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Classic Saab 900 - Press Reviews

'Walsall Observers' Ruby review 1993 - Ruby is a jewel in Saab crown

900 RubyA STUNNING dark red Saab 900 Ruby Edition has been launched as the ultimate development of Saab's renowned 900 series. Soon after this announcement, Saab's press team brought a selection of models to the Midlands for the local motoring correspondents to test.

I first tried the new 9000 Aero - which will be the subject of a report later in the year - but I spent most of my time behind the wheel of a 900 Ruby simply because I was intrigued by the car: Why had it survived for so long, what was the attraction of a vehicle with a shape that nobody else even comes near to, just what was the secret of its success? And because I had not had the opportunity to drive one of these particular cars for sometime, I was interested in finding out how it had evolved.

If you are old enough to remember the racing exploits of Stirling Moss, then the Saab name is probably still synonymous with the great Erik Carlsson and the two-stroke 96 in which he won three Monte Carlo rallies. But for a younger generation, it is the Saab 900 which now symbolises the Swedish manqué and its characteristic qualities - strength, individuality and reliability. Indeed, the car has become regarded as a classic in its own lifetime.

The first Saab 900 appeared in late 1978 as an evolution of the 99. It had an increased wheelbase and completely redesigned front end. Improved crash worthiness and exhaust emissions gave Saab access to the huge US market, whilst there was more room under the bonnet for items such as power steering and air conditioning.

900 RubyOver the years, the 900 has appeared in two-door, three-door, four-door and five-door guises, including the ever popular Convertible model. I endeavoured to get my hands on a convertible during the test day, but the waiting list of 'motoring writers' was far too long so I had to make do with the saloon. I am glad I did however, for Saab's outstanding reputation for safety and environmental concern has largely been founded on constant development and innovation within the 900 series, and all this came through in the saloon.

'Wind in the hair' motoring is fine in the South of France, but on a cold blustery day in the English Midlands I felt that the enclosed version was the best option in the long run and it did answer my question regarding its evolution. I was, for instance, cosseted in deep leather seating and had the benefit of a power unit which reacted the way I would have expected with a car of this pedigree on motorway, country and town roads - safely and efficiently.

Distinguished by its mica-metallic paint finish, the 185bhp Ruby is the most powerful 900 Turbo ever to leave Saab's Trollhattan factory and is now entering showrooms priced at a very competitive 19,995. The Ruby's unique colour-keyed 3-door bodywork, complete with special graphite-finish alloy wheels, encapsulates an air conditioned interior, which is furnished by grey leather-clad seating and door trims with Zegna wool inserts. An electric steel sunroof, electric windows/mirrors, ABS brakes, lowered sports suspension, cruise control, stereo radio cassette player and a leather steering wheel, gear-knob and gaiter complete the extensive list of standard equipment.

The 16-valve, 2-litre Ruby Edition is capable of a 130mph top speed and will accelerate from rest to 60mph in 8.5 seconds. Saab Great Britain anticipates importing about 200 examples of this limited edition. But it is the final expression of a unique model line which has come to symbolise the Swedish manufacturer's reputation for producing cars which are distinctive and satisfying to drive for production ceased, except for the Convertible model, last month.

Total sales world-wide were just over 900,000 units, with a total of 80,000 sold in the UK by the end of March this year. So this report has just managed to squeeze in before the demise of this generation of 900s.

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