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The Saab 9000 CS 4WD 1992: Exploring the Advanced All-Wheel-Drive System and Its Untapped Potential

The innovative engineering and intriguing history of Saab's 1992 9000 CS 4WD, a test vehicle that showcased groundbreaking all-wheel-drive technology but was halted before reaching its full potential.

The 1992 Saab 9000 CS 4WD on display at the Saab Museum in Trollhättan, Sweden, Photo by: Njål Langeland at Saab Car Festival 2024The 1992 Saab 9000 CS 4WD on display at the Saab Museum in Trollhättan, Sweden, Photo by: Njål Langeland at Saab Car Festival 2024

In the world of automotive history, the Saab 9000 CS 4WD stands out as a testament to Saab’s ingenuity and ambitious engineering. This vehicle, despite its potential, never made it to full production.

The story of the Saab 9000 CS 4WD 1992 is one of innovation, collaboration, and ultimately, corporate decisions that halted its journey. This article delves into the fascinating details of this model, enriched with insights from its development history and Saab’s earlier experiments with four-wheel drive technology.

The Collaborative Genesis of the Saab 9000

The Saab 9000 CS 4WD was born out of the Type Four platform, a collaborative effort between Saab, Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo. This partnership aimed to produce a series of executive cars that could compete with the likes of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.

 

Type four platform
Type four platform

The Saab 9000, launched in the mid-1980s, was designed by Italdesign’s Giorgetto Giugiaro, who created a versatile hatchback while Lancia developed a traditional sedan, the Thema. This collaboration allowed Saab to share development costs and technological innovations, making the 9000 a sophisticated and spacious vehicle that set new standards in its class​.

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Advanced Four-Wheel Drive System

The Saab 9000 CS 4WD was a step forward in automotive engineering, featuring an advanced four-wheel-drive system. Unlike its front-wheel-drive counterparts, this model was equipped with a five-speed manual transmission connected to a transfer case, distributing power to the rear axle via a driveshaft.

The power distribution between the front and rear axles was managed by a torquesensing Quaife differential, ensuring optimal traction and stability under various driving conditions. This system was a significant upgrade, aimed at enhancing the vehicle’s performance in challenging environments​ ​.

Powerful and Efficient Engine

Under the hood, the Saab 9000 CS 4WD housed a heavily updated 2.3-liter turbo engine. This engine was capable of producing an impressive 280 horsepower and 400 Newton-meters of torque. These specifications promised a dynamic driving experience, characterized by strong acceleration and responsive handling. The combination of the powerful engine and advanced 4WD system made the Saab 9000 CS a potential game-changer in its segment​.

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The Saab 9000 CS 4WD test vehicles, equipped with a 5-speed manual gearbox and a newly developed rear axle by Saab, demonstrated exceptional traction, particularly on snow and ice. However, the development was halted. This decision was influenced by GM’s preference for the Opel Calibra 4×4, a simpler all-wheel-drive model viewed as a sporty highlight and image bearer within the GM group. Saab, allegedly voluntarily, stepped back, which is now considered a mistake. The Saab 9000 CS 4WD, with its permanent all-wheel drive and turbocharged 280-285 hp, would have rivaled the emerging Audi brand, but Saab refrained from challenging GM’s priorities.

The exact fate of the initial CC-based test vehicle, which might have had multiple examples, remains unclear. However, a 1992 Saab 9000 CS 4WD has survived and resides in the Saab Museum’s depot in Trollhättan with just over 109,000 kilometers on the odometer

Early Experiments with Four-Wheel Drive

Saab’s experimentation with four-wheel drive technology dates back to the early 1980s, nearly a decade before the development of the 9000 CS 4WD. One of the notable early projects was the Saab 900 Turbo 4×4, which featured a similar drive system aimed at improving performance and handling. These early experiments laid the groundwork for the more refined and advanced systems seen in later models, including the 9000 CS 4WD​​.

The Political Roadblock

Despite the promising advancements, the Saab 9000 CS 4WD project was discontinued due to political decisions within GM Europe, Saab’s parent company at the time. The decision to halt the project was not a reflection of the car’s technical capabilities or market potential but rather a strategic move influenced by corporate politics. This decision underscores the complex interplay between innovation and corporate strategy, where promising projects can be shelved due to reasons beyond technical or market considerations​.

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Legacy and Impact

The Saab 9000 CS 4WD remains a symbol of Saab’s innovative spirit and the brand’s willingness to push the boundaries of automotive engineering. For enthusiasts and historians, this model represents a fascinating “what-if” scenario, illustrating the potential impact it could have had on the market. The advanced features and ambitious design continue to inspire admiration and speculation about what could have been a remarkable addition to Saab’s legacy​​.

Conclusion

The Saab 9000 CS 4WD 1992 is a remarkable example of Saab’s engineering prowess and innovative spirit. Although it never reached full production, its story provides a captivating glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of automotive development. By exploring its specifications, unique features, and the reasons behind its discontinuation, we gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities of the automotive industry. The Saab 9000 CS 4WD remains an inspiring chapter in Saab’s history, reminding us of the brand’s relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation.

Goran Aničić
the authorGoran Aničić
For over 10 years, Goran Aničić has been passionately focused on Saab automobiles and everything related to them. His initial encounter with Saab cars took place back in 2003 when the first Saab 9-3 and sedan version were introduced. At that moment, he was captivated by the car's Scandinavian design logic and top-notch engineering, and everything that followed stemmed from that first encounter. Later on, through his work at the editorial team of the Serbian automotive magazines "Autostart" and later "AutoBild," he had the opportunity to engage more closely with Saab vehicles. In 2008, he tested the latest Saab cars of that time, such as the Saab 9-3 TTiD Aero and Saab 9-3 Turbo X. In 2010, as the sole blogger from the region, he participated in the Saab 9-5ng presentation in Trollhättan, Sweden. Alongside journalists from around the world, he got a firsthand experience of the pinnacle of technological offerings from Saab at that time. Currently, Goran owns two Saabs: a 2008 Saab 9-3 Vector Sportcombi with a manual transmission, and a Saab 9-3 Aero Griffin Sport Sedan from the last generation, which rolled off the production line in Trollhättan in December 2011.

5 Comments

  • inga av deras bilar räddade dem, hade inte gm gått in så hade saab kursat redan när dem tillverkade OG900

  • Gm stoppade många bra Saab projektet.Är helt övertygad att Gm och dålig ledning sänkte Saab redan från början

  • Absolutely no surprise!

    OPEL with the Calibra model logically corresponded to the GM mainstream (words from Bob Lutz)!

    SAAB was typically exploited by GM from the start 1990 to serve its research purposes, logically wanted to be charged of Swedish expenses!

    Nothing new, the same example over and over again:

    GM’s only strength is always commercial control.

    SAAB was years ahead with the technology and research that GM continued to make full use of until the desired end in 2010/11.

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