NORCROSS, Ga. - Saab exhibited its first high performance sports car, the Sonnet Super Sport prototype, in the spring of 1956. Since then, Saab has continued to develop limited edition performance legends, cars like the aerodynamic 900 Turbo SPG and 9000 Aero, which combined full-boost turbo engines with sport suspensions and other performance-oriented modifications. Last year's debut of the 9-3 Viggen Coupe continued that legacy. For 2000, Saab adds 9-3 Viggen 5-door and Convertible models to its stable.
The Viggen name and badge honor the most agile and versatile Saab fighter jet ever developed, the Saab 37 Viggen. Therefore, the 9-3 Viggen's performance must be exceptional to be worthy of the name.
2.3L High-Output Turbo Engine Delivers Powerful Thrust
With 230 hp at 5,500 rpm, and impressive torque of 258 lb.-ft. available at just 2,500 rpm all the way through 4,500 rpm, the driver of a 9-3 Viggen will quickly identify with the level of thrust available to Saab 37 Viggen jet fighter pilots. Maximum torque is on tap for 30% of the useable power band, making this leading mid-range performer one of the world's most entertaining front wheel drive automobiles.
Saab's highly modified and responsive 2.3L four-cylinder engine resonates with Saab high output turbo character and provides exceptional overtaking performance. In fact, the 9-3 Viggen's engine is 15% more efficient at producing horsepower per liter of engine displacement than the 2000 Porsche 911 Carrera. More importantly, the Viggen is a full 52% more efficient at producing lb.-ft. of torque per liter of engine displacement. To enable the front tires to cope with the amount of torque available, maximum torque is electronically limited in first gear to 184 lb.-ft. and in second gear to 243 lb.-ft.
The incredible power output of the Viggen's engine is primarily attributable to the larger turbocharger, which produces maximum boost pressure of 1.4 bar, or a full 20 psi, and is assisted by less restrictive air intake pipes and a performance exhaust system. Although only 15-16 psi of boost pressure may be required to achieve maximum power and torque at or near sea level, Saab's Trionic 7 engine management system allows the turbo to produce up to 20 psi at higher altitudes to compensate for less dense air. The result is maximum power is available at altitudes approaching 10,000 feet.
Saab engineers have designed the engine to withstand this high boost level. Like all Saab turbochargers since 1988, the Viggen's turbo is both oil and water cooled. In addition, the engine features reinforced alloy pistons that benefit from oil cooling jets at the base of the block that spray oil at the underside of each piston. The engine also features sturdier connecting rods, nitrided gudgeon pins and strengthened intake valves. To handle the heat, exhaust valves are made of Nimonic alloy - a high nickel content, heat-resistant alloy used in aircraft components subjected to high pressure and temperature, such as the exhaust nozzles in jet engines.
Engine Management by Saab Trionic 7
The Saab Trionic 7 (T7) engine management system in the 9-3 Viggen is controlled by a 32-bit microprocessor that is capable of performing two million calculations per second. It monitors and controls the direct ignition, fuel injection, turbo boost pressure and throttle setting to enhance engine performance and eliminate turbo lag. The system continually adjusts the calibrations to maximize engine performance - compensating for a number of variables including fuel quality, altitude and more.
Since T7 provides electronic throttle control, it overcomes the inertia present in a large turbocharger and eliminates turbo lag by manipulating the throttle position. It opens the throttle further than the driver has requested, making more engine torque available as soon as it's needed. It's an electronic slight of hand, but immediately accomplishes the driver's request for more power. All 2000 Saab models feature Trionic 7.
Chassis Combines Performance Handling with Touring Composure
As with the Viggen jet fighter, the new 9-3 Viggen Coupe has the structural technology to support and enable its performance capabilities. To harness the Viggen's power and direct it properly, an enhanced sports suspension - comprised of modified springs, dampers, anti-roll bars and steering rack mounts - is utilized.
To coordinate the balance of the suspension with the improved aerodynamic balance of the body, the rear springs were stiffened over 25% while the front springs were stiffened by only 5%. These spring rates, along with the recalibrated valving of the dampers, reduce the initial body roll, while still allowing a high level of ride comfort at speed. The anti-roll bars have been optimized to complement the rest of the suspension - the rear bar is unchanged at 26mm diameter while the front bar diameter was reduced by 2mm to 24mm, to improve traction while accelerating out of corners.
Transferring the Viggen's power to the pavement are 17"x7.5" light alloy wheels with P215/45R17" low profile Z-speed rated high performance tires.
Stopping ability was equally critical to the development of the 9-3 Viggen. Front rotors are almost three-quarters of an inch larger in diameter than the standard 9-3's, and enhanced front and rear calipers provide better ventilation. All four rotors are redesigned with cooling vents and grooves for better cooling to ensure repeated fade-free stops in demanding driving conditions.
The Saab 9-3 Viggen was developed jointly by Saab Automobile AB's Special Vehicles Operations team and the Oxfordshire, England-based TWR Group. The TWR Group is owned by Tom Walkinshaw, whose extensive racing background has evolved the company into one of Europe's foremost design and engineering houses, specializing in high-performance tuning. The 9-3 Viggen body will continue to be manufactured at Saab's factory in Trollhattan, Sweden, then shipped in a climate controlled, sealed container to Uusikaupunki, Finland for painting and final assembly at the Valmet Automotive plant. Only a limited number of 3,000 Saab Viggen models will be produced annually for worldwide enjoyment.