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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With all things being "equal" (maintenance, mileage), what would be the most "reliable" years for NG900/OG9-3 ? I may want to pick one up in the next 6-12 months, either a 3-dr or 5-dr (could be manual or automatic).

I'll keep my selection to 1997 or newer. What are the key differences/improvements/weaknesses within that generation 1997-2002 ?

Thx.
 

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Well, 1997-2002 wasn't really a "generation," per say, it's two. Assuming we're talking the turbocharged offering, 1997-99 had the Trionic 5.5 B204L engine, but '00 switched to the Trionic 7 B205, which is known as being less overbuilt than the B204 and having oil sludging issues that were only later patched with so-called "PCV" updates (and a wildly inappropriate recommended oil change interval, was it 12K?). Other changes took root with Trionic 7, including adding a air mass meter / mas airflow, rather than calculating it from engine RPM, MAP, and IAT. '97-'99 is a good range; in '97, they introduced slightly larger front brake rotors, too. But really, '94-96 are fine cars (I may be a bit biased here), and likely more reliable on the powertrain side of things than '00-02.
 

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I'm almost at 30,000 miles for a car that cost $1500 (car was $1000 and used 5-speed was $500). That's $.05/mile. Gas cost is around $.09.5/mile, so total cost per mile is $.0145 per mile. My '01 Sierra cost per mile is closer to $.27/mile not including gas... Ron
 

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Honestly, as far as reliability goes, they're all the same. It all depends on how well the car's been looked after.
 

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The 9-3 have a few improvements over the NG900, but it also had a few changes that worked out otherwise.

First, if you're not taking the motor up over 300HP, the internal engine differences aren't really an issue. The T7 (2000 and up) runs a bit smoother and gets better mileage. But, it also has a MAF that can eventually wear out. Otherwise I think the engines are essentially as a daily driver. The 9-3 also has an issue with the electronically controlled throttle body wearing a little and going into limp-home mode. The fix is to have it rebuilt and a software update that loosens the error range a bit.

The T7 does have the mentioned potential sludge problem. If the car has had regular (5K or so) oil changes throughout its life, it's probably OK. Most of us here have dropped our oil pan to clean out the screen and make sure, then we install the PCV fix #6 to make sure the problem doesn't come back. There's a risk to buying a T7 without dropping the pan - you have to decide if it's worth it for the car you are looking at. Since you should do it anyway after purchase, you might as well do it or pay to have it done before purchase.

Later 9-3's are supposed to have improved transmission gears. The later, the most improved. I don't see a lot of "field use" differences... the guys with high HP seem to kill trannys of any year. Viggens had some tranny issues (the reason the improvements were made).

The 9-3 get a hydraulic clutch. Whether that's an improvement, I don't know. The NG900 needs a new clutch cable every 45K or so. But, it doesn't have an impossible to bleed slave cylinder that requires a transmission drop to replace - then again, there aren't a lot of them that seem to go bad.

The 9-3 has SID and ACC panel problems. Sooner or later everyone seems to have to send them in for repair.

The 9-3 suspension is slightly (only slightly) improved in front. The difference isn't huge. My 9-3 rides smoother than my NG900 (stock) but the NG900 has a lot more miles. My NG900 handled better stock. EDIT: Forgot to mention that the 9-3 is quieter by a bit.

All in all, despite some increases in maintenance and reliability issues, I like my 9-3 better. A low mileage '99 with the T5 motor might be the best compromise.
 

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My 2001 SE Vert was a really great running car, till my girlfriend ran into a ditch, busted the radiator, oil cooler, and intercooler, then drove it till the engine quit.
 

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With all things being "equal" (maintenance, mileage), what would be the most "reliable" years for NG900/OG9-3 ? I may want to pick one up in the next 6-12 months, either a 3-dr or 5-dr (could be manual or automatic).

I'll keep my selection to 1997 or newer. What are the key differences/improvements/weaknesses within that generation 1997-2002 ?

Thx.
With everything else being equal, I'd say a basic '97/'98 900S with the 2.3.
  • no DIC issues
  • no turbo issues
  • no boost control issues
  • a lot less plumbing of various types
  • not as likely to have been modified and/or flogged
  • no ACC
The one 2.3-specific issue I can think of is the distributor. You have to replace the rotor/cap/wires periodically, and oil has to be cleaned out of the distributor as well. However, a used distributor from the junkyard is a lot cheaper than a DIC from the junkyard.
 

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When I was looking for mine I decided on a '99, as the T5 engine has fewer sludge issues and a pretty high crossover of parts across the span. I did quite a bit of research and have no regrets with my '99 other than wishing I got an SE instead of a base.
 

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All else being equal (condition, maintenance, mileage, etc), I'd toss in for the '97-'98 900, and the '99 9-3. As others have said you get the T5 engine in these cars, and have the improved suspension/brakes over the '96 and earlier cars.

However, as mentioned maintenance and condition at these cars' age easily trumps any from-the-factory attributes you'll find across the model years.
 

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With everything else being equal, I'd say a basic '97/'98 900S with the 2.3.
  • no DIC issues
  • no turbo issues
  • no boost control issues
  • a lot less plumbing of various types
  • not as likely to have been modified and/or flogged
  • no ACC
The one 2.3-specific issue I can think of is the distributor. You have to replace the rotor/cap/wires periodically, and oil has to be cleaned out of the distributor as well. However, a used distributor from the junkyard is a lot cheaper than a DIC from the junkyard.
No turbo... no fun!

YMMV
 

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97,98,99 SE's or the rare 98 Anniversary edition: A 900S with the SE engine.

00-02 added the traction control which is a nice feature.

I wouldn't AVOID an 00-02 by any means whatsoever.

There are some nice changes out of the 1,100 that were made to the 900.

I would really only avoid a 94-95, unless it was in REALLY good shape.
 

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I have a 99' SE and it's a fairly solid car assuming it was taken car of. If it has high miles, you'll need to replace things here and there, but they regularly run to 200k miles and beyond. It's still cheaper than $2500 down plus monthly payments of a new car.

The 99' is kid of a best of both worlds. It still has the T5 which allows for minor stuff like BOV to atmosphere (whoosh~) as well as running a MBC. The engine can handle more HP too. I pulled my pan just as a precaution when the engine had around 164k miles and no sludge.
 

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I have a 1994 900S 2.0i with 219000 km. According to VIN, NG900 number ~2400 produced (october 1993). No turbo, no ACC, no factory sound system, no SID, no sunroof (=not very fun). Been in the family since 2004, previously owned by a woman/family with kids, who did not take particularly good care of it judging by the service record.

Nevertheless - the engine is bulletproof. Synth oil once a year and it's happy. The handbrake is hopeless, and needs adjusting or changing every 2 years. Rear brakes seize. The two latter probably caused by salted winter roads in Norway, but still, it's a swedish car...

Door hinges are prone to wear, door wont stay open. Driver's seat prone to wear on side supports, production fault. Heated seats will fry after some years, but this happens to many cars. Fuel pumps die and are costly if you need to get the job done in a workshop, and as far as reliability goes, this must be the biggest downside with any Saab in my opinon. Really, it's just unacceptable that a $100 pump insert made of sh*t quality can leave you stranded. And the doors rust like hell, also part production fault due to draining/water trapping.

But I still like my old Saab. It has huge amounts of space in the back, fairly comfy to drive, great seats even for long hauls, easy to repair if you like to get your hands dirty... And the interior is still a nice place to be after 19 years. Well organised and mostly high quality, and looks very nice if you have the radio, SID and ACC. The dash is even nice and padded, no hard plastics which seem to bother motoring journalists so much. Try saying the same (and meaning it) about a Toyota!
 

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With all these cars now at least 10years old the year of manufacturing probably has only minor implications for reliability as a car for use now and in the future. Just choose which is in the best shape with respect to all the usual inspection points from any year would be the sensible advice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
When I was looking for mine I decided on a '99, as the T5 engine has fewer sludge issues and a pretty high crossover of parts across the span. I did quite a bit of research and have no regrets with my '99 other than wishing I got an SE instead of a base.
All else being equal (condition, maintenance, mileage, etc), I'd toss in for the '97-'98 900, and the '99 9-3. As others have said you get the T5 engine in these cars, and have the improved suspension/brakes over the '96 and earlier cars.

However, as mentioned maintenance and condition at these cars' age easily trumps any from-the-factory attributes you'll find across the model years.
97,98,99 SE's or the rare 98 Anniversary edition: A 900S with the SE engine.

00-02 added the traction control which is a nice feature.

I wouldn't AVOID an 00-02 by any means whatsoever.

There are some nice changes out of the 1,100 that were made to the 900.

I would really only avoid a 94-95, unless it was in REALLY good shape.
I have a 99' SE and it's a fairly solid car assuming it was taken car of. If it has high miles, you'll need to replace things here and there, but they regularly run to 200k miles and beyond. It's still cheaper than $2500 down plus monthly payments of a new car.

The 99' is kid of a best of both worlds. It still has the T5 which allows for minor stuff like BOV to atmosphere (whoosh~) as well as running a MBC. The engine can handle more HP too. I pulled my pan just as a precaution when the engine had around 164k miles and no sludge.
Thanks y'all.

I'm no closer to buying one at this time, but at least I'm getting better first-hand information than researching on my own (group hug ...... mwah ! :eek::cheesy:).

So '99 sounds like a sweet spot as far as the T5 engine goes. Now what goodies are on the SE that's not on other trims ?

My '93 9000CSE had the freaking TCS which I dreaded from a maintenance perspective, but when it worked I appreciated its utility. Does the NG900/OG9-3's TCS differ or same than that of the 9000 ?

DIC for T5 .... black or red ?

Did they all have A4 tranny right up to '02MY ? I'd prefer not to get an auto, but I said that with my 9000 (whose ZF4HP18 ended up being rebuilt costing me Cdn$2800). These are Aisin-Warner 4-spd autos and they're all pretty good, right ?

I'd be fairly happy with something similar to this (albeit maybe pay a bit less) if '99MY or newer specimens don't come along:

http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/cto/3063905165.html
 

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99 is the best. It has the T5 system, the newer body style and all the feature modifications that came on the newer 9-3s.

T5 suite (free) can help you mod your car as well if you know what you're doing or you could get someone to upgrade your software if you need to get more out of your engine.

You can get a bigger TD04 and a bigger after market intercooler

An Auto box is more solid than the 5 speed but isn't as much fun.

In Canada we have harsh winters and more salt so a newer car is always better. Inspect the rear shock towers and the rear quarter panels near the arches
Good luck ;ol;
 

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Thanks y'all.

I'm no closer to buying one at this time, but at least I'm getting better first-hand information than researching on my own (group hug ...... mwah ! :eek::cheesy:).

So '99 sounds like a sweet spot as far as the T5 engine goes. Now what goodies are on the SE that's not on other trims ?

My '93 9000CSE had the freaking TCS which I dreaded from a maintenance perspective, but when it worked I appreciated its utility. Does the NG900/OG9-3's TCS differ or same than that of the 9000 ?

DIC for T5 .... black or red ?

Did they all have A4 tranny right up to '02MY ? I'd prefer not to get an auto, but I said that with my 9000 (whose ZF4HP18 ended up being rebuilt costing me Cdn$2800). These are Aisin-Warner 4-spd autos and they're all pretty good, right ?

I'd be fairly happy with something similar to this (albeit maybe pay a bit less) if '99MY or newer specimens don't come along:

http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/cto/3063905165.html
I got my 97 6 years ago with 113 000 Kms and it looked and drove like brand new for $5000. That car you linked to is waaay too expensive
here's a pic of what it looked like back then

 

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Thanks y'all.

So '99 sounds like a sweet spot as far as the T5 engine goes. Now what goodies are on the SE that's not on other trims ?

DIC for T5 .... black or red ?
A T5 has a Red DIC; T7 has black. That's not material these days really. T7 used to be cheaper, but they are in short supply for a few more weeks, so they are more expensive right now.

Saab played a lot of games with S, SE, and other designations with the NG900 and more so with the 9-3 years. In the USA, an S was an NA motor, an SE always a turbo. If you're talking a '99, you won't find that designation as they went to all turbo with the 9-3.

An SE will usually have all the accessories available. But, not always. In later 9-3 years the SE model sometimes comes without the dual power seats, the ACC, and I think the leather. You need to check equipment to be sure - there is NO way to tell from the VIN or other designation.

A HOT motor is nice for the extra HP and cross flow intercooler (lends itself to later upgrades before requiring replacement). HOT cars will have a "P' or "K" as the 8th character of the VIN. This might help when looking at cars to help pin down equipment from afar: http://www.saabnet.com/tsn/models/1999-20019-39-5cn.html. (applies to all ng900's and OG9-3's).

I wouldn't buy an auto. MHO, but these cars are well matched to the manual and are a lot of fun like that. The auto, meh.
 
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