How Can I Make My Saab Turbo Faster?

by William Zane

Saab’s are slightly quirky Swedish-built and engineered automobiles. In turbocharged form they’re also fast and fun to drive. Like most turbocharged cars, Saab Turbos take well to modifying and improving them. There are several different ways to improve the performance of your Saab and make it faster in the process.

Engine Improvements

Most people define “fast” by how quick a car goes in a straight line. While this is not entirely true, since braking and handling also play an important role, how much horsepower a car’s engine has is certainly a crucial component. The great thing about Saab turbos is that they have much more performance potential built into them, thanks to the turbo engineering. One of the most common ways to increase power is to increase the amount of boost, which is the amount of air that is forced into the engine. On older Saab turbos, this is a simple matter of turning a knob located under the dash. On newer models you will need a reprogrammed computer chip, available from Saab Performance Parts (see Resources). A performance exhaust system is usually good for around a 10-horsepower gain and is a next logical step. From there, you can install more radical camshafts and an intercooler. By far the most dramatic improvements will come from replacing the stock turbo with a larger turbo. Just remember that this will create more wear on the motor and can potentially shorten its life.


With your Saab accelerating faster, one of the next potential steps is increasing the stopping ability. This (and the suspension) are important areas to focus on, since it ensures that your car remains balanced. Replace the stock brake rotors with cross-drilled and slotted rotors, which will dissipate heat far better. Combine these with high-performance brake pads and braided steel lines for a dramatic improvement in braking and pedal feel.

Suspension and Wheels

Another way to make your Saab a faster and better-performing machine is to upgrade the suspension. Replace the stock springs and shocks with high-performance lowering springs and Bilstein shocks from Saab Performance Center. This will lower your Saab’s center of gravity and help it feel more nimble and confidence-inspiring during fast cornering. You can also upgrade the stock rubber suspension bushings, which tend to flex during cornering, to firmer eurethane bushings. Saab Turbos come with decent alloys wheels from the factory, but there is still room for improvement. A wider set of wheels will allow you to fit wider tires, which in turn will provide more grip. Check out the wheels from the Tire Rack (see Resources).


About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.

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