The Saab 900 is a front-engined, front-wheel drive compact car renowned for its safety, comfort, and practicality. Based on the early Saab 99 chassis, it has a number of peculiar features that set it apart from the rest, such as its longitudinally-mounted and 45-degree slanted 4-cylinder engine. A number of variants exist, including 2- and 4-door sedans, 3- and 5-door hatchbacks, and even a handful of convertibles beginning after 1986.
The Saab 900 was designed by Swedish automobile manufacturer Saab Automobile in Trollhättan, Sweden. Various models were manufactured here and in Arlöv, Sweden and Uusikaupunki, Finland as well. Almost all models came standard with a 2.0 liter engine that was either turbo-charged or naturally aspirated. Although 4- and 5-speed manual transmissions were common, a 3-speed automatic transmission was also available. Mileage varied depending on engine and transmission, although some years were known to score in the high thirties under highway conditions. Hatchback models, a favorite amongst hardcore Saab fans, proved to be quite spacious for their size.
The basic 900 starts with a Saab 99 design, with the front extended to meet US safety standards. The initial models came with a single or twin carburetor setup, replaced in later models by fuel injection. After 1985, the 900S and 900 Turbo models were fitted with 16-valve engines instead of the traditional 8-valve models. Saab even added sway bars to decrease body roll. Turbocharged models were introduced, improving engine performance and top-speed significantly. Over the years Saab released a handful of special additions, with two favorites amongst enthusiasts: the grey Special Performance Group (SPG) and yellow Monte Carlo convertible models. These premium models came with a sporty-looking body skirt; sport suspension, with improved shocks, springs and added sway bars; leather seats; upgraded stereo; and air conditioning.
The Saab 900 employs a number of unusual design concepts including an engine installed backwards", with the engine's crank delivering power from the car's front side. The transmission (transaxle) is bolted directly to the bottom of the engine, connected by chain-driven gears with separate sumps for engine and gearbox oil. It sports a double wishbone front suspension and beam-axle rear suspension as well. Another notable feature is the extremely curved windshield employed by Saab's engineers to provide the driver with enhanced visibility, an trait that obviously comes courtesy of Saab's origins in aerospace. A curved dashboard also provides easy reaching for controls and gauges; these are arranged according to importance and usage frequency so as to minimize the driver's distractions from the road. Its unique door design creates a solid fit, blocks debris from entering the vehicle, reduces corrosion from trapped rainwater, and eliminates the cabin stoop commonly seen in other makes. Cosmetic changes in 1987 included modernized bumpers and various option packages.
The Saab 900 vehicle series has received numerous accolades over the decades it has been in production, winning awards such as the "1993 Best Buy" award by Consumers' Digest, Moottori magazine's "Car of the Year 1993", and the American Automobile Association's "Top Car in its Price Class" award in 1995. Kiplinger's Personal Finance ultimately awarded one of the latest year models, namely the 900 S Turbo, the "Best in Class, cars $25,000-$35,000" award in 1998.
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