation system with simple controls for the vacuum-operated dampers and 13 outlets, and the well-placed instruments and warning lights. To which can be added the headlamp-washers, the many convenient stowages including an under-floor well, central door-locking, toolbox, etc. But the need for a “get-you-home” wheel in order to increase the luggage space in the boot does not appeal to me, the tool-kit was primitive for such a car, and there was no “fail-safe” on the brake servo.
Without space in which to elaborate on what we said of these highly desirable Saab 900s last year, I will conclude by saying I was very favourably impressed, until I discovered I could not get full headlamps beam due to a fault, couldn’t see how to open the roof (there was no instruction book in the car), disliked the noise from engine and gearbox when accelerating after prolonged driving (460 miles in a busy day) and got up one morning to find the battery “flat” — that complicated lighting system, or “a short”?. There is, however, the thought that no lingering anti-Japanese or German war-memories need stop one from purchasing this efficient package from Sweden. Apart from which, the Saab Turbo’s ability to run quickly, if allowed, to an indicated 100 m.p.h. and to accelerate briskly as the turbocharger comes in, renders this, as we said last time, a very restful car in which to cover long distances surprisingly quickly. The 145 b.h.p. model under review costs £11,995. Top speed is some 121 m.p.h., with 0-60 m.p.h in under nine seconds. — W.B.