Saab 900 Turbo – The Quirky 1980s Performance Icon
The Saab 900 Turbo stood out from the crowd of 1980s performance cars by blending innovation, practicality, and turbocharged excitement. By adding a turbo to its efficient 8-valve engine, Saab created one of the decade’s greatest front-wheel drive sports sedans and hatchbacks. Its uniqueness garnered a cult following that continues today.
Saab 900 Turbo Invents the Turbocharge
Saab engineers pioneered turbocharging production cars in 1978 with the 99 Turbo model. Their turbo technology expertise from aviation crossed over to the automotive side perfectly. The 1978 900 Turbo introduced boosted performance to Saab’s new front-wheel drive premium compact range. Power climbed from 110 naturally aspirated horsepower to 143 hp turbocharged.
Distinctive Aerodynamic Wedge Shape
The 900 Turbo retained the clean-sheet aerodynamic shape of the standard 900 hatchback. Its wedgy profile with sharp angles had a drag coefficient under 0.34 – very low for the time. Large wraparound greenhouse glass provided excellent outward visibility. The functional body communicated substance over style, reflecting Saab’s aviation and engineering roots.
Advanced Technology Everywhere
As expected from Saab, the 900 Turbo integrated clever technology like its negative scrub radius front suspension, side impact protection, and advanced ergonomics. Dual asymmetric wiper blades improved the driver’s view. Saab’s ignition key located by the gear lever exemplified clever details structuring the 900 driving experience.
Strong Turbocharged Performance
Outputs grew from the initial 143 hp up to 170 hp by the late 1980s through engine refinements like increased compression and bigger turbos. Performance was brisk, with 0-60 mph times dropping as low as 7.4 seconds despite front-drive torque steer. The 900 Turbo could reach 140 mph flat out – heady velocities for a practical hatchback.
Inspired Devoted Ownership
Buyers responded to the 900 Turbo’s unique combination of quirky Swedish design, turbo excitement, and real-world utility. Owners loved practical features like the iconic “Night Panel” switchbacking out distracting instruments at night. Its loyal following made the 900 Turbo a cult classic that became synonymous with the Saab brand.
Saab 900 Turbo Legacy Secured as a Saab Icon
Despite somewhat modest production around 215,000 units over 15 years, the 900 Turbo made an outsized impact. It defined Saab’s identity as a carmaker that innovated differently. The 900 Turbo’s pioneering turbocharging, styling, and technology make it a defining model in Saab’s history that is still coveted by enthusiasts today.