What is This "Best-Kept Secret?" Until captured at the wel...
Saab 9-5 BioPower Gasoline or Ethanol Flexfuel Vehicle
Make mention of Saab and a number of associations come to
mind. Hatchbacks, small turbocharged engines, and an ignition placed between
the front seats are likely the most common. Clean-burning alternative fuels probably
don’t make the list.
Make mention of Saab and a number of associations come to mind. Hatchbacks, small turbocharged engines, and an ignition placed between the front seats are likely the most common. Clean-burning alternative fuels probably don’t make the list.
But things are changing at Saab. The 9-3, the company’s smallest model, is no longer a hatchback. The 9-7X, a truck-based SUV, is available with a V-8. And in Sweden, Saab sells the 9-5 2.0t BioPower, which is capable of running on gasoline, ethanol, or any combination of the two fuels. We’ll withhold judgment on the first two; this latter change, however, and the improvements it brings, is something we can really get behind.
As is characteristic of ethanol, burning the fuel produces less carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and oxides of nitrogen than gasoline combustion. The net CO2 emitted from ethanol is substantially lower as well, since the grain crops from which the ethanol is extracted remove CO2 from the atmosphere while they grow. The Saab BioPower also benefits from a welcome power increase. When fueled with E85, the BioPower makes 184 hp and 207 lbs-ft of torque, compared to 148 hp and 177 lbs-ft of torque when running on pure gasoline.
Saab says that turbocharged engines are especially well-suited to exploiting the benefits of ethanol fuel. Since the company relies so heavily on turbocharging in its vehicles, it makes sense that the company would expand its BioPower lineup. Already, Saab is planning to introduce BioPower models in the sedan, convertible (as shown in concept form on the opening spread), and SportCombi wagon variants of its 9-3 range.
Sales of the 9-5 2.0t BioPower in Sweden certainly indicate that Saab is onto something. There, between 85 and 90 percent of 9-5 orders are for the BioPower model. The success has prompted Saab to consider bringing BioPower technology to other markets, such as the U.K. A demonstration project that will send a fleet of Saab 9-5 BioPower models touring in five European Union countries as well as in China and Brazil shows Saab’s scope to be even broader.
As for us, the stock 9-5 2.0t on which the BioPower is based is not available in the U.S. Still, we think the BioPower is a prime candidate for importation here. Ethanol-capable flexible fuel vehicles have been on sale in the U.S. for years. Furthermore, in a market where Saab is struggling to find an image that customers can identify with, a cleaner-burning, more fuel efficient, more powerful BioPower in the lineup could go a long way in generating some positive buzz around the brand. We’ll take ours in convertible form – all the better with which to take in the air we’re helping to keep clear along the way.
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