From the October 1977 problem of Car and Driver.

You cannot belief automotive firms nowadays. Some of them have completely no re­spect for custom. The topic of this street check is a excellent living proof. All we did was flip our backs for a couple of minutes, and Saab jumped out of its pigeonhole.

Everybody knew the well-built Swede; stout of bumper and roof helps, it was the proper automotive to have when you have been plan­ning a couple of endos to your summer season trip. At one time, the corporate even went as far as to make a particular pitch to this kind of driver with an advert that confirmed a 99 being dropped on its roof. The automotive 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 generally comes as much as your ear­lobes, and no person reckons that to be an excuse for staying dwelling. If you reside in Bemidji, Minnesota, nothing extra must be mentioned. You simply signal the order type and be achieved with it. On the opposite hand, when you reside a lot south of there and are like most folk, you do not signal the order type and are simply as achieved with it. Because everyone is aware of that Saabs are nice for chilly weath­er, however in accordance with 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? Maybe the regulation of gravity can be repealed subsequent.

We are talking right here of the Saab Turbo. Never thoughts that it seems like a joke, proper up there with Henry J Turbo on the snort meter. Don’t be embarrassed. Go forward and indulge your self. It’s not like laughing at a cripple. Saabs can take it. And once you get all achieved cracking Saab jokes, you may discover the one factor that’s much more enjoyable is driving Saabs. They are nice, good-na­tured vehicles, as strong because the Swedes who construct them, and true, rugged individualists in a market of me-too vehicles.

The Turbo will not be a radically totally different Saab. It is noticeably totally different in the way in which it acts, to make certain, however largely it is simply a higher Saab. Before 1975, the Saab 99 was simply one other household hauler, heavy on passenger area and really gentle on driving enjoyable. But for 1975 the two.0-liter engine was upgraded to the Bosch Okay-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. At the identical time, throttle response was improved to the purpose of being one of the best 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 very lengthy shift linkage is required. In many vehicles—the Porsche 911, for examination­ple—this lengthy distance is sufficient to hold the transmission from ever getting a clear message from the motive force, however it’s no hassle within the Saab. The shifting is as correct and positive as it will 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 abruptly grew to become one of many neatest manual-transmission vehicles round. The en­gine would provide you with revs once you or­dered them. No ready. And the shifter would reduce a new gear as quick as your hand may transfer. Mustangs and Monzas could not handle that, Fiats felt like they’d millstones for flywheels, and even BMWs have been hard-pressed. So the Saab moved proper neatly into the small circle of hero vehicles.

And yearly since then, the automotive will get a little higher. The steering will get simpler, the upholstery is plusher, and infrequently there may be a spring fee or shock-absorber change. Still, there may be little or no you could level out with absolute authority as brand-new. But yearly the brand new fashions really feel higher. The physique appears extra strong and extra rat­tle-free, the trim is anchored on a bit tight­er, all of the buttons and levers appear extra predictable of their motions.

As 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.

While the upright and stolid exterior form encourages jokes, there may be actually nothing in any respect that’s humorous about a Saab. Quite the opposite, it is among the most critical vehicles 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 is just tools: levers to regulate the peak and rake of the entrance seats (along with the standard fore-and-aft and backrest angle changes), levers to fold down the rear seat for extra cargo area, levers to control air flow stream and a storage bin on high of the sprint the place it’s straightforward to achieve. And not least, probably the most handy three-point security belt of any automotive in the marketplace. That’s a Saab for you, perform as an alternative of flash.

And that perspective, greater than the rest, explains the turbocharger. What guess­ter strategy to mix efficiency and effi­ciency beneath the identical hood? Saab’s turbo set up gives extra pleasure per greenback (by no means thoughts that the value is but to be an­nounced) than another 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 correct entrance nook of the engine compartment. All it’s a must 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 a must to crawl beneath the automotive to see it, and Buick’s turbo is so hidden by pipes and hoses that what you do see seems to be extra like an EGR valve. But Saab’s engi­neers, bless these Swedish elementalists, have situated the turbo and all of its valves and piping proper out in plain sight to your viewing pleasure.

You can also hear it. During straight and degree driving, it makes no extra noise than the battery, however once you toe into the facility anytime above 2500 rpm, you may hear a small whistle. It’s not very loud. Probably your passengers will not even no­tice it. But it rises in pitch in a short time because the compressor pace builds up, and falls simply as quickly when you raise out of the facility. If your foot is agile, you possibly can most likely even play a tune with it.

Of course, you may also really feel the turbo when it goes to work. It comes on with a truthful rush, not very like the slam of a Tur­bo Carrera however a mighty exhilarating push nonetheless. Maximum 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. Power peaks at 5000 rpm with 135 SAE web horsepower, up 25 hp at 500 much less revs—and that too is a gen­erous determine for a two-liter.

Saab has chosen a moderately uncommon approach of controlling enhance strain. The AiRe­search turbocharger has a built-in waste­gate to bypass exhaust stream across the tur­bine when a predetermined strain is reached. So far, that is completely regular. But Saab differs from Buick and Porsche in that the wastegate senses exhaust mani­fold again strain. Although the others enhance as much as a predetermined consumption mani­fold strain after which maintain that degree all the way in which to the redline, Saab boosts as much as a given exhaust again strain after which holds it to the redline.

The two strategies produce far totally different energy curves. The Porsche-Buick methodology tends towards a very degree torque curve from the purpose of most enhance on as much as the redline. At the identical time, the facility curve rises steadily, and the automotive appears to speed up higher and higher because it ap­proaches the redline. The Saab motor, then again, seems like a regular 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 regular engine would. So the output could be very robust 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 provided with a three-way catalyst and suggestions sensor—the identical Bosch system that is called Lambda Sond in Vol­vos—and the constant-exhaust-pressure system blows much less sizzling exhaust fuel by the catalyst at excessive engine speeds than the extra ordinary constant-intake-pressure ar­rangement. Because of this elaborate emis­sions-control machine, the Turbo will go each federal and California necessities and is meant to function on unleaded reg­ular gasoline.

Compared to a usually aspirated Saab—a 1977 California mannequin with the identical emissions-control tools—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 high pace can be higher by three mph. And that is ac­complished in opposition to the handicap of substances ratios within the transmission which were lengthened by about eleven p.c. (Also, the Wagonback check automotive is 159 kilos heavier than the two-door sedan, examined.) Actually, longer ratios work effectively in turbo­charged vehicles. The further torque greater than offsets the change in gear ratios so acceler­ation is improved, however the brand new ratios im­show gas financial system and engine noise degree throughout regular driving.

Turbochargers additionally settle into the har­ness higher after they have a lengthy gear to tug in opposition to. This is as a result of the pace of the compressor—and due to this fact the quantity of enhance—relies upon solely upon the vol­ume of exhaust fuel flowing by the turbine. During regular driving, when the throttle is simply cracked open, there may be little or no stream, so the compressor idles very like a pinwheel in a faint breeze. But once you open the throttle extensive for extra energy, exhaust stream will increase, which then drives the compressor quick sufficient to make enhance. But this speeding-up course of takes time, and it’s this delay that is called turbo lag. With a manual-transmission automotive, you undergo a lag cycle each time you raise off the fuel to shift, which signifies that the facility is a bit smooth for the primary second or so after you have interaction the subsequent greater gear. And it follows that when you have a very shut ratio five-speed mated to a typical turbo engine, you could be working within the smooth zones sufficient of the time to truly decelerate the acceleration course of despite the fact that you theoretically have practically very best ratios more often than not. Porsche feels the identical approach and makes use of solely a four-speed transmission with the Turbo Carrera.

Clues to the Saab’s id aren’t arduous to seek out. The enhance gauge and turbo are in plain sight.

Because turbochargers function on ex­haust-gas stream, at very low engine speeds there won’t be any enhance just because the engine does not produce sufficient exhaust fuel to run the compressor. This has noth­ing to do with turbo lag. For instance, when you give the Saab full throttle at 1000 rpm, it accelerates purely as a usually aspirat­ed engine. There is not any enhance in any way. And no lag. Just a scarcity of exhaust fuel. But by the point you attain 1500 rpm, the exhaust stream has elevated sufficient to professional­duce a slight enhance. And from there as much as about 3500 rpm, the enhance climbs in direct proportion to engine pace.

This mixture of turbo lag and mini­mum engine pace essential for enhance makes a turbo automotive difficult to drive in site visitors. The Saab is so clean and relaxed that there’s a nice temptation to get it up into third gear as quickly because it reaches strolling pace and ease on down the road. But you’ll be able to actually catch it flatfooted that approach too. You see a gap you need, nail the throttle and purpose for it-and nothing hap­pens. The tach reveals 1300 revs, and the great turbo motor continues to be asleep.

Keeping it awake requires a little dexter­ity with the foot pedals. You should hold the revs up, a minimum of to 2500 for finest outcomes. And it’s essential to plan forward. Look for these openings prematurely. Just 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 pace. If you could have sufficient eyes to look at site visitors and the enhance gauge too, you may discover the needle transfer as much as the optimistic strain space—or a minimum of much less unfavorable when you’re working at low revs. And in case your ears are clear, you may hear that whistle. Then once you take your foot off the brake and open the throttle farther, you get that big-motor lunge. People who wish to drive alongside half asleep do not like turbo motors for that reason. Too a lot work. But for the motive force who’s keen to concentrate, the turbo gives not solely an unbeatable mixture of efficiency and financial 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 automotive 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 tools—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 correct facet of the spoiler and an oil cooler on the left.

Despite all of the uplifting of Saab’s picture in the previous few years and the truth that now you can purchase a high-technology turbo mo­tor proper from the manufacturing unit, Saabs are nonetheless a great distance from being your regular vehicles. We have been reminded of that simply yesterday when one of many attendants within the Red Ball Ga­rage delivered the Turbo to the bottom ground 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 vehicles day by day that they have the supply down to at least one clean movement. Just 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 will have had one foot within the floor simply because the automotive stopped rolling. But the door did not open. Instead, there was a form of pissed off scratching sound on the inside door panel adopted by a rolling skyward of his eye­balls. He could not discover the door deal with.

Nobody finds the within door deal with of a Saab on the primary 5 tries. Saabs are differ­ent. That’s half their attraction. The different half, after all, is that they work.


Could or not it’s that Saab does not wish to be Swedish anymore? That the stolid, custom­al Scandinavian virtues of rationality and predictable duty are now not crit­ical components in each product resolution? The agency has its sights on a courageous new picture, and the revised recipe requires a BMW-like mix of technological refinement, advertising bra­vado, and quick vehicles. Saab’s promoting has been beating this drum for the final yr. With the debut of the Turbo, nevertheless, be ready for a full marching band.

And rightly so. The new Saab Turbo is a real efficiency automotive: robust, supple, good off the road, quick by the corners, whisper clean, and lovingly screwed to­gether. Speed comes so effortlessly that the one strategy to keep out of site 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 bought desirous 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 automotive developed ample­ly to seize the world’s consideration, and the powerplants grew to become extra mundane. But now they’ve given us a pleasant blower-mo­tor, and as soon as once more I’m utterly beguiled by the quirky, paradox-laden Swedish automotive. Because the Saab Turbo will not be solely fast, it is also a real Fourth-of-July driving ex­perience, stuffed with sudden pleasures and excessive spirits as you combat to maintain the revs and enhance up, twist the thick leather-based wheel arduous to reduce torque steer, and hearken to the tires howling like demons. They’ve all been com­petent machines, however this newest Saab has a large dose of that new-old magic. And who is aware of? Maybe the turbo motor would make a good sidecar engine. —Steve Thompson

The relative youth of my associates right here at Car and Driver has led a few of them to the mistaken conclusion that Saabs solely just lately grew to become good vehicles. They may be forgiven their youth, however not their ignorance. Saabs have all the time been good vehicles. 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 let you know that Saab did not want a tur­bocharger to go quick. However, the addition of a turbocharger to the already-spectacular Lambda Guard engine is completely guaran­teed to make your eyes bug out. This 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. Without prior information of the Saab energy­plant’s configuration, the typical keen-type would not know what on the earth he had maintain of. It’s clean, quiet, and fast. It’d wind proper off the clock with out the 5700-rpm rev limiter, and it might be weeks earlier than the chagrin of a busted engine would substitute the euphoria of the Saab Turbo’s efficiency. If you could have by no means pushed a Saab, you could have been culturally disadvantaged for too lengthy. You owe this to your self. —David E. Davis. Jr.



1977 Saab Turbo
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door sedan

As Tested: N/A

turbocharged SOHC inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port gas injection

Displacement: 121 in3, 1985 cm3

Power: 135 hp @ 5000 rpm

Torque: 160 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm 

4-speed guide


Suspension, F/R: management arms/multilink

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

Tires: Pirelli Cinturato CN-36


Wheelbase: 97.4 in

Length: 174.0 in

Width: 66.5 in
Height: 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

Top Speed (noticed): 110 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 212 ft 


Observed: 22 mpg  


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