Saab For 1999
By Carey Russ
Saab got the 1999 model year off to an early start with the introduction of the 9-5 and 9-3 in Spring, 1998. But evolution happens, and mid-model year changes include a more powerful turbo engine for the 9-3 and an innovative new low-pressure turbo V6 for the 9-5. A wagon version of the 9-5 is on the way.
All 1999 Saabs embody the company's "Ecopower" philosophy, utilizing four-valve-per-cylinder turbocharged engines for environmentally clean, fuel-efficient power. Saab is one of the world's foremost developers of turbocharged engines, with over 20 years of turbo use. As has been the case since the company's birth 51 years ago, all 1999 Saabs are front-wheel-drive cars.
Saab has been partially-owned by General Motors for the past few years, with little negative effect on the "Saabishness" of the cars and positive effect on product development and feature availability. A new benefit this year is the offering of the GM "OnStar" navigation and assistance system.
The 1999 Saab 9-5 made its debut early in 1998, replacing the 9000. It is built on new chassis platform, developed by Saab engineers especially for the 9-5. It has all of the technology, performance, handling, and safety features expected of a Saab, and then some. A safety cage around the passenger compartment and front and rear crush zones aren't surprising, nor are front and side air bags. But Saab goes further, with the "Saab Active Head Restraint" (SAHR) to limit the front-seat occupants' head movement in a rear-end collision and reduce the chance of whiplash.
There is more to the Saab 9-5 than safety, though. Saab introduced heated seats back in 1971, and heated front and rear seats can be had in a 9-5. Unique to the 9-5 are ventilated, fan-cooled front seats, which remove warm, humid air from near the occupant's body. Both heating and cooling can be combined for year-round comfort and alertness.
Early-production 9-5s had a newly-developed 170-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder Ecopower engine matched to a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmissions. An innovative 3.0-liter, 200-hp V6 is now available as well. It uses a low-pressure turbocharger connected to one bank of cylinders to feed compressed air to the entire engine and is connected to a multi-mode four-speed electronic transmission.
The Saab 9-5 wagon made its debut at the Paris Auto Show in September and will be available here in late Spring, 1999.
The Saab 9-3 is an evolutionary development of the previous 900, and is offered in sedan, coupe, and convertible body styles. There are more than 1,000 technical improvements and design changes between the 900 and 9-3. Most noticeable are a new grille and bumpers, and a restyled rear section.
Early production 9-3 models were equipped with 185-hp 2.0- liter four-cylinder Ecopower engine matched with a five-speed manual or four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission. A 200- hp version of this engine is now available in SE trim-level sedans and convertibles with manual gearboxes.