The SAAB 9-3 Viggen is a legend of a car.
Named after the Thunderbolt fighter jet, the Viggen celebrated all that made the Saab 9-3 the firm’s most-successful model throughout the marque’s storied history.
Front-drive, mad power and turbo antics were all paramount with the Viggen — but in typical Saab fashion, this was not a badge and stickers job. The upgrades list over the standard 9-3 Aero is absolutely huge — with what amounts to an all-new, direct-injected engine just the start of the custom elements in the Viggen.
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The 225-horsepower and 258-pound-feet of torque are not headline grabbers today, but were a landmark achievement at the time. In 1999, this was the fastest car Saab and Sweden had ever made — with a top speed comfortably hitting 161-mph across Germany’s autobahns.This bested even Volvo’s 850R production cars – and was not beaten until the Koenigsegg’s arrival in 2002.
The autobahn and high-speed pace were Viggen highlights – this with max boost hitting 20-PSI in gears three to five and delivering soaring pace that no Saab shape had ever seen before. For comparison, the Subaru WRX STi’s turbocharger is generally limited to about 17-PSI of boost, with the regular WRX hitting only 12-PSI. So the Viggen is clearly very special in the forced-air department.
The classic wrap-around windshield keeps visibility outstanding at big speeds, but the shape overall needed dramatic changes to live with such huge speed potential. An enclosed front bumper reduced drag and cut lift, while the rear spoiler is said to have added more than 50-percent more downforce.
This model features the optional sports exhaust and makes a funky bellow unlike any other four-cylinder out there. There is a muted growl at idle, much like a five-cylinder, but what is a soft grumble at high revs and full throttle.
The Viggen overall makes far more torque than its chassis was designed to handle, so extra bracing and new suspension geometry plants the car in corners — even on big boost and with the wheel cranked at all angles. Handling is refreshingly analog, with the steering-wheel and close windshield making the Viggen driver’s intimately involved in hard driving. No synthetic feelings here!
Inside, the Viggen wears new seats with huge bolstering and blue inserts along with the thunderbolt logo. Extra badging and special trims appear on the wheel, dash and center console — along with custom kick plates in the sills.
(Canadian Market Specs*) US Pricing and MPG were lower.
1999 Saab Viggen Coupe
2-door, 4-passenger hatchback/coupe
transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
2.3 litre 4 cylinder, turbocharged, DOHC, 16 valves
230 @ 5500 rpm
258 ft-lbs @ 2500 rpm
P215/45ZR17 Dunlop SP Sport 2000
1355 kg (2990 lb.)
2605 mm (102.6 in.)
4629 mm (182.2 in.)
1711 mm ( 67.4 in.)
1428 mm ( 56.2 in.)
614 litres (21.7 cu. ft.) (rear seat up)
1410 litres (49.8 cu. ft.)(rear seat down)
City: 11.6 l/100 km (24 mpg)
Hwy: 7.4 l/100 km (38 mpg)
4 yrs/80,000 kms