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The new Saab 9-3 Viggen was conceived to denote a special performance brand within the Saab 9-3 range. Appropriately, a specialist team working within Saab Automobile created the Viggen model.

Led by Australian Peter Leonard, the team was known as Special Vehicle Operations – and the Saab 9-3 Viggen was during the development known as the ‘SVO car’ initially, before naming of the performance brand – with its historic aviation connections to Saab’s past – was finalised.

Saab SVO conceptThe SVO car was first shown as two concept cars, a Coupe and a Convertible, at the Geneva Motor Show in 1996, but it was not until a year later that the project gained board approval, following a complete review of the Saab range and line-up. So, in many ways, the SVO car has been a long time appearing. In reality, though, the SVO team has created the Saab 9-3 Viggen within a surprisingly short time. From concept approval to production ready took less than 30 months.

“Although the SVO project was always intended to be fast tracked,” explains SVO team leader, Peter Leonard, “we haven’t cut any corners in terms of the validation and verification work. We’ve followed all Saab guidelines in terms of durability and component testing that reflects 100,000 miles – or 161,000kms – usage. This is the equivalent of 10 years’ ownership by the average driver.”

From the outset, it was intended that engineering and manufacturing would be outsourced, although tightly monitored by a small team of Saab engineers working on the SVO project.

The new car has been designed and developed jointly with the TWR Group in England, following appraisal of eight different engineering organisations. Key to the choice of TWR was the company’s expertise in performance cars, and not just in terms of its track racing record.

Because of the limited production volumes envisaged for the Saab 9-3 Viggen – only some 2500 cars per year – there wasn’t enough flexibility on the Trollhättan production lines to accommodate the Viggen’s specialist build requirements. So Saab turned to the Valmet Automotive plant in Finland – where the Saab 9-3 Convertible is built alongside Porsche’s Boxster model.

“The low volume production would cause too much disturbance at Saab, so we went to Valmet, who were a known quantity to us because of the relationship we have with them as they already build the Convertible model for us,” explains Peter Leonard. “It’s only a relatively small leap going from the Convertible to building the Coupe and Sedan.

“Valmet has a solid understanding of our quality criteria. Their production quality audits on initial pre-series cars were right on target. We feel very encouraged by the results achieved,” continues Peter.

The body-in-white is transported from Trollhättan to Valmet for final build in specially dehumidified containers. Each container carries six bodies-in-white in specially prepared racks. Thirty bodies-in-white are transported at any one time to Valmet. The engines, meanwhile, are sent from the Södertälje engine plant – and the gearboxes from the Göteborg transmission factory – separately to Valmet.
Prototype evaluation

Saab 9-3 ViggenA total of 80,000 kms was spent validating prototype versions of the Viggen before Saab was satisfied the car met its sports-tourer criteria. Each test was held over a total of 8000 kms, with all three model types. These tests took place in Europe (six) – including high altitude Alpine tests for both brakes and engine management issues – as well as two sets of summer tests in America to evaluate hot climate performance, and two winter tests in Sweden for cold climate evaluation.

After each test, the next phase of work would then be discussed with the TWR team, as Peter Leonard explains: “We would look at product property targets in a whole lot of different areas. We would then rate the car and determine whether further action was required, after discussion with the TWR staff, and agree on the next course of action to reach those targets.”

Full noise, vibration and harshness tests were also carried out, as well as on-road testing of various wing settings and the implications involved on the car’s stability if items like the wing were removed completely.

Final car evaluation was carried out at Idiada, Spain, along with a variety of benchmarked vehicles, as well as a Saab 9-3 2.0 Turbo 147 kW for product comparison. “If you match the Saab 9-3 Viggen and the Saab 9-3 2.0 Turbo 147 kW on the test track, the difference between the two is not all that obvious,” reckons Peter Leonard. “But take both cars to those Spanish roads – featuring a huge diversity of surfaces, lots of secondary roads with mountain climbs and long descents – and there would then be a big difference in the elapsed time at the destination point. That’s what makes the difference with this new performance Saab. It’s all that mid-range torque – it gives you fabulous driveability.”

Max. output 233.2 PS (230.0 bhp) (171.5 kW)
@5500 rpm
Max. torque 350.0 Nm (258 lbft) (35.7 kgm)
@2500-4500 rpm
My vote's for cool; however, this thing has the craziest mechanism to get in and out of reverse. I was sitting there push and pulling on the stick at the dealership with clutch brake, both... still no go...
I voted cool, despite the massive amounts of torque steer this car supposedly had. I think it was a Saab of the old school, quirky, flawed, yet somehow likeable. And it was damned fast for it's time.
It would be cool, but in no way is it a jet like they want to believe it is. Therefore, uncool.
I was on the fence between ice cold and cool and just stuck with cool...they seem to have aged a lot faster than a lot of cars of a similar age. But in any case, these things still look great and they're still a sweet ride.
Very cool! One of my 90's icons!
Saab was so much cooler when they still had a 3-door 9-3.
Anyone else LOL at the mention of SVO? Or am I the only one who remembers turbo'd 4-cyl. Mustangs...

And this car merits a cool, just because its Sweedish and has some cool rally pedigree.
Ice cold. I love this car, even though I've heard that the torque steer gives you Popeye-the-Sailor forearms.
fiber optic
QUOTE(midnightdorifto @ Mar 17 2008, 01:19 PM) *
Anyone else LOL at the mention of SVO? Or am I the only one who remembers turbo'd 4-cyl. Mustangs...

I think the TurboCoupe Thunderbirds had the same motor. My uncle had one for a while. He, my father, and my grandfather all owned that generation of T-bird at the same time. My dad's was the 3.8L, lots of great memories of that car. cry.gif

Sorry for the OT.

Saab is uncool.
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