1991 SAAB 9000 SE 2.3 turbo from UK and Ireland
A comfortable cruiser that blows away all the boy-racers
Gearbox wore out at 200,000.
Engine failed when the oil pump shredded gear teeth.
Turbo failed at 220,000.
Saab 9000 2.3t SE - 1991. Some variants of cars have different names in different countries, and this variant, the SE, is very uncommon - in 4 years of ownership, I've only seen another three or four on the road, and I've covered 80,000 miles since I bought it.
Bearing that in mind, I'll start by describing the car. It's the original five-door hatchback style, with all the extras: leather, sliding sunroof, automatic climate control, walnut trim, centre arm rest at the front, auxiliary driving lamps. It's the full pressure turbo, putting out 200bhp through an automatic gearbox. If you are familiar with Saabs, then think of it as something between the Carlsson and the Aero. The car has masses of space at the front, and three back seat passengers have plenty of leg room, and the boot (trunk) is massive.
When I bought it, it had 190,000 miles on the clock. I didn't go looking for it, I was looking for a Volvo 850 and noticed it for sale on a garage forecourt as I drove past. It was very impressive in black - generally considered to be the best colour for Saabs. On a whim I stopped to have a look, then had test drive, and that was that, love at first kickdown. That much power delivered so smoothly was something I'd never experienced before.
Once I'd owned it for a few days, I concluded that tramlining - swaying, sometimes alarmingly, from side to side when accelerating hard, across imperfections in the road - was an inevitable by-product of 200 horses showing their power through the front wheels. But after I read the postings on SaabScene UK, I found out that this was not inescapable. Once I'd had the rather tired springs and shock absorbers (dampers) replaced by better ones - which meant the car sat a bit lower as well - and similarly the anti-roll bar bushes, plus a new rear anti-roll bar, the handling was transformed: it was a different car. Now it took just about any corner in its stride, actually going where it was pointed; I would chicken out before the car showed any inclination to head into a field.
Now, in my driving career I've had many cars, and covered at least 800,000 miles. To say that I was a somewhat jaundiced driver would be an understatement. But boy, this car put a zing back into my driving thing.
The handling improvements encouraged me to investigate upgrading the power, and I'm now running at 248bhp, courtesy of: stainless steel exhaust with no catalyser and improved (better contoured) downpipe, turbo relief valve (a.k.a. recirculating BOV), upgraded dump valve, performance air-filter. Oh, and I've gone from 15" wheels to 16" ones with lower profile tyres, improving the already impressive grip.
I've now got a luxurious cruiser that will also show a clear pair of heels to 95% of the other cars on the road - if I want it to. 0-60 is about 7 seconds, but it's when you put your foot down at 60mph that you really startle the Merc, BMW & Porsche drivers!
Probably the biggest design fault I'd highlight with the car is the way the water cascades into the boot when you open the tailgate. Other than that, it's a well conceived and executed automobile.
Within a relatively short time of getting the car, between 200,000 - 220,000 miles, I'd had to replace the gearbox, then the engine, then the turbo; this should have been no surprise, they are great cars, but won't run forever, and the car hadn't been very well looked after by the previous owner. But since then I've generally just spent on relatively routine items.
This is a classic car. If you can find one with a relatively low mileage (under 150,000) and a good service history, I'd say go for it, and have some fun!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 26th December, 2003
18th Jun 2004, 22:29
I just bought a 92 turbo 5 speed with 120,000 miles to replace my 86 with 225,000miles. Everything that was lacking in the '86 has been well taken care of in the '92: Power!, amazing, handling, no rattles. They made a nice car a lot nicer. The review is accurate. These cars are a great combination of performance, roominess, economy, and can seat 5 adults.