With Saab gone, there's never been a better time to reflect on their contributions to the auto industry over the second half of the 20th century. One of the best was their full-size top of the line 9000 hatchback and sedan.
The bigger sibling to the 900, the 9000 actually came later in 1984 as a way to bring in more buyers to the small Swedish brand. It worked. The 9000 took all the things that made the 900 great - space, styling, versatility and turbo power - and did it better. Over 500,000 units were produced until 1998.
The body by Bjorn Envall and Giorgio Giugiaro is an unrecognized classic. Using the Type Four platform that several automakers agreed to share at the time to reduce costs, the designers created a simple but handsome shape that is ever so slightly more conventional than the 900 but makes up for it in bounds more maturity and class, while still being uniquely Saab. We like the early pre-facelift versions for their rarity, cleaner lines, blackened rear pillars and larger hatch glass.
Although the front-wheel drive platform was disappointing when it was selected for the Alfa Romeo 164, it makes complete sense with the 9000. Saab was never a performance-oriented brand and had always employed front-wheel drive. They were not at the level of the German cars, and yet they had much more character than American or Japanese cars. Underneath the hood of this example is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that produced about 130 horsepower. This one also has a 5-speed stick.
Saab has always done interiors well and the 9000 is no exception; in fact, it's one of their best. The wrap-around dashboard cloaked in black is as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional, with all gauges and readouts crystal clear, simple and easy to use. I remember reading that the dials and buttons were also designed to be usable with gloves on when those frigid Scandinavian winters hit. We also love the pre-airbag three-spoke steering wheel.
This example is the cleanest we've seen in a long time. The seller says it's in excellent condition, runs great and everything works. They say the miles are low but don't provide the actual number. From the photos the body looks remarkably clean and straight. The subtle burgundy paint with a hint of pink-purple is also very flattering to the shape, and is a color nobody has done right since. The alloy centers seem dull but can easily be refinished or just re-painted in spray can silver.
With four doors, big cozy seats, plenty of room in front and back, a huge rear hatchback and turbo power, this is one of those seemingly rare cars that is both fun to drive and extremely useful. The build quality on these old Saabs was also rare in that the doors shut with a satisfying heavy clunk. It's too bad the door was shut on the whole company, but cars like this 9000 are positive reminders of their better days.
Available here on craigslist in Inland Empire, California for a mere $1,700.