Upgrading a 1998-2002 Saab 9-3 – Part 3: Intake and Exhaust

In part 1 of this series, we looked at the Viggen’s problems and one of the initial solutions in the Viggen rescue kit.
In part 2, we looked at other suspension components that can be upgraded and give you much better control over the power your car can unleash.
The components in those first to parts comprise a pretty fair list and it’s not a cheap one to fulfil.
But if you do the engine upgrades before you do this stuff – or the essential bits, at least – then you’ll end up with a car that goes like crazy, but rarely in a straight line and many of the changes in direction won’t be intentional.
So with that done, it’s on to the fun bits under the hood….
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Again, it’s worthwhile getting your engine ready to make the most of the performance modifications you want to make. You can get a software upgrade straight away, but you’ll get a heap more out of it if you upgrade some of your hardware first.
Let’s start with some better breathing…..
Inhale – getting the air in
The key to getting more power out of you engine is getting more air into your engine. It’s not just the rate you can push the air in, either. The temperature matters, too. The colder the air, the denser it is, and therefore greater in volume.
The first step is to get a free flowing (but good) air intake. These have the advantage of allowing a lot of air in and if it’s a good unit, it’ll still perform its filtration duties properly as well. Because a Saab’s turbocharger generates so much heat, your air intake should come equipped with a heat shield to keep the air as cool as possible. You should also try and provide a cold air feed.
intakepipe I fitted a big intake pipe to my Viggen the day before my crash and for a day, at least, I enjoyed some really free breathing and some slightly increased output. The pipe is quite a bit wider than Saab’s standard pipe and therefore, is capable of delivering a lot more air. The intake pipe fits between your air mass meter and your turbo inlet and took Matt the Fudgepacker about an hour to fit.
Another item I plan on installing on the Monte Carlo is an uprated intercooler. The intercooler sold by Elkparts is the one I’m looking at as it’s far more efficient than the standard Saab model and yet it fits in the same space with no need for modifications. It’s made by Forge Motorsport to Elkparts specifications.
The intercooler provides colder air, increasing your throttle response, especially at low revs. I’ve heard it said that free flowing air filters allow your car to perform better at higher revs, but you lose some bottom end responsiveness. An increase in your intercooler flow rate can be a big help in overcoming this problem.
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Exhale – the exhaust system
Imagine trying to breath through a straw. It’s hard enough under normal circumstances, but when you’re working hard it would be just about impossible. The same thing applies to your engine and the standard Saab intakes and exhaust are a bit like the straw – somewhat restrictive if you want to push things.
We’ve covered breathing in, but your engine also needs to breathe out and that’s where the exhaust comes in.
There’s a lot that goes into exhaust design from the size of the pipes to the number and even the configuration of the pipes. The main objective is to get unwanted exhaust gases evacuated as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Bigger is generally better, but that theory has limits and if you go too big then it can actually have a detrimental effect on your vehicle’s output. Saabs are generally alright taking up to a 3-inch exhaust, but I was advised that 2.25 would be optimal for my Alfa.
All of the big Saab parts sellers offer performance exhaust options. The best ones are regarded to be the ones made of stainless steel. All of the Saab-recommended performance exhausts should be pretty good, but the stainless steel ones will last longer.
One component to be mindful of is the catalytic converter. You can buy ‘cat-back’ exhausts and as the name suggests, they go from the catalytic converter to the rear of the vehicle. Alternatively, you can buy a full exhaust with a performance ‘cat’ included, which will be less restrictive and allow for better breathing and more performance.

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