Swedens Saab got its start building airplanes just prior to World War II. The name
stands for "Svenka Aeroplan AB." Saabs first car, the Saab 99, didnt
appear until late 1949. Its aviation heritage was clearly seen early on, including a drag
coefficient of only 0.35, impressive even today. The same aviation heritage shows up in
the latest Saab 9-3 Viggens, whose namesake, the Viggen JA37, is Saabs
high-performance jet fighter plane. Incidentally, the drag coefficient of the Viggen
sedans today is only 0.31! Like all Saabs since day one, the Viggens styling is
unique. so you dont have look at the Delta-wing badges to know that this is a Saab,
and a special one at that.
Viggens come in three models, a 3-door coupe, a 5-door sedan and a convertible. Based
on the regular 9-3 series, the Viggen is fitted with an aggressive front spoiler, rocker
panel extensions, rear bumper cover and rear wing, all of which are added with the purpose
of improving the Viggens aerodynamics and thus increase stability, reduce wind noise
and improve fuel economy. Having tested both the Viggen 5-door sedan and a convertible, I
can attest that these features do their job. These are among the best handling,
fun-to-drive cars I have driven in a very long time.
Under the hood is an intercooled, turbocharged, 2.3 liter, 4-cylinder engine with
chain-driven double overhead camshafts (DOHC). This modified engine features an upgraded
turbocharger and pumps out an impressive 230-horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of
torque between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. While most automakers dropped turbochargers long ago,
Saab has refined them to near perfection.
For example, there is none of the turbo lag found as in turbocharged engines of the
past. The engine, as well as the chassis, has been beefed up to handle the additional
power. Acceleration is breathtaking, like 0 to 60 mph in under 7-seconds! Top speed is an
electronically limited 155 mph. In keeping with the Viggens sports car character, it
comes only with a five-speed manual transmission. Because the stock gearbox cannot handle
torque in the lower gears, and to reduce massive torque steer, the engine output is
limited to only 184 lb. ft. of torque in first gear, and 243 lb. ft. in second. And full
torque is available in third gear and up. For this level of performance, the EPA numbers
are rather impressive - 20-mpg city and 31-mpg highway. The fuel tank holds 17 gallons of
gas for greater long distance cruising, and the Viggen also comes with a traction control
system and has anti-lock brakes.
Of course there are other features, some may call them quirks, which are found in all
Saabs. Like the ignition key on the console behind the gearshift, the typically somewhat
rubbery shifting, and the need to put the car in reverse to remove the key. The cockpit
layout is excellent with all the instruments and controls in the right place. Rather than
the faux wood often used in most upscale cars, Saab has used marble-like inserts that give
a modern, aerospace look.
Saabs are amongst the safest cars on the road. Features include a body with deformation
zones, a rigid safety cage and outstanding side impact protection. Interior safety
enhancements include Saab Active Head Restraints on front seats, head and torso protecting
side airbags and anti-submarining protection. However, the Saab Viggens greatest
safety feature is probably its available power, great handling and good brakes that help
you avoid an accident in the first place.
While the rear seats in the two sedans are comfortable for two adults, those in the
convertible are only really suitable for short trips. The front seats, which are fitted
with side bolsters and extended thigh support, provide great support during aggressive
Like all Saabs convertibles I have driven, this one had some cowl shake. While much
less than in the previous models, it was more than found in some competitors
ragtops. On a more positive point, the convertible top moves up and down with ease and
folds away quite nicely.
Aimed at the "drivers car" market, Viggen buyers can attend the Viggen Flight
Academy free of charge. It is held at the world class Road Atlanta raceway near Saab Cars
USAs headquarters in Norcross, Georgia. Staffed by a team of racing professionals,
Viggen owners can get two days of intensive driver training and instruction. Graduates of
the Viggen Flight Academy will come away with all the techniques needed to get the maximum
of fun and safety from these special high performance cars.
Prices for the Viggens start at $37,995 for the 3-door and 5-door Vigens. The topless
Viggen goes for $44,995. Viggens come very well equipped with premium standard features
like front and rear fog lights, cornering lights, cabin air filters, black leather
upholstery, power windows and locks, powered drivers seat with memory, tinted glass,
sunroofs on sedans, and premium sound systems. And now all Saabs come with the exclusive
GM OnStar communication system at no additional charge.
By Bill Siuru & Shawn Stewart © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Saab Home Page
Byline: By Bill Siuru & Shawn Stewart © AutoWire.Net -
Column Name: "Like all Saabs, the Viggen's styling is Unique"
Topic: 2001 Saab Viggen Convertible and Sedans
Word Count: 919
Photo Caption: 2001 Saab Viggen
Photo Credits: 2001 Saab Internet Media
Series #: 2001 - 4
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