The original Saab 900, referred to by Saab faithful as the 'classic' 900, was no classic to the public during the early ‘90s. Saab's technology-ridden Swede had been all the rage a decade prior when it's novel, turbocharged persona provided an entertaining alternative to the old guard yuppie's Bimmer or Benz. But when a new decade swung around, the Saab began to look ancient. Even while the car grew stale, though, there was plenty to get excited about over at Saab.
In 1990, Saab entered into a 50-50 split with automotive giant General Motors. While many viewed this as the unfortunate sellout of an ingeniously independent iconoclast of a car company, the truth was that much of Saab's otherworldly personality was maintained through the transition. The key difference was that this tiny Swedish manufacturer now had access to a world of resources. Armed with a newfound wealth of materials, the folks at Saab were ready to do the unthinkable. They were ready to redesign a classic.
Starting production in late 1993 as a 1994 model, the new 900, now referred to as the 'NG' (new-gen) or 'GM' 900, was the first total redesign of a Saab product under the new management split. And what an introduction it was. The car's coefficient of drag was an excellent .30, raised to just .32 by the obligatory Saab mud flaps.
The car's shape was crisp and modern, yet it retained the distinctly defiant demeanor of its predecessor. Many of Saab's stylistic hallmarks were carried over. The trapezoidal front grille with its four intakes, shaped to resemble the nose of an airplane, was continued at the front of the car. An upward swept beltline, curving like a hockey stick towards the roof at the c-pillar, was also a reminder of the car's ancestry.
The NG 900 was initially offered only as a 3-or-5-door hatchback. This odd feature was the car's crowning touch, proof that GM's influence had not corrupted the practical Swedish soul of this charismatic car maker. A year later, a svelte convertible was introduced with classy lines that made drivers of 3-Series convertibles reevaluate their decisions. There was no conventional sedan in sight.
Three engines were available throughout the life of the NG 900. The base motor was a 2.3 liter 4-banger producing 150hp. While that may not sound like much by today's standards, this competitively priced entry-level engine provided more power and more gusto than BMW's relatively wimpy 1.8 liter 4-cylinder, available in competing models manufactured by the German company. For those who wanted more power, a 2.0 liter turbo four was also available, complete with 185hp and explosive thrust.
Breaking Saab's four-cylinder mold, the NG 900 could also be ordered with a 2.5 liter V6. Available through 1997, this unheard-of configuration offered 4 camshafts, 24 valves, and 170hp to fans of broad torque curves and smooth revving. Reinforcing the new Saab-GM partnership's worldly image, the V6 engine was manufactured in the United Kingdom.
Saab's NG 900 was manufactured for the model years 1994 through 1998. It was succeeded by the similar 9-3, the car whose arrival for 1999 announced the imminent full buyout of Saab by GM.
Depreciation has hit these models hard. This is great news for used car bargain shoppers. Picking up a second-hand NG 900 gains buyers entrance to the elite, sophisticated ranks of upscale European autos. Wouldn't it be great to not have to show up to the country club in just another Benz?By Evan Acuña