Saab 9000 Tuning Guide – Get yourself a 300bhp sleeper for less than 2 large. The Saab 9000 Turbo may not be the best looking car but it’s build quality and tuning potential more than make up for any shortcomings in the looks department. This tuning guide will show you the best way of getting big power from either of the Saab 9000 Turbo cars, be it the 2litre or 2.3litre.
Saab 9000 Tuning Guide
Buying Your Car
As mentioned above there are 2 turbo engines available, the 2litre and from 1989 the 2.3litres which is a stroked version of the 2.0litre motor.
From 1993 the 2 litre engines gained balancer shafts while the 2.3 litre engines had them from day one. The cranks with balancer shafts are slightly different and as such are not interchangeable with non balancer shaft cranks.
All Saab 9000 Turbo engines come with a steel crank, steel rods and Mahle pistons and they can handle up to 500bhp and still last 250,000miles without a problem.
Head gaskets on all motors need changing at 100,000miles so before you start upping the boost this should be your first job and while your at it you may as well change the timing chain.
Saab 9000 Tuning Guide
Oil should be changed every 6,000 miles and use a good quality synthetic 5W-30 oil. Pistons rings and bores are pretty much bullet proof so there should be no problems there. If there is rattling coming from the engine this is more than likely the balancer shafts which will need replacing. Spark plugs should be changed and replaced with NGK BCR8ES items.
In car camera focusing on speedo during acceleration
Saab 9000 Engine Tuning
The 2litre engine are about as strong as engines get and are more than happy to rev, and due to their shorter stroke and more rev happy than the 2.3litre engines.
Tuning the engine up to 1991 year is easy but make sure the car has an intercooler and Performance Control Valve. If it hasn’t get down the scrap yard and find some, Saab have left all the required connections for the intercooler and PCV so fitting is a doddle. Standard intercoolers are good up to 1.5bar of boost and are huge so no need for expensive upgrades here.
On the pre 1991 cars the over boost setting is controlled by an adjustable boost cut out located under the dash above the pedals on the drivers side. In the middle of the valve is a screw covered with a blob of paint, wind this in and it ups the boost pressure, 0.9bar gives 220bhp and 1.2 gives 250bhp. To match the fuelling requirements to the increased boost pressure, fuel pressure also needs to be increased. Either fit an adjustable item or squeeze the current regulator in a vice.
From 1991 boost pressure was controlled by a more advanced ECU so increasing the boost will simply be cancelled out by the ECU. To get around this, fit a new chip direct ignition box. Saabflight can supply you with one of these for 365 pounds and will allow the engine to get 1.2bar of boost and 250bhp on a standard exhaust for the 2litres and 270 for the 2.3 litre.
From 1993 Saab replaced the Bosch engine management with its own Trionic 5 engine management system this has no removable chips but can still be remapped by the likes of Saabflight for 365 pounds. 2.3 cars can make up to 320bhp and still be emissions legal and return up to 30mpg.
Saab 9000 Tuning – Exhaust
For more power the standard restrictive exhaust needs to be replaced by freer flowing item. A JT system is considered the best value at 320pounds. The state of tune so far will cost you less than a grand and be totally reliable. The 2.3litre motors will be making 300bhp and the 2litre 270bhp.
Saab 9000 Tuning – Stage 2
As with everything, things start to get exponentially more expensive the more power you want. The next step will be to replace the Turbo for something like a Saabflight hybrid unit 650 pounds,. giant green injectors 400pounds, 3 bar map sensor 95pounds and a custom intercooler 500pounds. With this lot your 2.3 will be producing around 400bhp
Saab 9000 Tuning – Stage 3
For 500bhp a Garret GT30R turbo will be required, 630cc/min injectors, bigger fuel pump, cams, gas flowed head and a tubular exhaust manifold.
If you want to keep the free revving nature of the 2 litre, fit the 2.3 cylinder head as its much freer flowing and bolts straight on and lowers the compression ratio.
Saab 9000 Tuning – Handling
As these cars are now at least 8 years old the first port of call with suspension tuning is to replace the standard bushes with uprated polyurethane items. On the damper and spring front fit springs with matched dampers as springs only can lead to peculiar handling. Anti roll bars will also help. sasab.com in the states sell a kit, if you cant afford the front and rear, just get the rear to start with otherwise the car will have horrendous oversteer.
Saab 9000 Tuning – Brakes
Brakes on the turbo cars are excellent so the usual 5.1 fluid, performance pads and braided brake lines should be up to the job of all but the most extreme circumstances.
Saab 9000 Tuning – Wheels & Tyres
The best size for the track is 17inch wheels with an ET of 35mm and 215 or 225 45-17 tyres.
Saab 9000 Tuning – Transmission
In 1993 the gearbox bell housing was changed to a GM pattern, this means gearboxes before 1993 cannot be swapped for gearboxes after 1993. Saab 9000s came with 3 gear ratios, for the ultimate short gear ratio solution is to use the non turbo box other wise the Low Pressure Turbo box or the Aero box will be fine.
Gearbox gears can slip in the main shaft but this can be rectified for 150 quid by Saabflight or they can sell you a complete reconditioned unit for 950.
As with any big power FWD car an LSD will make the world of difference and Quaife is the default choice and are available from Abbot Racing.
The 2.3 litre Full Pressure Turbo clutch can hold up to 300bhp and can be fitted to the 2litre cars if the 2.3litre flywheel is used as well.
For an uprated clutch specclutch.com do a stage 2 unit for 300quid.
Low Pressure Turbo (LPT) – Full Pressure Turbo (FPT) – The differences
The LPT models were restricted to 5psi of boost but the engines are the same as the full pressure turbo models with the added bonus the LPT models are even cheaper than the FPT cars. All car use a Garrett T25 turbo except the Aero which has a Mitsubishi TD04 unit but all the turbos are interchangeable. The one difference between the turbos for the LPT and FPT turbos is that the AR ratio is slightly smaller on the LPT models which gives less lag but also has less power potential but in reality all the turbos have good potential.
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