I've replaced many of the suspension and handling related parts. Where possible, I've rather chosen a part targeted more to aggressive driving than original. This has resulted in improved handling without compromising too much usability and comfort. I've also tried to make sure all the vital parts of the suspension, such as balljoints and bushings, are in good condition. There's nothing I hate more than unexplained clunks. After these upgrades I can still drive on rough unpaved country roads and get over the city speed bumps just fine :) And what's most important: the car doesn't look like a rice racer.
Last Update 8th October 2000
In summer 1999 it was time for handling upgrades! I was looking for stiffer springs. The lowering wasn't important to me but soon found out that it was really impossible to find stiffer springs without lowering the car about an inch at the same time. There are lots of alternatives available. Jamex and Eibach have a good reputation, but in my opinion they are way too expensive compared to other alternatives. I heard many good comments about a Swedish manufacturer Lesjöfors, and noticed that BSR was selling their springs for €210 a set. But I also found out that our local junk-part dealer (stay away from them, it is originally a Swedish company with very low prices and even lower quality in most parts) BILTEMA was offering their spring set for €160. After a little research I found out that these are the very same Lesjöfors springs and bought them immediately. Once I got started I dediced to buy new dampers as well. I was first looking for Bilstein or Koni, but the salesmen weren't able to convince me that they're really worth the €400 a set (for
Konis, Bilstein was even more expensive!). I decided to give KYB's Gas-A-Just's a try. I got them for a very reasonable price (€140 a set). I installed the springs and dampers myself. It isn't supposed to be a difficult job, but I had a very hard time opening the bolts which were seriously stuck, of course. My two cents: If you're replacing the front springs make sure you have a very good and compact sized compression tool: It is very difficult to compress the front springs without a good tool. And consider replacing the lower front spring seats at the same time: They were €17 a piece at the dealer. I was shopping for them AFTER replacing the springs and ended up taking out the front springs twice: One
of the seats broke right on my way back home after replacing the springs... They just rust out! The result: Handling was greatly improved. The car is about 2cm lower, not too much to make it look stupid or difficult to drive on rough roads or snow. Update in Sept 2000: I got tired of hunting and curing all the rattles around the cabin (caused by the very stiff suspension) and the car was in fact a little uncomfortable when driving on rough and bumpy roads like the ones we have in downtown Helsinki. I ended up replacing the KYB's with Saab's standard turbo shocks (Sachs). They're reasonably priced, more comfortable than the KYBs and not soft enough to cause sloppy handling. I'm happy with the result. The KYB's were fine after one year's use and have found a new home.
This is a link to KYB's Gas-A-Just spec sheet. They are single-tube gas shock absorbers. Some say they're a little harsh, but T think they provide a very good value for the money.
Saab turbo standard (Sachs)
These are known to be good. I was happy to see they work well with my lowered suspension.
Last Update 2nd May 2002
I've used Nokian winter tires in all of my Saabs and now have them as my summer tires as well. Here in Northern Europe we use mostly studded winter tires. They provide an awesome grip on snow and ice, but, I must say, are a little uncomfortable on dry pavement. Here in Southern Finland the roads are mostly clean on wintertime, but I still wouldn't give up the studs: there are a few nasty days every winter... On the summertime things are different: our very sparsely populated roads are in acceptable condition (a little rough after the winter and the studs, though), a perfect season for a performance tire...
Found a nice set of Alessio Spider 16" rims for a very good price and could not walk away. I fitted them with the new Nokian NRH2 tires in size 205x50R16. These are H-rated only - decided to make that compromise in handling to get a better comfort this time. These seem to be much quieter in 16" size than my previous Nokian NRV's (V-rated) were in 15"! And they weren't noisy either... Just got these today but the first impressions are very positive! Will have to wait for the true handling test until I've got a chance to try them on a track (that'll be in August).
These are awesome tires, though pretty expensive. They feature an asymmetrical thread pattern: different tires are sold for left and right side. They've been praised for their traction on wet and cold pavement, but I've done the serious testing mostly in good conditions: they are a ton better than my previous Dunlop SP Sport 200E's. Another lesson was the fact that those Dunlops in 195x65 size were not a good choice for Saab: they are just enough too high to cause a little rubbing and handle like a piece of bubblegum on your rims. 205x55 is only marginally lower than the original 195x60 and the grip is awesome. Yet they're not low enough to be uncomfortable.
Hakkapelitta 1 is a classic. It has a very good grip but at the same time it handles quite well and is very quiet. Nokian has already introduced a new Hakka 2, but I'm not eager to get them before these wear out, these have been great! Well, when talking about winter tires and their handling you have to keep in mind these are rated for 160km/h or 100 mph. They are extemely slaggy compared to any summer tire, but against all warnings 200km/h or 125mph with them is doable (well, maybe not sane. And of course on a closed track), but at that speed you'll hear the studs separating from the tires and flying against your fenders... I've installed these tires on my factory Saab alloys.
OEM suspension parts I have replaced
Last Update 12th January 2000
Here's a list of standard suspension parts I've replaced. Most of the parts were replaced as preventive maintenance. You will learn to appreciate this attitude if you ever have to drive a Saab with worn-out balljoints...
Est. cost (€/$)
Sway bar bushings
In May 1999 I replaced the front sway bar bushings which attach into the lower control arms. These were worn loose and causing clatter. Easy job, but make sure you lube them with silicone-based (white) grease. If you use vaseline you'll be shopping for new parts in a month!
Front spring seats
See the spring story above! You really should consider replacing these while replacing your springs!
Ball joints & CV rubber gaiters
Had this job done by my mechanic. You'll notice when its time for balljoint replacement. And while they're open, the CV rubber gaiters are much easier to replace: if they are cracked the CV joints will wear out very quickly.
Front wheel bearing
In January 2000 SAAB's front started making noises. Replacing the winter tires didn't cure the noise so there was only one way to go: replace the front wheel bearing. It was easily diagnosed to be the right one and the replacement (done by my mechanic) cost €110 incl. labour. This cured the noise and vibration which was so severe that I suspect it could have affected the APC knock detection circuitry (had some strange boosting problems).