1987 SAAB 9000 Turbo 2.0 turbo from Australia and New Zealand


Great car on paper - and occasionally lives up to its specs


The Swedish temptress invites you to spend more on her because she can give so much. But does it ever end?

Admittedly, so long as the timing chain is kept in check, the engine is near bullet proof. You can get half a million kilometres on it without much sweat. For me, this included the turbo, but others have had different experiences.

The tranny, is a different story. The clutch is an expensive fix. The synchros on 2nd gear bit the dust a while ago, and 1st, 3rd and reverse were following suit.

No problems with the suspension.

After 15 years, rust was becoming an issue (I live in Sydney, Australia). Affected areas included the sunroof, inside bits of the doors and 'the aquarium' a region in front of the windscreen in the engine bay (affectionately known as such because, by design, this area fills with water... don't ask!).

Front wheel bearings generally go every 100K kms.

Electrics - too much of it for my liking - looks like Saab where trying to differentiate this model from the cheaper 900 by loading it up with gimmicky crap. It includes the most annoying AC system I've known. It turns on by design when you switch on the ignition. If you're air con works, this isn't much of an issue, but still, the compressor affects fuel economy.

The headlight high beam relay is a nuisance - this (expensive) thing (s) die after every 5-10 years or so due to a design fault which relies on the mechanical strength of a bit of solder.

If you have approximately 2-8 grand to spare on top of purchase price, pick up an OK one and you'll have yourself a fantastic machine that won't cost you another cent for a good few years! Few of us in the market for a 5 grand car do, and hence, the very low resale value of a car that once retailed for >$65,000.

General Comments:

5 door hatchback, with greater (useful) carrying capacity than many large 4WDs. In manual turbo form, the 2.0L engine delivers all the power you require on the open road and with fuel economy that still compares with many similar cars that are 15 years younger. Ride and handling is what you would expect from a leading Euro manufacturer (not the finest, but not bad at all either). All this in a neat well-made package.

In Australia, however, ownership of a Saab is an expensive and love-hate experience. And only those in the know respect the car for what it is.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 13th March, 2006

26th Apr 2006, 16:22

Some of your problems might be related to the age of the car and the way previous owners have treated it.

Do you seriously expect showroom performance and absolute reliability from a 16 year old car?

13th Dec 2010, 17:41

Well, yes the Saab Aero has complexities like all cars that have swung over to the computer, in the perhaps erroneous belief there are unassailable benefits in fuel injection, and at what massive service costs over a carburetted car would be utterly staggering. The Op-Amp has almost limitless possibilities, and can be applied through a computer for interaction among "sensored" components. The impossibility of exhaustively testing the systems is a curse, as the purchaser then becomes the ultimate test driver.

As for the air conditioning... a very wise move to bring a car quickly to your chosen temperature. If you don't want it, you reach out with the nearside arm and press the button labeled "OFF". Yes, the compressor uses fuel, but so does your completely unnecessary sonic boom sound system at ear shattering levels. So does adjusting the seat or using the headlights, or if you are truly emotionally self destructive, lighting a cigarette using the lighter. The compressor is not operating after the "OFF" button has been pressed.

The worst cars I found as a teenager in Sydney were beachside... eastern suburbs particularly, where expensive cars were bought on credit and left parked in streets, suffering sun and leaf damage, scratches, and often abandonment. Yes, the cars will rust, but I am at Arundel, where cars and anything rusts... but my Saab seems to have survived, and my Alfa 75TS about to go on sale... Japanese cars don't. Vans don't. The worst are cars repaired after major accidents, which were never returned to factory standards... excluding the old "been on the English roads" private imports, which are cancerous from salt.

Yes, the 9000 Aero transmission, though an improvement over the standard one in a few respects, does crack up... the 900 Aeros are the pits in my view. There is no excuse for SaaB producing lightweight gearboxes, and they knew the auto wouldn't cop it well, however this gets back to usage... screaming it through low gears, dropping clutches and so on does not meet the idea. One dropout once replied to me "cars are intended to be used".. yes, but by what and how?

If someone can help me track down some 9000 Aero rims, please call me on 0405 400 515.

1987 SAAB 9000 from UK and Ireland


Stylish, comfortable and roomy - but appalling reliability and build quality!


A plethora of dashboard electrical problems.

Interior door trim fell into the road!

Various items of poorly-designed trim became loose of fell off altogether.

Cruise control failed on numerous occasions.

Heated seats failed on numerous occasions.

Alternator failed at 66,000 miles.

Sunroof had a tendency to jam.

Horn circuit failure at 80,000 miles.

Door locks extremely susceptible to freezing during cold weather.

General Comments:

Bought under Saab's "Approved Used" scheme with a full service history - carried out by the vending dealer - and a "114 point comprehensive check-up", the deal certainly promoted confidence!

The car was a roomy, comfortable, stylish luxo-barge... and a bit of a head-turner to boot! Admittedly performance from its 2-litre non-turbo heart was disappointing, but in compensation it constantly returned 33mpg.

However I wouldn't be overstating the case when I say that the 9000 was by far the most unreliable and poorly built motor I've ever owned (and that includes a Morris Marina!).

The dashboard resembled slot machine in that its multitude of warning lights continually flickered for no apparent reason - very distracting! (Looking back, it's a mystery to me why this didn't happen during my test drive.)

Unsurprisingly bulb failure in the dash was a constant problem and, not being covered by the warranty, was an expensive annoyance at fifty quid in labour each time!

Various items of trim were poorly designed and had a tendancy to come loose or part company with the car altogether. I'll never forget the time when the entire door panel fell into a puddle!...

Which reminds me that as the car had no roof gutters, alighting occupants would be treated to an impromptu hair-rinse during rainy days. The hatchback suffered the same problem and ultimately led to one of the rear loudspeakers shorting out.

Despite repeated attempts by the dealer to cure it, the cruise control system never worked for any longer than three weeks at a time. Similarly for the heated seats.

The electric sunroof developed a habit of jamming in the open position (though a repeated presses of the button would close it fully.) Again the dealer attempted several fixes without success.

After a month of ownership, the alternator packed up without warning. It took the dealer over a week to acquire and fit a replacement. (They loaned me a Lancia Y10 during the period... perhaps hoping I would think the Saab wasn't so bad after all!)

The dealer was always very polite and accommodating, but clearly did not possess the ability to resolve the car's numerous recurring faults. The only other Saab dealer in my area (over fifty miles away) wasn't much help, either.

Michael Fish only had to hint at the merest possibility of an incoming cold front and the door locks would obstinately freeze up - bizarre considering the car's Scandinavian birthplace!

After twelve months the bankruptcy-saving warranty had expired with the car retaining a sizable backlog of old and new problems. Two unsuccessful attempts by the dealer to trace a fault in the horn circuit cost me eighty quid. I decided it was time to cut my losses. Other than the alternator, all the faults I had experienced had been minor, but when I realised that the malfunctioning horn would lead to MOT failure, the car had to go. (The following week I traded it in for a good old Ford Sierra which, as ever, proved to be a paragon of reliability!)

In a year of ownership, the Saab had visited the dealer once per month in increasingly fruitless attempts to address its mounting faults.

It's tempting to suggest the car was simply style over substance. I have little doubt that Saab's collaboration with Fiat and Lancia (the 9000 was a "cousin" to the short-lived Croma and Thema) was partly to blame for the car's poor build and electrical qualities. Yet the other reviews here are far more positive, so it's difficult to say whether my car was a "Friday afternoon" job or the dealer was simply incompetent. (As it happened, they closed down shortly afterwards!)

I look back now with some amusement on my love/hate affair with that gorgeous Swedish temptress. She seduced this young, naive chap with her looks, style and pedigree. She cost me a fortune to keep and areas of her otherwise sublime body were nowhere near as perfect as she professed. I could have tolerated all of this were it not for the fact that she soon found another man she preferred the company of: my mechanic! He played while I paid. Such treachery could not be tolerated.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 12th February, 2006

21st Apr 2006, 18:06

I think your experience is more an indication of how worthless the assurance "approved used vehicle" can be, rather than a condemnation of the 9000 generally.

The only major part of the 9k which is common to the other three "Type 4" cars is the floorpan.

22nd May 2008, 17:19

Actually the Saab 9000 shared much more than just the floor pan. Doors and some glass was shared also. Only the Alfa version was different. The Alfa used only the chassis.