In the mid-1980s, the automotive world witnessed the birth of а joint project between the Swedish automaker Saab and Italian giant Fiat. The 9000 was not only a testament to collaborative innovation but also Saab's first entry into the luxury segment. Launched in 1984, the 9000 quickly became one of the brand’s most recognizable products, and today, its legacy endures for several compelling reasons.

Welcome to Timeless European Treasures, our weekly look back at cars from the European market that defined a motoring generation.

Why Do We Love It?

The Saab 9000 earned our affection for its advanced design and technological solutions. Crafted as part of the Type Four platform in partnership with Fiat, the 9000 shared its underpinnings with the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, and Alfa Romeo 164. The distinctive bodywork, a collaborative effort by renowned designers Giorgetto Giugiaro and Saab's own designer Björn Envall, reflected a blend of Scandinavian elegance and Italian flair. Despite the visible similarities with the other platform twins, the 9000 stood out with improved crash protection and unique features.

One standout characteristic was the 9000's size. It was shorter than the 900, a model that had a lower position in the hierarchy, but had a longer wheelbase. Due to its interior dimensions and the transversely mounted drivetrain, the EPA categorized the 9000 as a "large car" in the United States, a distinction shared only with Rolls-Royce at the time.

Gallery: Saab 9000

When Was The Car Launched?

The 9000 was unveiled to the motoring press at Kolmården Game Park on May 24, 1984, and hit the European market in 1985. The model’s launch marked the beginning of a new era for the marque and its entry into the executive car segment.

What Engines Did It Have?

Under the hood, the 9000 offered a diverse range of engines, including naturally-aspirated and turbocharged options. The lineup predominantly featured Saab's own 2.0- and 2.3-liter engines. A 3.0-liter V6, courtesy of Isuzu, was also part of the offering in certain countries. In an interesting experiment, one prototype even had a Saab V8 engine, but it never progressed through the stages of mass production. The most powerful production mill was the 2.3 turbo with an output of 225 horsepower, slightly more than even the 3.0-liter V6.

Saab 9000
Saab 9000

Did It Sell Well?

With over half a million units manufactured – a total of 503,087 to be exact – the Saab 9000 can be deemed a commercial success for a brand that was generally more niche compared to other premium manufacturers at the time. The model was divided into three variations: the Saab CC (1985–1991), 9000 CS (1992–1998), and 9000 CD (1988–1997). 

Fun Facts About The Saab 9000

Beyond its technical achievements and sales figures, the 9000 carried some quirky and delightful elements. The inspiration for its seats, for example, drawn from The Muppet Show, added a touch of whimsy to the car's interior. Additionally, only seven parts were interchangeable between the 9000 and its Italian siblings due to the extra efforts made by Saab in making the car safer than the competitors.

In 1993, Saab ventured into uncharted territory by integrating steer-by-wire technology into a 9000 prototype as part of the pan-European initiative known as Prometheus (Programme for European Traffic with Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety). Within this ambitious program, Saab's contribution stood out with a modified 9000, where the traditional steering wheel was replaced by a center-mounted joystick. This innovative setup not only eliminated the risk of body and facial injury in case of an accident but also facilitated easier and more cost-effective airbag installation, along with enhanced visibility of the instrument panel. The groundbreaking prototype was put to the test by none other than Jeremy Clarkson in a memorable episode of Top Gear (see below)

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