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1996 Saab 900 REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

What’s New: The popular Saab 900 SE five-door is available this year with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. An automatic transmission is now optional on turbos. V6 models come only with an automatic. Adjustable driver's lumbar support is now standard on all 900 models.

Review: When General Motors bought Saab several years ago, many thought that the unique and quirky characteristics that endeared Saabs to thousands of loyal owners would vanish as GM began redesigning and introducing new models to the public. When the new 900 arrived for 1994, those fears vanished. The 900 retained its Saabish styling and handling, and the fun-loving turbo reappeared with more power.

For 1996, the changes to the Saab 900 are mostly cosmetic. Revisions include: adjustable lumbar support for the driver's seat, a standard rear spoiler, alloy wheels and fat tires on all turbo models and the V6 convertible, as well as a reflective rear panel. The base coupe and sedan, both of which are actually cavernous hatchbacks, come with a twin-cam, 2.3-liter four cylinder good for 150 horsepower. A 170-horsepower GM V6 is standard on the SE five-door hatch, but it may be ordered this year with the awesome 185-horsepower turbo which really boosts this sedan into performance car territory. The SE Turbo three-door hatchback continues the trend, with the same engine that gets the 900 to 60 mph just one-tenth of a second slower than a Ford Mustang GT.

Inside, a traditionally high seating position in orthopedically correct seats gives a commanding view over the short hood. The windshield is fairly upright, contributing to the excellent forward visibility. The dash is logically laid out, with clearly marked analog gauges and cool knobs that the Swedish engineers know are more fun than buttons. With the seats folded, the Saab rivals many sport utilities and minivans with its cargo volume.

Yes, the Saab has retained its Saabishness. The ignition is still floor-mounted, and the shifter still must be in reverse to remove the key. These are the reasons a small contingent of consumers pays upwards of $21,000 for the 900 each year. From a practical standpoint, there are other cars that do what the Saab does, but none with such offbeat panache.


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