MapTun Stage 1 for the 9-3 1.9 TTiD — a quick review

Life starts with a turbo
Life starts with a turbo
Last October I was approached by Fredrik Åberg and asked to write a review of MapTun’s Stage 1 tuning kit for the diesel 9-3. Given the rumors last year of future NEVS 9-3s fitted with the diesel engine I thought it was an excellent idea to explore further.

There are three versions of the 1.9 TTiD engine: 130, 160 and 180 bhp. MapTun takes all of them all the way to 210 bhp.

The upgrade was easy enough. I hit a rough spot at first, but after Fredrik pointed me to an updated 64-bit device driver for MapTun’s USB device I was able to upload their engine map to Anna’s 9-3. We were finally all set.

My first impression was that it drove more like a Saab should. The difference between 130 bhp and MapTun’s 210 bhp is of course noticeable. The tendency to eat tyres in roundabouts and faster overtaking is most welcome. Sadly I only got one test run in before it became necessary to mount the studded winter tyres, so more detailed testing of acceleration will just have to wait. There is also the question of the engine’s running-in phase that might skew the results at this point.

Another snag that I noticed was that I experienced knocking when accelerating from 70 to 100 kph in sixth gear (1200-1500 RPM). I consulted the big Fredrik (Mr Bengtsson) and the next day he sent me a new mapping that solved this issue to my full satisfaction. The box I got from MapTun now lets me choose between three different mappings: The original one (130 bhp), “Stage 1” and “Stage 1 Rune”.

Most drivers probably do not tend to accelerate from 70 kph in sixth gear, but I find myself avoiding the shift down when driving longer distances where there are gaps of 70 kph roads mixed with proper highways.

I have tried provoking torque steer, but I have not felt any trace of torque steer in Anna’s 9-3. My first 9-3, a MY08 combi (1.8t, 175 bhp w/E85) on the other hand did suffer from torque steer in some situations.

Tim installing the strut brace
Tim installing the strut brace
Where to next? Sadly MapTun do not plan to offer a stage 2 tuning for the TTiD engine. The factory installed turbos are quite powerful as delivered and a more powerful turbo becomes a hard sell from a cost-benefit point of view. If you are into serious tuning, the diesel engine is not the easiest starting point.

This upgrade is definitively worth looking into for everyone with the 130 bhp version of the TTiD engine. I have no idea how the 180 bhp TTiD drives, so I won’t comment on that upgrade. RedJ might go this route with his wife’s convertible so stay tuned.

On a related note: Anna recently added MapTun’s strut brace. The difference in handling is too subtle to notice for me in this car, but it seems to have solved the creaking noises from the dashboard and in my imagination the car feels more broad-shouldered, but nothing I can quite quantify yet. Happy days!

30 thoughts on “MapTun Stage 1 for the 9-3 1.9 TTiD — a quick review”

  1. Clearly stage one upgrades involve software tuning only. Does that mean that through the entire and most recent TTiD range, from 130hp to 180hp versions, the components of the cars such as injectors, fuel pumps, etc, are exactly the same ? If so, the offer of less powerful engines was due to car taxation only ?

    • Good question.

      I have been told that the only difference between these three versions is the size of the brakes. The 130 bhp 9-3 has the smallest brake discs. (both ANA who sold us the car and Fredrik Å. at maptun said the same thing)

      Hirsch offers two mappings for this engine. They have chosen to cap the upgrade at 170 bhp for the model fitted with the smallest brakes. Hirsch’ 200 bhp upgrade is reserved for the 160 bhp and 180 bhp models.

      My thinking is that unless you are in the habit of accelerating and braking frequently (as you’d tend to do on a track), then the small brakes should suffice plenty (vis-a-vis the power upgrade anyway — more stopping power is of course beneficial in other situations).

      • The smaller TTiD has smaller brakes. Hirsch offers two different power upgrades because of some EU rules about the relation of braking power and engine power, in one sentence, in Europe with the brakes of the TTiD 130 you are only allowed to have 170hp max.

        But yes, all the TTiD engines were equal, and Saab would have been wise in the past to even offer a 115hp version in some markets.

  2. Dave, thats exactly the reason. The 130 hp version that was delivered as a less than 119 grams “taxi-free” version had a lot of cover panels under the car which reduced drag and thus fuel-consumption. Those are missing on the 160 and 180 hp versions.

    • And yet the 160 (which I have) and 180 are also 119g. What effect the Maptun stage 1 upgrade (which I also have) has on emissions I have no idea. Rune`s comments re brakes is correct, the 302mm discs (rotors) on the 160 version are excellent stoppers and all four discs are ventilated, unlike the 130 which has soild rear discs. I agree with the comments in the top post re performance – makes a real difference and leaves me wondering why I didn`t buy the 180 in the first place.

      • The link doesn’t mention a 130 hp version, though, for the twin turbo. Has this been upgraded as well? It is the closest comparison to the 110kW in the 9-5.

        • The detuning of this engine to 130 and 160 bhp was probably done by Saab. In any case, the hardware remains identical between these three alternatives.

          I’m not quite sure what you are asking; In my case we upgraded the 130 bhp version — so yes there is an upgrade available.

  3. “when accelerating from 70 to 100 kph in sixth gear (1200-1500 RPM)”

    Rune, um… won’t that brake your gearbox in no time? I was tought back in the days that you shouldn’t accelarate a diesel (heavily) under 2000 RPM. That’s why they have 12-16 gears in a truck even with a very modest top speed.

    • Right off the bat I’d say such an issue would be linked to the engine outputting too much torque compared to what the transmission is designed to handle.

      The 180 bhp tops out at 409 Nm, the 210 bhp MapTun mapping at 450 Nm. They both peak at 2000 and press on quite a lot until 2500 RPM. If anything, a problem would be more likely to surface going full tilt at 2000-2500 RPM?

      If nobody else chimes in, I’ll ask around and see if I can dig up what amount of torque this transmission is rated for.

    • RS the green zone in a truck goes from 900rpm till 1600rpm, and the red zone begins at 2100rpm. So because the range is so small they need lots of gears, that’s all.

      • That is correct but the idle RPM is also much lower 500-600 and it’s not adviseble to drive much below 1000.
        I’m not trying to argue just interested can the TTiD’s box handle 1200 RPM? 🙂

        • Well, it has to be able to handle 1200 RPM. How else would you be able to get moving given that it idles around 750? At some point you will have to drive the engine between 1000 and 2000 RPM. 😉

          The only thing mentioned in the manual is to avoid utilizing the turbos too much the first 4000 km (i.e. don’t open it up for longer periods of time) and to keep below 4000 RPMs until the engine has completed its running-in phase.

          • Hahaha very funny. I think you have invented a way to eliminate the gearbox completely or at least reduced the need by half (3+reverse).
            Personally I wouldn’t drive in 6th below 90 km/h but we definitely need a transmission expert to touch on this subject.
            Lot of diesel gearboxes in vans and mobile homes have been destroyed -at least in the past- by churning in high gear below 80.

            • With a little bit of old-fashioned double clutching techniques applied, I tend to skip many of the gears… 🙂 It requires a little bit more thought and isn’t something I’d necessarily do on short drives.

              I had a brief chat with Fredrik Å. and he is certainly no fan of slow acceleration. He would not recommend such accelerations either, but the transmission is very strong. The new F40-6 transmission is officially rated at 400 Nm maximum. Around 2000 RPM the MapTun 1.9 TTiD mapping gives you 450 Nm. Some older Saabs that receive a tune-up fit the newer transmission since the F40-6 can handle a higher amount of torque than the older Saab transmissions. (I gather that the F40-6 is also used in the NG 9-5 from what I read in the WIS)

              He went on to mention vibration and said short rapid bursts of torque was perhaps preferable to long and more powerful chugs.

  4. The MY12 cars are long geared, part of the reason for the low emissions figure, so driving at too low a speed in 6th would cause the engine to labour, whether or not it was tuned.

    • It wasn’t the normal grunt of an engine having to work hard. It was more of a ‘knocking’ effect where it starts misfiring. As this was not observed prior to tuning it was considered a bug.

      With my 9000, I can shift to 5th gear as early as 35 kph. At this point acceleration will be painfully slow, but not so slow that it won’t keep up with most other cars…

      What is worse: This is actually close to the type of driving being taught in Swedish traffic schools. They teach the students to accelerate as needed and once rapid acceleration isn’t required to shift to the highest gear possible and continue from there. They think this will save a few drops of fuel. That the engine feels slow is considered a bonus, as long as it isn’t in danger of stalling. touches a bit on this subject. Back then I also found a scanned version of a Saab newsletter from the 80s quoting one of the engineers who also said the same thing (accelerate using the highest gear possible using full throttle)

      • In the light of your remarks in your first post re updates, I have downloaded those and intend to apply them to the car soon. While I haven`t experienced any “knocking”, presumably the updates will ensure that I never will! Just a bit disappointed that Maptun didn`t advise of the updates by e-mail.

        • There might not be an update (yet). Fredrik prepared an express fix for me 7 days ago, and two days later I reported back my findings.

          It would be interesting to see if you have any issues with your existing mapping prior to upgrading.

          I was able to reproduce in this fashion:
          1: Make sure the engine has warmed up properly (temp needle horizontal)
          2: At approx 70 kph shift to 6th (RPM ~1200 RPM)
          3: Full throttle until you hit 100 kph

          If there is no knocking then you’re fine. The problem could easily be limited to the 9-3 I tested.

      • Yeah, well, the idea that lower rpm always translate in better mileage is not always true. An engine has an optimal working point where it is the most efficient. I’m not a real expert but I think for gasoline engines that working point is somewhere in the 2000 to 3000 rpm range, for diesels it’s of course lower.
        We all love Saabs for their gobs of torque and effortless acceleration even from low rpm. However, don’t overdo it. At high rpm your flywheel and all the other stuff will have enough centrifugal stability to be able to absorb the force when suddenly being hit by your heavy foot. At low rpms that stability is much less, many things will start wobbling and putting a lot of stress on the bearings.
        Another thing to keep in mind is that lots of engine parts are being lubricated by oil splash, for instance by the crankshaft dipping in the oil all the time. This doesn’t work as well at low rpm.

  5. Hi Rune, I like to come back on what you said to experience with the installed Strut Brace.
    If it really avoids the sometimes creacking noises in the dash board then Maptune should look in testing that Brace in a 9-5 NG as well while on bumpy roads that noise is also available in the 9-5 NG.

    • Installing a strut brace to get rid of creaking sounds is a bit of an overkill. Most cars are supposed to flex, otherwise the ride would become really harsh. Creaking noises in the dashboard indicate that the fitting is not correct. You can try to just looses up some bolts and screws here and there, drive around a bit and see if the whole thing settles in a more creakless fitting.

  6. Feels like some basic diesel and otto engine knowledge is missing here.
    In short, a diesel engine has about the same efficiency no matter what the load are. Therefore the most fuel efficient way to accelerate is “slow” and through all gears.
    The Otto engine (gasoline, ethanol) on the other hand has a throttle, it will suffer from pumping losses towards the throttle on part-load the more efficient way is higher load (than the diesel) so the throttle is more open, that gives you less pumping losses.

    Takes some time to write on the phone, might clarify more tomorrow. But just want to add that the issue with the TTiD at 6th gear at full throttle at lower rpm (below 1500rpm somewhere) is not due to knocking, more like pumping in the turbo when switching between smaller and larger compressor.

    EXD Custom

  7. I am planning to get the Maptun Stage 1 for my 1,9 TTiD 130hp.
    I was hoping to hear even more about how the car has been since february, so RUNE WHAT DO YOU THINK?

    My wife is a bit anxious when it comes to the stopping power, as the 130hp only has the smallest brakes.
    I told her that we had to look into getting bigger brakes with the next main-service.. either way, the roads in Norway
    are not the speedy kind. I´m not planning on doing much more than 90-100km/t on a daily basis.

    I just want to be sure I have the overtaking power, and the kick that is worthy of an Aero..
    Since I could not afford one, I do believe that the 130hp bought cheap, then tuned to 210hp pretty cheap
    could be one of the “rare” saab opportunities that people talk about five years from now.. 🙂

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