From the October 1977 difficulty of Automobile and Driver.
You’ll be able to’t belief automotive corporations nowadays. A few of them have completely no respect for custom. The topic of this highway take a look at is an ideal working example. All we did was flip our backs for a couple of minutes, and Saab jumped out of its pigeonhole.
Everyone knew the well-built Swede; stout of bumper and roof helps, it was the proper automotive to have when you had been planning a few endos in your summer time trip. At one time, the corporate even went as far as to make a particular pitch to this type 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, principally.
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 residence. Should you dwell in Bemidji, Minnesota, nothing extra must be mentioned. You simply signal the order type and be finished with it. However, when you dwell a lot south of there and are like most folk, you do not signal the order type and are simply as finished with it. As a result of all people is aware of that Saabs are nice for chilly weather, however in line 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? Possibly the legislation of gravity will probably be repealed subsequent.
We’re talking right here of the Saab Turbo. By no means thoughts that it feels like a joke, proper up there with Henry J Turbo on the snort meter. Do not be embarrassed. Go forward and indulge your self. It is not like laughing at a cripple. Saabs can take it. And once you get all finished cracking Saab jokes, you may discover the one factor that’s much more enjoyable is driving Saabs. They’re nice, good-natured automobiles, as stable because the Swedes who construct them, and true, rugged individualists in a market of me-too automobiles.
The Turbo is just not a radically completely different Saab. It’s noticeably completely different in the way in which it acts, to make certain, however principally it is only a higher Saab. Earlier than 1975, the Saab 99 was simply one other household hauler, heavy on passenger area and really mild on driving enjoyable. However for 1975 the two.0-liter engine was upgraded to the Bosch Ok-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. On the identical time, throttle response was improved to the purpose of being the very best of any emissions-managed engine anyplace. And to finish the package deal, Saab redesigned the transmission and the shift linkage. The gearbox and differential are nicely ahead of the passenger compartment so a really lengthy shift linkage is required. In lots of automobiles—the Porsche 911, for examinationple—this lengthy distance is sufficient to preserve the transmission from ever getting a transparent message from the motive force, however it’s no trouble within the Saab. The shifting is as correct and certain as it could 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 immediately turned one of many neatest manual-transmission automobiles round. The engine would offer you revs once you ordered them. No ready. And the shifter would reduce a brand new gear as quick as your hand might transfer. Mustangs and Monzas could not handle that, Fiats felt like that they had millstones for flywheels, and even BMWs had been hard-pressed. So the Saab moved proper well into the small circle of hero automobiles.
And yearly since then, the automotive will get a little bit higher. The steering will get simpler, the upholstery is plusher, and sometimes there’s a spring charge or shock-absorber change. Nonetheless, there may be little or no you could level out with absolute authority as brand-new. However yearly the brand new fashions really feel higher. The physique appears extra stable and extra rattle-free, the trim is anchored on a bit tighter, all of the buttons and levers appear extra predictable of their motions.
Whereas the upright and stolid exterior form encourages jokes, there may be actually nothing in any respect that’s humorous a couple of Saab. Fairly the opposite, it is without doubt one of the most critical automobiles round. There are not 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’s solely tools: levers to regulate the peak and rake of the entrance seats (along with the same old 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 never least, essentially the most handy three-point security belt of any automotive available on the market. That is a Saab for you, operate as a substitute of flash.
And that angle, greater than the rest, explains the turbocharger. What guesster solution 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 worth is but to be announced) than some other available on the market 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 appears to be like extra like an EGR valve. However Saab’s engineers, bless these Swedish elementalists, have positioned the turbo and all of its valves and piping proper out in plain sight in your viewing pleasure.
You can also hear it. Throughout straight and stage 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 is not very loud. Most likely your passengers will not even notice it. But it surely rises in pitch in a short time because the compressor velocity builds up, and falls simply as quickly when you elevate out of the facility. In case your foot is agile, you can in all probability even play a tune with it.
In fact, you can too really feel the turbo when it goes to work. It comes on with a good rush, not very similar to the slam of a Turbo Carrera however a mighty exhilarating push nonetheless. Most 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. Energy 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 fairly 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. To date, that is completely regular. However Saab differs from Buick and Porsche in that the wastegate senses exhaust manifold again strain. Though the others enhance as much as a predetermined consumption manifold strain after which maintain that stage 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 2 strategies produce far completely different energy curves. The Porsche-Buick technique tends towards a really stage torque curve from the purpose of most enhance on as much as the redline. On 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, alternatively, looks like a traditional engine, solely stronger. The torque curve is comfortable beneath 1500 rpm, rises abruptly between 2000 and 3000, then drops off after 3500 a lot as a traditional 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 supplied 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 means of the catalyst at excessive engine speeds than the extra regular constant-intake-pressure arrangement. Due to this elaborate emissions-control gadget, the Turbo will cross each federal and California necessities and is meant to function on unleaded regular gasoline.
In comparison with 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 velocity can also be higher by three mph. And that is accomplished towards the handicap of drugs ratios within the transmission which have been lengthened by about eleven p.c. (Additionally, the Wagonback take a look at automotive is 159 kilos heavier than the two-door sedan, examined.) Truly, longer ratios work nicely in turbocharged automobiles. The additional 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 stage throughout regular driving.
Turbochargers additionally settle into the harness higher once they have a protracted gear to tug towards. It is because the velocity of the compressor—and subsequently the quantity of enhance—relies upon completely upon the volume of exhaust fuel flowing by means of the turbine. Throughout regular driving, when the throttle is simply cracked open, there may be little or no stream, so the compressor idles very similar to a pinwheel in a faint breeze. However once you open the throttle extensive for extra energy, exhaust stream will increase, which then drives the compressor quick sufficient to make enhance. However 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 elevate off the fuel to shift, which implies that the facility is a bit comfortable for the primary second or so after you interact the following greater gear. And it follows that in case you have a really shut ratio five-speed mated to a typical turbo engine, you could be working within the comfortable zones sufficient of the time to really decelerate the acceleration course of although you theoretically have practically excellent ratios more often than not. Porsche feels the identical approach and makes use of solely a four-speed transmission with the Turbo Carrera.
As a result of turbochargers function on exhaust-gas stream, at very low engine speeds there is not going to 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 isn’t any enhance in any way. And no lag. Only a scarcity of exhaust fuel. However 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 velocity.
This mixture of turbo lag and minimum engine velocity needed for enhance makes a turbo automotive difficult to drive in 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 velocity and ease on down the road. However you’ll be able to actually catch it flatfooted that approach too. You see a gap you need, nail the throttle and intention for it-and nothing happens. The tach exhibits 1300 revs, and the fantastic turbo motor remains to be asleep.
Protecting it awake requires a little bit dexterity with the foot pedals. You need to preserve the revs up, no less than to 2500 for greatest outcomes. And you could plan forward. Search for these openings upfront. Simply 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 keep up velocity. You probably have sufficient eyes to observe visitors and the enhance gauge too, you may discover the needle transfer as much as the optimistic strain space—or no less than much less unfavorable when you’re operating 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. Individuals who wish to drive alongside half asleep do not like turbo motors for that reason. An excessive amount of work. However for the motive force who’s prepared to concentrate, the turbo gives not solely an unbeatable mixture of efficiency and financial system; it additionally pays dividends in your crafty methods.
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 take a look at automotive was certainly one of 100 pre-production Turbos that Saab constructed as trial balloons to check each public response and sturdiness within the palms of non-factory drivers. For essentially 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.
Regardless of all of the uplifting of Saab’s picture in the previous couple of years and the truth that now you can purchase a high-technology turbo motor proper from the manufacturing facility, Saabs are nonetheless a good distance from being your regular automobiles. We had been reminded of that simply yesterday when one of many attendants within the Pink 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 automobiles daily that they have the supply down to at least one clean movement. Simply 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 may have had one foot within the floor simply because the automotive stopped rolling. However the door did not open. As an alternative, there was a type of pissed off scratching sound on the interior door panel adopted by a rolling skyward of his eyeballs. He could not discover the door deal with.
No one finds the within door deal with of a Saab on the primary 5 tries. Saabs are different. That is half their appeal. The opposite half, in fact, is that they work.
Might or not it’s that Saab does not wish to be Swedish anymore? That the stolid, customal Scandinavian virtues of rationality and predictable accountability 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 and marketing bravado, and quick automobiles. 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 brand new Saab Turbo is a real efficiency automotive: robust, supple, good off the road, quick by means of the corners, whisper clean, and lovingly screwed together. Velocity comes so effortlessly that the one solution to keep out of visitors courtroom is to pressure your self to verify the speedo each 30 seconds—and I can promise what you discover there’ll delight you. —David Abrahamson
Years in the past I received eager 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 turned extra mundane. However now they’ve given us a pleasant blower-motor, and as soon as once more I am fully beguiled by the quirky, paradox-laden Swedish automotive. As a result of the Saab Turbo is just not 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 onerous to reduce torque steer, and take heed to the tires howling like demons. They’ve all been competent machines, however this newest Saab has an enormous dose of that new-old magic. And who is aware of? Possibly the turbo motor would make a very good sidecar engine. —Steve Thompson
The relative youth of my associates right here at Automobile and Driver has led a few of them to the mistaken conclusion that Saabs solely lately turned good automobiles. They are often forgiven their youth, however not their ignorance. Saabs have all the time been good automobiles. 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. Nonetheless, the addition of a turbocharger to the already-spectacular Lambda Guard engine is completely guaranteed to make your eyes bug out. It is a rocker, pal, and also you’d greatest 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. With out prior information of the Saab energyplant’s configuration, the typical keen-type would not know what on this planet he had maintain of. It is clean, quiet, and fast. It’d wind proper off the clock with out the 5700-rpm rev limiter, and it would be weeks earlier than the chagrin of a busted engine would substitute the euphoria of the Saab Turbo’s efficiency. You probably have by no means pushed a Saab, you’ve been culturally disadvantaged for too lengthy. You owe this to your self. —David E. Davis. Jr.
1977 Saab Turbo
Automobile Kind: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door sedan
As Examined: N/A
turbocharged SOHC inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port gas injection
Displacement: 121 in3, 1985 cm3
Energy: 135 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 160 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Suspension, F/R: management arms/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 11.0-in stable disc/10.6-in stable disc
Tires: Pirelli Cinturato CN-36
Wheelbase: 97.4 in
Size: 174.0 in
Width: 66.5 in
Peak: 56.7 in
Curb Weight: 2667 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
30 mph: 3.2 sec
60 mph: 9 sec
1/4-Mile: 17.5 sec @ 82 mph
100 mph: 36.5 sec
High Velocity (noticed): 110 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 212 ft
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Noticed: 22 mpg