Given the company’s now defunct status, you could argue that all Saab is a future classic. Even the last round of cars from the GM era of ownership deserve a place in history. Seriously, how hot was the last 9-to-5?
Handsome design and quirky features are hallmarks of the Saab brand, and its cars feel just as premium as those of its main European rivals. But while other luxury automakers are putting out big efforts with full ranges of high-performance cars, Sweden produces only quirky, sporty Saabs every once in a while. One of our favorite cars is the turn-of-the-century 9-3 Viggen, a car that still captivates us to this day.
Why is the Saab 9-3 Viggen a future classic?
Saab’s whole “born in a jet” tagline never really made sense, but at least 9-3 Viggen’s name is a nod to the company’s aerospace roots. The Swedish word “Viggen” translates to “thunderbolt” in English, and this name was used on the Saab 37 Viggen aircraft that entered service in the early 1970s.
The 9-3 Viggen uses a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four, best known for its staggering 20 psi of boost pressure. The engine was rated at 225 horsepower (later increased to 230 horsepower) and 252 pound-feet of torque, and was exclusively paired with a five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. Stiffer suspension components, stiffer shock absorbers, stronger drive shafts, a heavy-duty clutch and a revised exhaust system are also part of the package.
The Viggen is relatively quick, with Saab quoting a 0-to-60-mph time of around 6.5 seconds. However, the 9-3 Viggen is widely known for its ludicrous turbo lag and torque steer, among other traits – traits that make the car fun to drive, even if they lose their overall sharpness and composure.
What would be an ideal example of a Saab 9-3 Viggen?
Saab offered the 9-3 Viggen as a three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback, and two-door convertible. While the car is best remembered for its launch color, Lightning Blue, Saab offered the Viggen in black, gray, red, silver and yellow. You can even upholster the interior in blue, orange or tan leather.
Arguably the most iconic 9-3 Viggen spec is the Lightning Blue three-door hatchback, but other colors are much rarer. We have a soft spot for the Monte Carlo Yellow five-door, but really, you can’t go wrong. Maybe avoid the Viggen convertible, though, unless you like the idea of rocking yourself to death.
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Is there any good substitute for Saab 9-3 Viggen?
Oh my gosh, yes. One of the biggest problems with the Viggen is that it plays in the same space as some established high-performance cars — like the Audi S4, BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG — all of which are objectively easier to drive.
But no one gets nostalgic for how crisp the Saab is on the road. Instead, we remember things like the center console-mounted ignition, the odd flip-up cupholders, the upright dash and, of course, the night panel. For these reasons and more, 9-3 Viggen will always be a highly sought after Saab.