Currently reading: Nine cars that defined Saab
With the brand finally dead and gone from the motoring industry, we look back at some of the best cars to come from the Swedish car maker
3 mins read
23 June 2016

Saab cars is no more now that NEVS (National Electric Vehicle Sweden) has agreed to not use the name on its upcoming all-electric models.

You can read about the news here, but below, we remember nine of the now defunct Swedish car maker's best creations.

Have we missed any key cars off our list? Let us know in the comments below.


This is where it all started for Saab. In 1948 the company, which was until then solely an aeroplane manufacturer, made its first foray into the motoring industry. It did so with four interestingly-styled Ursaab prototypes, which had a lower drag coefficient than any other car at the time. The Ursaab (which translates as 'original Saab') eventually evolved into the manufacturer's first production car, the 92.

Saab 96

Successor to the 93, the 96 was first launched in 1960 with a two-stroke, three-cylinder engine that produced just 38bhp. The two-stroke motor was later replaced by a V4 four-stroke engine that produced 68bhp in its most powerful form.

The unit gave the 96 enough grunt to secure two wins in the World Rally Championship, one in 1973 and the other in 1976, helping to shoot it and its maker’s name into the limelight.

Saab 99 Turbo

One of the first popular turbocharged cars, the technology behind the 99 Turbo went on to define Saab as a manufacturer in the late 1970s.

Decent build quality means there’s still some around on the used car market, but this pocket rocket is only for the brave.


Saab 9000 (1984-1998)

The 9000 was Saab's first executive saloon, designed to battle it out with more established models from German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It was created in conjunction with Fiat and shared parts with the Fiat Croma and Lancia Thema. In total, the 9000 was produced in its various guises over 14 years before it was succeeded by the 9-5.

Saab 9-3

Built between 1998 and 2014, the 9-3 appeared in convertible, hatchback, saloon and estate guises over the years.

It helped to cement Saab's reputation as a safety innovator, featuring side impact airbags and active headrests. It was also the first car to feature a 'night panel'. This turned off most lights on the instrument panel, meaning fewer distractions for the driver.


Find an Autocar review

Read our review

Car review
Saab 9-5 Sportwagon

Pre-production drive of early Saab 9-5 estate shows it's a car with real promise

Back to top

It came in for some criticism during its long life: the early drop-top versions were known for having pretty poor handling and it was derided for basically being a Vauxhall Cavalier underneath. Therefore, the 9-3 never really lived up to the 900 it replaced.

Saab 9-5

The second-generation 9-5 was the first Saab to be produced under Spyker ownership. Unfortunately, it came at a time when the company’s future was in question after General Motors abandoned the project. Supply chain issues halted production in 2011, after a total of 11,280 units were sold.

Saab 9-X concept

The 9-X concept was a forward-thinking demonstration of what Saab thought future cars could look like. It was designed to combine the design and practical qualities of a coupé, roadster, estate and pick-up truck, and was expected to influence a production model badged as the 9-1.

However, the project was shelved in 2008 and never resurrected.

Saab Aero-X concept

This shapely concept was revealed in 2006 with an ethanol-powered 2.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine. It was claimed to be good for 395bhp and a top speed of 158mph.

The car was created as a design demonstration and said to mix futuristic design with traditional Swedish value, and its look influenced later versions of the 9-3, 9-4 and 9-5.

Saab PhoeniX concept

A dramatic-looking 2+2 coupé, the PhoeniX was a preview of Saab’s future platforms for the 9-3 replacement, among others.

Ironically, Saab never managed to rise from the ashes and the PhoeniX - first unveiled at the Geneva motor show in 2011 - remains a tantalising glimpse at what might have been.

Saab claimed a 0-62mph time of 5.9sec, and a top speed of 155mph.


Join the debate


23 June 2016
Only 4/9 are actually Saabs.

23 June 2016
Bullfinch wrote:

Only 4/9 are actually Saabs.

HUR DUR DUR not proper Saabs!!!!

You're the type of snob who put me off going to car club meets, people like you ruin every marque club.

"Your GTV(916) isn't a real Alfa as it has a Fiat platform!"

"Your Xantia isn't a real Citroen as it has a Peugeot platform!"

"Your 9-3 isn't a real Saab as it has a GM platform!"

The reality is that modern car manufacturing of any scale usually necessitates platform sharing.

24 June 2016
The Alfa GTV/Spider's Tipo based platform was heavily modified with new rear suspension, the Xantia's Peugeot platform was heavily modified including different suspension all round, those cars were NOT simply re-bodied Fiats/Peugeots, ALL GM Saabs were nothing more than re-bodied GM cars.

23 June 2016
"The 9-5 was reborn briefly when Saab was purchased by NEVS (National Electric Vehicle Sweden) in 2012 and it produced an all-electric prototype."

That was the 9-3 was it not? GM insisted that the 9-5 be packed up when NEVS took over, production of the 9-3 continued in drips and drabs, including the electric prototype.

23 June 2016
The 9-5 you show is not the 9-5 you mean, and as Sirwiggum said, it's the 9-3 they electrified.

23 June 2016
Don't you just love it when motoring journalists, who should know better, get basic facts wrong.

'The 9-3 never really lived up to the 900 it replaced, and it was derided for basically being a Vauxhall Cavalier underneath.'

The 9-3 launched in 1998 was actually a better car than the 900, that it was an update of! The GM 900 launched in 1993/1994 it was based on, was the car that replaced the original SAAB 900 (a much revised 99), this was of course a real Saab. So the GM 900 replaced the Saab 900, not the GM 9-3 from 1998!

24 June 2016
Maybe, but its ALL totally irrelevant as all the cars you talk about sit on the 1988 Cavalier/Vectra platform.

23 June 2016
Who put this list together?! We jump from the 99 to the 9-3 with no mention of arguably the most defining Saab of all, the 900. No Carlsson? No 16S? We get two shelved concept cars instead. Dear me...

23 June 2016
bomb wrote:

Who put this list together?! We jump from the 99 to the 9-3 with no mention of arguably the most defining Saab of all, the 900.

This. SO MUCH of this. To include the Phoenix and not the 900 ( or the Sonett ) is ridiculous. Not to mention the wrong facts, the wrong photos... do you guys need editors? ( You guys need editors )


23 June 2016
I grew up in the 80's. Back then, the motoring press were deeply impressed with the 900 Aero. It was topping group tests and probably gave the ageing 900 range enough new cred to keep it selling that little bit longer...


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review