I received an email from Johannes, who’s considering the purchase of this 1996 Saab 900 with a Sensonic gearbox.
There’s not many things I’ve haven’t at least heard of when it comes to Saab stuff, but this Sensonic thing was something new to me. A quick googling shows me that it’s an automated electronic clutch arrangement.
The manual style gearstick remained but there was no clutch pedal – the clutch being controlled by electronics when each gearchange was made.
So there you go.
It has 190,000 km on the meter but it looked quite nice and I am quite sure that I can get it cheaper then the 19,900 SEK they are asking for. Could you please help me to ask more people at SU what they think about the Sensonic gearbox?
Obviously, given that this was the first I’ve heard of suh an arrangement, I have no advice to give.
But maybe some of you do. If so, comments are open.
What’s it like to use?
Is it reliable? Enjoyable?
Your experience would be appreciated.
FYI – a little more Googling found this review of the system:
Saab now offer their 900 turbo model with a new system which they call the Sensonic clutch. The idea isn’t unique of course – the closest relative is Volkswagen’s Golf Ecomatic diesel with a an orthodox gearshift but only two pedals, and there are more distant (and more expensive) members of the family available from Porsche, Audi and Honda. Saab’s version supplies you with the same five forward gears and reverse the standard model would, and allows you to change up or down whenever you feel it’s appropriate, but it does the clutch legwork via a microprocessor that senses the instant you begin to move the gearshift.
It’s the most successful solution to combining a gearstick arrangement that keen drivers continue to like, with the sense of control over the vehicle in all conditions that doesn’t oblige you to suffer cramps in your left leg in the rush hour. You can’t stall, you can still downchange quickly for snap acceleration, there’s less clutch-wear and you don’t have to perform that delicate seesawing act with the pedals on hillstarts, but above all it brings to heavy traffic driving much of the relaxation usually associated with an automatic.
Does it have any drawbacks? A few minor ones in the the mechanism itself, possibly more major ones in terms of the chassis it’s fitted to. Since you’re controlling low speed manoeuvring with the throttle pedal only, you need to develop a feathery touch with the right foot to stop the vehicle from doing a kangaroo hop – particularly noticeable while reversing.
Automatics require a similar delicacy, but because they creep slightly once the parking brake’s released, this built-in movement can be used to assist control – with the Sensonic, nothing happens until you hit the gas. Though you get used to it, a little more electronic tweaking would help. The other irritant is the audible and visual display that fussily lectures you about engaging a gear if you try to cheat by performing the last stages of parking in neutral, or if you don’t shift a gear when the computer thinks it’s time.
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