900 Style and Substance


NORCROSS, Ga. -- The very foundation of the all-new Saab 900 is rooted in the basic philosophy that the new model should embody all the characteristics and features of its predecessor--the first 900, debuted in 1 g78. As a result, the new 900's styling is easily recognized by the practicality, technical substance and distinctive appearance that sends a clear signal--it's a Saab! Although aerodynamically more advanced than the previous model, the all-new 900 is an evolutionary development of the same body proportions; its body contours are smooth and soft, just like earlier 900s.

The deep curvature of its windshield and the slope of the A-pillars, for instance, are combined with the design of the roof to produce the typical "peak cap,'l or roof crown, effect that made the Saab 900 unlike anything else on the road. Add to this the horizontal character line along the entire side of the 900's body and the distinctive beltline that runs in a long, unbroken curve from the front corners of the hood to around the rear quarter window, and the Saab styling elements become immediEely obvious. The front of the car, including its extremely recognizable grille and soft hood design, also signals that the new 900 is all Saab.

Additional body design details have been incorporated to avoid excessive disturbance of the airflow for improved aerodynamic efficiency and low wind noise, along with reduced accumulation of road dirt.

"The styling and design of any Saab involves creating a complete functional entity, in which the aesthetic appeal is part of the total function. But our developments will also always combine safety, comfort and economy, and must preserve the timeless, distinctive Saab identity," emphasized Einar Hareide, head of Exterior Design at Saab Automobile AB.

Form Follows Function

The demands on a modern passenger car are intense, and must be carefully balanced. Its exterior surface must be attractively styled for consumer appeal in global markets and it must also minimize possible harm to pedestrians, cyclists and other cars in the event of an impact. At the same time, today's cars must function efficiently as a shape, presenting minimum aerodynamic resistance or drag--remaining stable at high speed and under windy conditions. The coefficient of drag of the 1994 Saab 900 is 0.30.

All surface-related design elements such as cooling openings, lighting requirements, wind noise generation and rain-water flow patterns must be meticulously optimized. Large, wide-opening doors and windows must also be present.

Beneath the skin, today's Saab must provide ample room for a family of five and have a generous and versatile amount of cargo carrying capacity. At the same time, its body must act as a rigid platform for the suspension, and include a well-insulated engine and transmission package. Finally, it must protect the occupants in the event of a collision, from the front, rear, side or at any angle in between--even if the car rolls over-- and it must be able to resist corrosion during many years of expected use under extreme conditions.

One of the objectives, therefore, during the development of the 1994 Saab 900 was to produce a car with efficient exterior dimensions, as well as an expansive and comfortable interior. Despite its moderate external size, the Saab 900 has a large, well- arranged interior with space for five adults. It is built on a new platform with a longer wheelbase (102.4 in. compared to its predecessor's 99.1 in.), but with a shorter overall length (182.6 in. instead of 184.3 in.) than the previous Saab 900. Front overhang is unchanged, for consistent crash-worthiness.

The 1994 Saab 900 is approximately one inch wider for better side-impact protection, and one-half inch taller for improved headroom. While its predecessor was rated "compact," the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now designates the all-new Saab 900 as a "mid-size" car.

Like its Saab siblings, the 1994 900 is practical, versatile, and capable of fulfilling a wide variety of cargo carrying needs. Available as a 5-door hatchback, the Saab 900 features a large rear hatch and luggage compartment, with 40/100 split folding rear seats. Like ever,v Saab hatchback, the liftover height is low--down to the rear bumper. The new Saab 900 is one of the first cars to combine three rear lap-and-shoulder safety belts with a folding rear seat arrangement.

The compact overall dimensions and tight turning circle make the new Saab 900 nimble in traffic and easy to park in confined spaces. Beneath the smooth new exterior and unique hatchback design, is an advanced new chassis and a fully integrated Saab safety cage, with front and rear crumple zones.

All joints within the passenger compartment are reinforced with high-strength steel. This adds increased stiffness to the structure, while providing good support for the front and rear crumple zones. Compared with the previous Saab model, the new 900 is 50 per cent stiffer in torsion.

The 1994 Saab 900 features self-restoring front and rear bumpers that can recover their shape after sustaining collisions at speeds up to 5 mph. Behind the front bumper is a unique, new front structure incorporating a "low-speed crash protection system." Designed to protect the sheet metal and lamp clusters from damage in minor collisions, it features special energy-absorbing metal boxes that are mounted between the front bumper supports and the chassis side rails. These boxes are designed to deform before the main structure, when the Saab 900 is involved in impacts at speeds up to approximately 10 mph (with only half of the front involved in the crash) and up to 13 mph with the whole front structure involved. The boxes can be easily replaced for repair, and require no chassis realignment after deformation in low speed impacts. This new Saab innovation has been developed in collaboration with leading U.S., Swedish and European insurance companies and is expected to contribute to reduced repair costs--and thus insurance premiums.

Another priority during the development of the all-new Saab 900 was to provide maximum aerodynamic stability as a prerequisite for the dynamic stability of the chassis and suspension. To generate low side-wind forces and minimum yaw moments, the air flow around the rear of the body was optimized to create a clean and stable separation point for turbulent wake air. The position of the pressure center was also optimized for stability. The shape of the front end profile was optimized with the rear to give the best overall balance between front and rear lift forces. Aerodynamic lift on the rear of the new Saab 900 is approximately 45 percent less than on the previous 900.

"Two critical areas for low drag were the front corners (where the sidelamp clusters are located) and the C-pillar, where it was essential to maintain laminar flow as far around the corner of the car as possible," says Hakan Danielson, head of aerodynamic development at Saab. "This was achieved by ensuring that the rear side window glass was positioned as far out as possible, and by keeping the radius of the body curves to a maximum.

Particular attention was paid to the exterior mirrors, for low wind noise and minimum accumulation of dirt on the door windows in foul weather. For this development, Saab used a special laboratory "dirt tunnel" to study the aerodynamic behavior of the exterior door design in conjunction with the A-pillar and mirrors. The rain gutters above the doors are hidden, and tailgate drains and the steep hatch angle are designed to help keep the rear window clear from dirt accumulation as well.

Another Saab 900 body design detail optimized during the aerodynamic development concerned air flow over the windshield wipers--a common source of wind noise. A small spoiler on the trailing edge of the hood deflects air over the parked blades and arms. The compound curvature of the windshield was also optimized to reduce turbulence around the A-pillars. The upper door frames were stiffened to increase the pressure of the door seals, making them more efficient in blocking wind noise as well.

The Saab 900's new exterior handles are aesthetically pleasing and functionally efficient, and can be accessed from either above or below. This design allows a more secure grip, while the smooth backing plate prevents broken fingernails and scratched paint. The handles are partially recessed for improved aerodynamics while the fuel filler door is flush. Air outlet vents for the climate control system are hidden behind the rear bumper, instead of being located beneath visible grilles. This improves the air flow along the side of the car and enhances the vents' effectiveness in removing and replenishing interior air.

To See And Be Seen

The Saab 900 headlights are single halogen units with the industry's latest, complex surface reflectors, which combine low and high beams. Reflective moldings behind the aerodynamic headlight lenses have been optimized by advanced CAD/CAM techniques that integrate 50,000 individual computer-calculated points. As a result, a shape is generated that compensates for the small variations in the pattern of light from the bulb filament. This provides a more uniform and wider beam with a longer range, casting about 40 percent more light on the road ahead. Front fog lights are standard, as is a single rear fog light on both the Saab 900 S and 900 SE. The Saab 900 is also pre-wired for daytime running lights.

Headlamp wipers and washers are also standard equipment. They operate automatically when the windshield is washed while the headlights are on. Headlamp wipers are, of course, more efficient than power wash systems, especially in areas where road spray contains dirt or salt. A rear wiper/washer is also standard. Saab 900 headlights include an innovative courtesy feature that is particularly useful when exiting the vehicle after dark. By flicking the stalk for high/low beam immediately before closing the door, the low beams are illuminated for 30 additional seconds.

The rear lights are divided into two clusters on each side of the Saab 900. One section includes the fog light, backup lights and reflectors, and it is mounted on the rear hatch. The other section includes turn signals and brake lights on the rear quarter panel. A center high-mounted stop light is incorporated in the rear spoiler, on the hatch. All bulbs can be easily replaced from inside the luggage compartment, without tools.

The Saab 900 also features cornering lights, side marker turn indicators and side- guidance reversing lamps. The doors are fitted with warning reflectors as well, and a full complement of map reading lights is included.

Glass area is expansive, for utmost outward visibility, and the Saab 900 hatchback includes rear quarter windows between the C- and D-pillars. The side mirrors are quite large as well, and are electrically heated. The Saab 900 also features all-window demisting and heat-absorbent glass.

Resistant to Rust

To ensure that the entire structure retains its integrity throughout the extended life that is anticipated for each and every Saab, protection against corrosion was considered at every stage during the development of the new 900--from first concept to final production.

The Saab 900 is therefore designed with large sub-assemblies, which can be tested as units before they are fitted into the car. This not only ensures high production quality, but improves corrosion resistance since the removal of components for adjustment or repair can damage rust protection provisions. The Saab 900 was engineered with the fewest possible joints, taking full advantage of robot-welding with stringent requirements for precision and fit, thereby avoiding traps which may accumulate moisture and dirt.

Saab's anti-corrosion treatment can withstand the worst conceivable climatic conditions over many years without deterioration. All vital body panels and components are specified with pre-coated sheet metal, either single- or double-sided, for additional corrosion resistance.

This anti-corrosion process, combined with the extensive use of zinc-coated sheet metal in sensitive areas, allows all new Saabs to carry a 6-year Perforation Warranty with no mileage limit. Because the all-new 900 is a Saab, mud flaps are standard equipment, adding further underside protection.

A Model of Interior Efficiency--New Saab "Safeseat" and "Black Panel Debut"

According to Aina Nilsson, head of Interior Design for the new 900, "Saab's objective in the design of its interiors is to create functional, safe, pleasant and comfortable interior appointments. Since we know our customers thoroughly, we also know that they demand individualistic, sensible and high-quality features, without being overly concerned with the dictates of trend and fashion."

As with the exterior, the interior of the Saab 900 is a further evolution of the distinctive style created by its predecessor.

The 900 S is upholstered in a soft, quilted velour fabric while the more luxurious 900 SE features leather standard upholstery. Molded door panels are color coordinated, with matching fabric inserts around the door handles and armrests. The doors are padded with impact-absorbing material. The headliner and A-pillars are trimmed with a light velour fabric, and folding "grab" handles are included for all outbound passengers.

Front seats are fully adjustable with either manual or power control. The electrically adjustable driver's seat is equipped with a memory function to store three settings for immediate recall. Electric heaters with rheostat control are standard for both front seats. Three-point inertia reel lap-and-shoulder safety belts are provided for all five occupants. Front seat belts include pretensioners and adjustable upper anchor points, and are secured to the seat frame on both sides for improved comfort and belt performance. Head restraints are fitted at all outboard seating positions, and a rear center unit is available as an option.

The four-spoke air bag-equipped steering wheel features a thick rim cross-section to provide a firm grip, and is telescopically adjustable for reach. A front passenger-side air bag is also standard equipment.

The Saab 900 interior offers an abundance of storage, including a large, lockable glove compartment. Smaller objects can be stored in the door pockets, while additional small storage compartments are provided at the rear of the center console. Maps and magazines can be stored in compartments on the rear of each front seat back.

As an environmentally-concerned corporate citizen, Saab uses recyclable materials for interior components, such as the center console, glovebox and door pockets. The surfaces of these components are patterned with a special fine grain matte finish to avoid reflection and to resist scratching. This surface also makes cleaning easier.

The Saab 900 debuts an innovative rear "Safeseat," which can be folded down in one piece or partially with a 40/100 split. When the rear backrest is folded, the standard head restraints fold as well. The rear seat incorporates a folding center armrest which conceals a "pass through" opening for long, slender objects. A rear seat option includes two integrated child booster seats.

Heat-absorbent glass is standard on all models to reduce the thermal load on the passenger compartment for improved interior comfort. An electrically operated tilt/slide glass sunroof with sunshade is also available. All interior materials are fire-resistant.

The expansive luggage compartment has a capacity of 24 cu. ft., and is lined with practical, thick felt carpet. With the rear seat folded, 49.8 cu. ft. of carrying capacity is provided in the Saab 900 5-door hatchback. A compact spare and tool kit are located under the trunk floor, which will accommodate a full-sized tire after a flat has been changed. Four tie-down points provide a convenient means for securing luggage. The remote-opening rear hatch includes a convenient handle on the inside to facilitate closing. Detachable rubber straps lift the removable rear parcel shelf as the hatch opens.

Derived from Saab's aircraft heritage, the instrument panel and facia include controls that are within convenient reach. Switches, controls and gauges are assembled in priority sub-groups, according to their function and frequency of use. The primary zone immediately ahead of the steering wheel includes the main instrument cluster which incorporates gauges and warning lamps. Controls that the passenger might need to access, such as the radio, climate control system and the switch for the four-way hazard warning flashers, are located in the center of the car. The exterior light switches are located on the left side of the steering wheel, and the interior light switch is located on the center console between the front seats, where it can be operated from either side. Controls for the electric windows and electrically operated glass sunroof are also positioned there for utmost ease of access.

Of course, a 900 wouldn't be a 900 without its center console-mounted ignition key, which is located between the front seats--a Saab innovation that has been retained. In addition to its ergonomic advantage, the console-mounted ignition reduces the possibility of the driver's knee coming into contact with the key in the event of a collision.

As in the world's most advanced aircraft--also produced by Saab--the amount of information provided by the Saab 900's instruments constitutes a level that the driver can easily perceive and absorb. Gauges are free from irrelevant graduations and are designed with clear graphics and indicators. Information is provided in purely numerical form. A complete range of indicator and warning lamps also incorporate a door-ajar warning for the doors and rear hatch.

With the debut of the Saab 900's new "Black Panel" function, the driver can switch off all instruments, with the exception of the speedometer, to reduce nighttime glare and distraction. An electronic monitoring system activates any instrument automatically on a "need to know" basis, per the latest aircraft practice. For example, if the engine reaches excessive rpm, the fuel level falls below a pre-set level or the engine temperature starts to rise, the appropriate gauge or warning lamp will illuminate.

Every switch and control is designed so that its function is self-evident. Rotary knobs are styled for a firm twist grip and push-buttons are shaped to be depressed, never turned. This practice, which is typical of the Saab design approach, is clearly evident in the simplicity of the rocker switches for the electric windows, which are shaped to be pressed down to lower the windows and lifted to raise them.

As one of the most frequently used sets of controls, the Saab sound system was given a high priority during the conceptualization of the instrument panel. Standard Saab sound systems include an electronic anti-theft system, and the complete radio/cassette system is of a unique shape and size to further deter theft.

The Saab 900 also includes manually activated "child-proof" rear door locks, along with a lock-out for the rear power windows. A Dead-Lock security system is standard, and incorporated within the Saab 900's central locking system, which also includes an integrated anti-theft alarm system.

Return to 1994 Model News

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