PA Johansson’s awesome 800hp Saab 9-3

I haven’t written much about performance Saabs lately. I think it’s one of the side effects of having the Viggen laid up and waiting for repair. Tuning a 900 like mine any further than what’s already been done to it would just seem a little irresponsible.
It was a real pleasure, therefore, to receive this link on PA Johansson’s brilliant 800hp Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan. I saw this vehicle at the Saab Festival in Sweden last year but unfortunately it wasn’t running at the time.
We’ve seen scattered coverage of this car before, including some video, but this writeup is especially from a modified car enthusiast’s perspective and details the full story behind this incredible vehicle.
Yes, it’s probably quite impractical for day to day use, but there’s something about this sort of thing that gets the heart pumping in a big way…..
Saab 9-3
I’ll let you click through to the story to read it in full. Aussie readers of Street Machine back in the 1990s will find the text style quite familiar 🙂
Just have a look at the modifications done, however, and you’ll realise that building a car like this is one heck of a detailed and expensive proposition.
And yes, those 800 horses are coming from a Saab 2 litre engine.
2.0-litre, four-cylinder 1994 Saab 900 engine, standard head ported by Mike Billet, custom head bolts, 90.8mm bore, 78mm stroke, Trollspeed 34mm inlet valves and 32mm outlet valves, Wargia/Trollspeed adjustable valve timing and adjustable cam tensioners, Piper 298-degree cams with 12.9mm lift, JE pistons, Verdi rods, 9.35:1 compression ratio, oil filter removed, SETRAB oil cooler, Spal fan, 8 x 720cc Siemens injectors, 3.5 bar fuel pressure with TWM fuel pressure regulator, 40-litre ATL fuel cell, custom catch tank with two Bosch 044 fuel pumps, 1.5-litre catch tank with double filters, two high-pressure fuel lines, Wargia custom fuel rail, Henrik (Jesus) custom four-branch manifold with 44.5mm pipes, two Tial 38mm wastegates, two Tial dump valves, Turbonetics/ITS T76 turbocharger, 3″ pressure pipe from intercooler to turbo, 3″ stainless steel exhaust system with 3.5″ downpipe, Racecoolings custom intercooler, Racecoolings radiator, TIBUC and Trollspeed water pump, Pectal T6 ECU TRANSMISSION Tractive five-speed sequential gearbox, AP Racing carbon fibre 200mm triple-plate clutch, Trollspeed lightweight flywheel, Tractive four-wheel drive system, Tractive hydraulic programmable active differentials: Tractive 3.31:1 rear differential with Volvo 850 steel diff housing, Sellholm Tuning 3.31:1 front differential, Svea Bid hybrid Volvo/BMW driveshaft
Max power – 802bhp, max torque – 775Nm at 2.9 bar boost using 105 octane race fuel
Forza customised Bilstein coilover setup front and rear, custom made setup by Pelle at Wargia
Front: Tarox twelve-pot calipers with 380mm discs and 2006 Saab 9-5 custom hubs.
Rear: Tarox eight-pot calipers with 360mm discs and 2006 Saab 9-5 custom hubs
10x20in BBS RS GT wheels, 255/30/20 Yokohama Advan Sport tyres
Saab Diners Club Racing Team carbon fibre front spoiler, carbon fibre front arch panels, carbon fibre rear arches moulded into metal panel (6-7cm wider arches front and rear), carbon fibre extension for rear bumper, Swedish Composite Engineering carbon fibre boot lid and roof, standard Saab Aero side skirts, standard aluminium bonnet with pins, Wargia Engineering rear wing, Porsche Titan grey respray with custom Saab griffin graphics.
1325kg wet with 56%:44% weight distribution
Race certified Rally Products multi-point roll-cage, rear seat removed, Sparco Evo VTR bucket seats, Sparco 3 harnesses, Tilton pedal box, Wargia Engineering steering system, Sparco snap-off steering wheel, carbon fibre floor plates, custom centre panel cover to cover mounted-further-back engine, standard Saab dashboard with carbon fibre inserts, VDO gauges, WIKA boost gauge, Aim dash data logger, custom centre panel for automatic fuse switches, red button for fire system, Wilwood rally-spec handbrake. In boot: 40-litre ATL fuel cell, custom catch tank with two Bosch 044 fuel pumps, two separate fuel lines to engine, high pressure Fogmaker water sprinkler system, carbon fibre panels in boot floor and sides

Saab Turbo X: best review yet

Thanks to Jamie W for sending me a link to the best Saab Turbo X review I’ve seen so far.
It’s not the best because it’s a glowing piece full of nothing but praise. Not at all. As a matter of fact they only award it three stars out of five, which isn’t exactly fireworks and marching bands.
It’s the best review I’ve seen because it’s objective and honest, and it doesn’t resort to lazy prose to tell you the story of what is Saab’s most advanced vehicle to date.
The review is from Fifth Gear.

Never mind the looks, though; what really matters is what you can’t see, its four-wheel drive. This is Saab’s first ever four-wheel drive system, but it’s one of the most advanced in the world – as well it needs to be, given that Audi’s famous Quattro system came to market many years ago – and General Motors was so impressed with Saab’s work that the Swedish company will now lead all of GM’s future work in this area…..
….Probably the most important thing is that, yes, the XWD does its job, but you have to really concentrate to spot it in action. That alone is a sure sign that Saab’s engineers have done their job well….
….Away from the track and out on the road, it’s that feeling of safety that is the abiding memory of a drive in the Turbo X. You may not have the kind of sensations that you would in a BMW 3 series, for example, but for crossing country in comfort at a decent lick, this Saab is hard to beat.

That’s a taster for you. There’s three pages of it and anyone considering the Turbo X should read it.
It’s not the best car in the world, but it’s the best 9-3 that’s come so far, and if you’re into Saabs then this is the ducks guts.

EnG Saab 9-5 SE Update

As regular readers know, I bought a 1999 Saab 9-5 last month, and I’ve enjoyed driving it.
But I must say, I’ve not enjoyed fixing it.
UPDATE: I guess that I thought that it would be understood that since I bought an 8-year-old car, I bought into a few repairs (see comments on stereo, motor mount). As I said in one of the summary paragraphs, I expect to get my hands dirty a little. I went over this car pretty well at the time of purchase, I missed a couple of things, but my lament here is about two specific things: one, dumb luck that a few parts that worked well at the time of purchase failed in the first month of use, and two, that some of these failures are due to poor designs and/or manufacturing processes.
That is, this isn’t so much a “woe is me” whining rant as it is a frustration that our favorite brand is bitten by the same bug as many other manufacturers have fallen prey to: cheaper parts and less attention to longevity for better margins and/or competitive pricing. That’s all.

Read moreEnG Saab 9-5 SE Update

2008 Saab Turbo X vs Saab 9-3 Aero XWD

I got an email last Friday from Saab USA. They’re concerned that there’s still confusion about the Saab Turbo X and the email had a presentation attached.
The presentation shows how, as an enhanced model, the Saab Turbo X is a greater special edition than the 9-3 Viggen was relative to the OG 9-3. This is a reasonable thing to discuss and shouldn’t be devalued, but devalue it a little I must, as it completely misses the point.
No-one’s shopping the Turbo X against a Viggen, so whilst that discussion will be a good one for a future Saab Owner’s Convention, it’s of limited relevance in the here and now. The one question people want answered about the Turbo X is “Why should I buy one instead of just getting an Aero with XWD, or waiting until 2009 when the Aero with XWD will have the eLSD (at least in the US market)?”
Saab Turbo X
I pointed this out to SaabUSA and they’re not able to provide the answer to that at the moment, primarily because the 2009 specs haven’t been set. Fair enough. But if they want to clear the air on the Turbo X, they’re going to have to address it some time.
So here’s a brief Trollhattan Saab comparison, based on known information about the cars.


I don’t list this first because it’s the most important, not by any means. But you’ve got to start somewhere. I had a question on the site a few days ago asking if the Turbo-X would be continued in to the 09 model year, so it’s relevant to mention here.
The Saab Turbo-X will be limited to a worldwide volume of just 2,000 units for the 2008 model year only. Each country has an allocation, so if you want to get one, it’s not one in 2,000, it’s one in 600 if you’re in the US, one in 500 if you’re in the UK, one in 30 if you’re in Australia. I’ve got a number of national volumes listed here (along with everything else you need to know about the vehicle), but if your country isn’t listed you need to check with your national Saab organisation to see how many you’re getting.

Read more2008 Saab Turbo X vs Saab 9-3 Aero XWD

Mismanaging the Saab Turbo X

There’s been a number of comments on the Saab Turbo X in recent days, so I felt like this layover in San Francisco might give me a good opportunity to write down a few thoughts on the car and maybe tie some of those thoughts together.
The power
Given the current confusion over the Turbo X vs the XWD Aero, it seems plainer than ever to me that Saab should have boosted the power to around the 300hp mark as a prime differentiator between the Turbo X and the XWD version of the Saab 9-3 Aero that will follow it.
This always seemed like an absolute no-brainer to me anyway, but the lack of explanation from Saab mekes the situation stand out even more. So let’s deal with that….
The difference
The primary difference between the Saab Turbo X and the 9-3 Aero equipped with XWD for MY2008 is that the Saab Turbo X will feature the full XWD system – including eLSD – as standard. The XWD-equipped Saab 9-3 Aero won’t have access to the eLSD in the 2008 model year. That will come in 2009.
In addition, it’ll have some mechanical enhancements such as a strengthened gearbox and torque limits removed in low gears, it’ll have special trim and styling, and it’ll have the cachet of being a launch model for a revolutionary new system that’s produced in limited numbers.
When the XWD system was launched, Saab said that the eLSD unit would be an option for Aero XWD models but they didn’t say anything about that not coming in 2008. What they meant was that the Turbo X would be an optional model for purchase in 2008, but they couldn’t say that outright because the Turbo X hadn’t been unveiled at that time.
Now, if that last paragraph seems confusing, you’re getting an idea of how poorly explained and managed this rollout has been.
The real difference
So what we end up with is a car that’s meant to emphasise the XWD system and little-to-no publicity explaining this fact. The confusion about the Turbo X and the XWD equipment levels is a testimony to this – and this is amongst Saab enthusiasts, the people who should have a fast grasp on the situation.
Slow Sales
The good news is that despite all of this, Saab have managed to take pre-orders on a car that hardly anyone’s seen, relatively few people have driven, and one that hasn’t been advertised yet. Actual production of the cars to be sold hasn’t even started yet.
Publicity about the car has been limited to the news stories from the Frankfurt Motor Show last year, Saab’s own Turbo X microsite and the grass roots coverage of the vehicle on sites such as TS and others.
Despite this meagre coverage, they’ve managed to take some deposits on the car, which I think is actually pretty encouraging. SaabUSA have offered paces in the Aero Academy for the first 100 buyers up until January 31st. That’s one-sixth of their allocation for the entire country. If you can sell one-sixth of your volume sight-unseen and without any meaningful publicity then you’ll be feeling encouraged.
We’d all have liked to see the Turbo X sell out within a month of being announced, but the fact is that most of the market doesn’t know about it.
In my mind – and this is why Saab HAVE to do a better job of marketing this car in the next few months – financial incentives on the Turbo X cannot be an option.
The full XWD system is brilliant and it deserves a special launch model like the Saab Turbo X. This car deserves all the exclusivity it’s getting. It just needs to be spelled out better than what it has been so far.
But that takes us back to the power output. 300hp definitely would have helped in selling this car as it’s bottom line numbers like that that people look for when they’re doing their initial shopping. 300hp is definitely possible – Hirsch will likely make it so soon after the car launches, I’m sure. But it should have been there from the get-go.
the car itself
I’m very confident that the people who do put money down on this car aren’t going to be disappointed in any way whatsoever. The system is that good and enthusiasts do like the notion of having something that’s a limited edition. Viggen owners will know what I mean.
The Saab Turbo X will be one heck of a great car to drive and the limited edition trim and styling looks awesome. I’d have liked it if it went even further (carbon leather dash trim, anyone?) but overall, it still looks menacing. The wheels have caused some conjecture with one or two people, but I’m sure the incas on the 99Turbo did as well and they’re considered classics now. Personally, I absolutely love the new wheels. They’re probably my favourite styling feature of the car.
If you want to know what the Turbo X will look like with other 18 inch wheels, visit the NAIAS. There were some issues with the wheel caps at the Boston Auto Show, so Saab sent a new set of wheels for fitting prior to the Detroit show, only someone forgot to actually fit them:
Saab Turbo X
I like these double-blade wheels, but that vehicle above pales just a little in comparison to this:
Saab Turbo X
Now THAT is a limited edition performance car.
I think the Saab Turbo X will be one heck of a car. I’ve driven a car with the full XWD spec and it was absolutely brilliant.
I just think Saab haven’t done too well in spelling out what’s special about this car. The market expectation is that this will be a distinctive, high performing vehicle and Saab are going to try and sell its performance credentials on the XWD system alone. so far, in very limited publicity, they haven’t performed in that area. A power bump would definitely help the Saab Turbo X’s credentials as a limited edition performance vehicle.
It’ll be interesting to see, once the marketing does ramp up, what it will look like.
I believe that Saab will sell all of their Turbo X’s reasonably quickly once the campaign starts and I really hope they don’t slash the price to do so. They can’t do that on a limited edition anyway, especially when they’ve already sold some at the full price.
I’d have one if I could, and I heard from Steve Shannon that he’ll be interesting in picking up a SportCombi version with a stickshift. That’d be my choice, too.

GM Tech 2: How your Saab talks to your mechanic

Tedjs, our resident tech guy, has kindly provided this insight into the modern mechanic’s Swiss Army Knife – GM’s Tech 2 (or Tech II as you’d write it if search engines didn’t exist.)
I’d like to thank Ted for taking the time and giving us this insight into the little electronic doodads that control our Saab vehicles. Hopefully this will be the first of a few articles on this.
Enjoy the journey….
If you really want to know what your Saab is thinking about when you’re motoring around town this holiday season, hopefully Santa will have dropped the following pieces of hardware off for you:

    A GM Tech II scan tool
    A CANdi module so the Tech II can talk to the high speed network on your Saab
    And of course the Saab software program for the Tech II

GM kindly supplies our school with all this hardware. All I needed was my Saab to give the Tech II something to do. My 2007 9-3 Aero has the turbocharged V6 and six speed automatic, so that is what will be referenced here.
Tech II
Tech II
A little background before we dig in….

Read moreGM Tech 2: How your Saab talks to your mechanic

Speedparts Saab performance and tuning

I feel an overwhelming need to apologise to Speedparts, as I haven’t had them on the Parts and Performance links on the sidebar.
When visiting Trollhattan, especially during the Saab Festival, you’re quite likely to see a bunch of young men with hot Saabs, the guys wearing T-shirts with the following design on them:
Speedparts are based in Uddevalla and have heaps of experience modifying Saabs. As the name suggests, they’re performance specialists and have a full range of Saab performance parts and tuning systems.
The website is primarily in Swedish, so you may have a little trouble navigating it. Fortunately for those English-only types out there, Speedparts products are distributed in the UK by long-term TS sponsor, Elkparts. The Elkparts list of Speedparts products is here.
Welcome, Speedparts, to the TS family. And please accept my apologies for taking so long to get you on the sidebar.

How often do you change the oil in your Saab?

This one’s an issue that attracts some differences of opinion.
The options should be pretty straightforward. I’ve generalised the intervals based on 5,000 kilometer increments and converted these to 3,000 mile equivalents for you imperial types.
This entry originally featured a poll, a graphic of which is reproduced here.
Our resident GM tech expert, Tedjs, has chimed in with some advice in comments, which I’ve reproduced below. This concerns not just intervals, but also the type of oil you should use:

Well, I would have to say you can never change your oil too often – but given the cost of fully synthetic oil, and the waste generated when oil is changed one could say that is almost a decision left up to the individual owner.
However (deep breath) –
– the oil life monitor that is used on modern Saab engines is a rather sophisticated software algorithm that uses information based on engine revolutions, operating temperature, startup temperature, drive time and other aspects to optimize the time (not really distance) between oil changes.
Think of it this way – you are changing your oil because of (what)? Not entirely because it gets ‘dirty’ (it is designed to retain contaminates) – the additive package wears out over time and oil loses the ability to do its job.
With that in mind, you can look at this example – a driver that does frequent short trip driving, with no highway driving might find that have to change their oil in LESS THAN the common 3000 mile oil change interval. A driver that drives under what might be considered ‘optimum’ conditions by the system may find that they can go up to 10,000 miles before an oil change. All vehicles recommend an oil change at least once a year.
Drivers in the USA (and all others) – perk up and pay attention to this. The oil life monitor in any GM vehicle has no idea what type of oil is being put into an engine, the ‘software’ assumes that the proper type (standard) and viscosity of oil is being put into the engine so that is what is basis its calculations on. If you decide to use a different type of oil (viscosity or brand) – than the oil life monitors opinion becomes somewhat invalid.
Saab vehicles sold in the USA (and other markets of course) require oil that meets the GM-LL-A-025 (European) oil standard. Some research on my part has found that very few brands oil meet that standard in the United States. Most GM engines – such as the high feature 3.6L V6 used in many new models are factory filled with Mobile One that meets the GM6094M standard or the GM 4718M (Corvette spec) which varies that of the European standard.
The GM-LL-A-025 standard is bit different in terms of how long the oil should be able to ‘resist’ breakdown and the Saab version of the high feature V6 engine (2.8L Turbo) requires oil that meets that standard. From what I have learned only Mobile 1 0W-40 meets those requirements and it is in print on the specification sheet for that oil. Saab recommends this oil be used in all of its engines from what I understand.
So – one of the most important considerations you should be paying attention to is that you are using the proper type of oil for your engine. And from there you should consider a change interval based on your driving style (or follow your oil life monitor if available).
Funny this topic should come up. I just had the dealer do my first oil change in my 9-3 at 7100 miles (11,000 kilometers). My oil life monitor showed about 8% left but they were ‘allowed’ to do it with that much life left (Saab pays for those first few oil changes). I generally do plenty of highway driving and have taken several long trips in my car so – the data seems to support the oil life monitors decision. The car had not used any oil at all in this time frame.
Hard to break the 3000 mile oil change ‘habit’ but given cost factors and longer manufacturer warranties on new(er) vehicle – one has to consider the facts.

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