Seeing Saab In a Entire New Manner

From the October 1977 problem of Automotive and Driver.

You’ll be able to’t belief automobile corporations as of late. A few of them have completely no re­spect for custom. The topic of this street check is an ideal living proof. 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 case you have been plan­ning a few endos on 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 powerful the touchdown barely scratched the paint. Such is the stuff of legends—boring legends, largely.

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 typically comes as much as your ear­lobes, and no person reckons that to be an excuse for staying house. When you dwell in Bemidji, Minnesota, nothing extra must be stated. You simply signal the order kind and be finished with it. Alternatively, in case you dwell a lot south of there and are like most folk, you do not signal the order kind and are simply as finished with it. As a result of all people is aware of that Saabs are nice for chilly weath­er, however based on typical knowledge, not a lot else.

So it comes as one thing of a shock to all of us to find that protected, 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? Perhaps the regulation of gravity will likely be repealed subsequent.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 chuckle meter. Do not be embarrassed. Go forward and indulge your self. It isn’t like laughing at a cripple. Saabs can take it. And whenever you get all finished cracking Saab jokes, you will discover the one factor that’s much more enjoyable is driving Saabs. They’re nice, good-na­tured automobiles, as stable because the Swedes who construct them, and true, rugged individualists in a market of me-too automobiles.

The Turbo is just not a radically completely different Saab. It’s noticeably completely different in the way in which it acts, to make sure, however largely 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.0-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 similar time, throttle response was improved to the purpose of being the most effective of any emissions-­managed engine anyplace. And to finish the bundle, 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 automobiles—the Porsche 911, for examination­ple—this lengthy distance is sufficient to preserve the transmission from ever getting a transparent message from the motive force, however it’s no hassle within the Saab. The shifting is as correct and certain as it might be if the lever poked proper out of the highest of the field. So with simply these few modifications, the Saab 99 went from a rath­er environment friendly dullard to a glowing carry out­er. It all of a sudden turned one of many neatest manual-transmission automobiles round. The en­gine would offer you revs whenever you or­dered them. No ready. And the shifter would lower a brand new gear as quick as your hand may transfer. Mustangs and Monzas could not handle that, Fiats felt like that they had millstones for flywheels, and even BMWs have been hard-pressed. So the Saab moved proper neatly into the small circle of hero automobiles.

And yearly since then, the automobile will get a little bit higher. The steering will get simpler, the upholstery is plusher, and infrequently there’s a spring fee or shock-absorber change. Nonetheless, there may be little or no which you can level out with absolute authority as brand-new. However yearly the brand new fashions really feel higher. The physique appears extra stable 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 may be actually nothing in any respect that’s humorous a couple of Saab. Fairly the opposite, it is without doubt one of the most critical automobiles 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 may be not a sq. centimeter of brocade to simulate class. There’s solely gear: levers to regulate the peak and rake of the entrance seats (along with the same old fore-and-aft and backrest angle changes), levers to fold down the rear seat for extra cargo area, levers to manage air flow stream and a storage bin on prime 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, perform as a substitute of flash.

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

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

After all, you too can really feel the turbo when it goes to work. It comes on with a good rush, not very similar to 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 fairly uncommon means of controlling increase stress. The AiRe­search turbocharger has a built-in waste­gate to bypass exhaust stream across the tur­bine when a predetermined stress is reached. To this point, that is completely regular. However Saab differs from Buick and Porsche in that the wastegate senses exhaust mani­fold again stress. Though the others increase as much as a predetermined consumption mani­fold stress after which maintain that degree all the way in which to the redline, Saab boosts as much as a given exhaust again stress after which holds it to the redline.

The 2 strategies produce far completely different energy curves. The Porsche-Buick methodology tends towards a really degree torque curve from the purpose of most increase on as much as the redline. On the similar 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, looks like a traditional engine, solely stronger. The torque curve is smooth beneath 1500 rpm, rises abruptly between 2000 and 3000, then drops off after 3500 a lot as a traditional engine would. So the output may be very sturdy 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 supplied with a three-way catalyst and suggestions sensor—the identical Bosch system that is named Lambda Sond in Vol­vos—and the constant-exhaust-pressure system blows much less scorching exhaust fuel by way of the catalyst at excessive engine speeds than the extra regular 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 prime velocity can be higher by three mph. And that is ac­complished towards the handicap of drugs ratios within the transmission which have been lengthened by about eleven p.c. (Additionally, the Wagonback check automobile is 159 kilos heavier than the two-door sedan, examined.) Truly, longer ratios work effectively in turbo­charged automobiles. 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 after they have a protracted gear to drag towards. It’s because the velocity of the compressor—and due to this fact the quantity of increase—relies upon completely upon the vol­ume of exhaust fuel flowing by way of the turbine. Throughout regular driving, when the throttle is simply cracked open, there may be little or no stream, so the compressor idles very similar to a pinwheel in a faint breeze. However whenever you open the throttle vast for extra energy, exhaust stream will increase, which then drives the compressor quick sufficient to make increase. However this speeding-up course of takes time, and it’s this delay that is named turbo lag. With a manual-transmission automobile, you undergo a lag cycle each time you carry off the fuel to shift, which signifies that the ability is a bit smooth for the primary second or so after you have interaction the subsequent increased gear. And it follows that if in case you have a really shut ratio five-speed mated to a typical turbo engine, you may be working within the smooth zones sufficient of the time to truly decelerate the acceleration course of regardless that you theoretically have almost preferrred ratios more often than not. Porsche feels the identical means and makes use of solely a four-speed transmission with the Turbo Carrera.

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

As a result of turbochargers function on ex­haust-gas stream, at very low engine speeds there won’t be any increase 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 case you give the Saab full throttle at 1000 rpm, it accelerates purely as a usually aspirat­ed engine. There is no such thing as a increase in anyway. And no lag. Only a scarcity of exhaust fuel. However by the point you attain 1500 rpm, the exhaust stream has elevated sufficient to professional­duce a slight increase. And from there as much as about 3500 rpm, the increase climbs in direct proportion to engine velocity.

This mix of turbo lag and mini­mum engine velocity obligatory for increase makes a turbo automobile tough to drive in visitors. The Saab is so easy 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’ll be able to actually catch it flatfooted that means too. You see a gap you need, nail the throttle and purpose for it-and nothing hap­pens. The tach exhibits 1300 revs, and the great turbo motor continues to be asleep.

Preserving it awake requires a little bit dexter­ity with the foot pedals. It’s a must to preserve the revs up, not less than to 2500 for finest outcomes. And you will need to plan forward. Search for these openings prematurely. Simply earlier than you pounce, you’ll be able to crank up the turbo by rid­ing the brake a bit and holding the throttle open to take care of velocity. In case you have sufficient eyes to observe visitors and the increase gauge too, you will discover the needle transfer as much as the optimistic stress space—or not less than much less detrimental in case you’re working at low revs. And in case your ears are clear, you will hear that whistle. Then whenever 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 don’t love turbo motors for that reason. An excessive amount of work. However for the motive force who’s prepared to concentrate, the turbo presents not solely an unbeatable mixture of efficiency and economic system; it additionally pays dividends in your crafty strategies.

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 check automobile was one in all 100 pre-production Turbos that Saab constructed as trial balloons to check each public response and sturdiness within the arms 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 aspect of the spoiler and an oil cooler on the left.

Regardless of all of the uplifting of Saab’s picture in the previous couple of years and the truth that now you can purchase a high-technology turbo mo­tor proper from the manufacturing unit, Saabs are nonetheless a good distance from being your regular automobiles. We have been reminded of that simply yesterday when one of many attendants within the Crimson Ball Ga­rage delivered the Turbo to the bottom flooring 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 automobiles on daily basis that they have the supply down to at least one easy 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 sort of annoyed scratching sound on the inside 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 attraction. The opposite half, after all, is that they work.

Table of Contents


May it’s that Saab does not wish to be Swedish anymore? That the stolid, custom­al Scandinavian virtues of rationality and predictable accountability are now not crit­ical elements in each product choice? The agency has its sights on a courageous new picture, and the revised recipe requires a BMW-like mix of technological refinement, advertising and marketing bra­vado, and quick automobiles. 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: sturdy, supple, good off the road, quick by way of the corners, whisper easy, and lovingly screwed to­gether. Velocity comes so effortlessly that the one approach to keep out of visitors courtroom is to pressure your self to examine the speedo each 30 seconds—and I can promise what you discover there’ll delight you. —David Abrahamson

Years in the past I received inquisitive about 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 developed adequate­ly to seize the world’s consideration, and the powerplants turned 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 is just not solely fast, it is also a real Fourth-of-July driving ex­perience, stuffed with sudden pleasures and excessive spirits as you battle to maintain the revs and increase up, twist the thick leather-based wheel exhausting to attenuate torque steer, and hearken 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? Perhaps the turbo motor would make a very good 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 just lately turned good automobiles. They are often forgiven their youth, however not their ignorance. Saabs have at all times been good automobiles. 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 finest be sporting 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 typical keen-type would not know what on the planet he had maintain of. It is easy, 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 substitute the euphoria of the Saab Turbo’s efficiency. 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
Car 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 handbook


Suspension, F/R: management arms/multilink

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

Tires: Pirelli Cinturato CN-36


Wheelbase: 97.4 in

Size: 174.0 in

Width: 66.5 in
Top: 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 Velocity (noticed): 110 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 212 ft 


Noticed: 22 mpg