Theme: Dashboards – 1986 Saab 9000

The Swedes are a pretty rational bunch. At least they were when the Saab 9000 was being designed. This dashboard takes the essential L-configuration of a dashboard’s elements and unifies them.

1986 Saab 9000 interior. Timeless industrial design.
1986 Saab 9000 interior. Timeless industrial design.

Oddly, some people found this design unconventional and difficult to take. It’s hard to see where the problem lies with this though unless you like messy arrangements of elements. The various displays and controls are gathered into one very clearly demarcated black area. The rest is given a colour to suit the remainder of the car’s interior.

Everything one needs is to hand. This is clearly an interior that has been designed rather than merely styled. As there are no eccentric inflections and the detail finishing is rational, the concept has aged very well indeed.

1986 Lancia Thema interior

While the 1986 Lancia Thema is quite pleasant, it has not worn so well. Not bad, but it seems very much more 1986 than the Saab which in my view would still be plausible today were it not for the fact it’s lacking the kind of crass bling that is de rigeur these days.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “Theme: Dashboards – 1986 Saab 9000”

  1. Saab interiors are unexciting to the casual viewer. The IP appears a little dull, almost Calvinist in its sackcloth and ashes aesthetic, but is a model of clarity. Everything is placed to minimise strain on the driver. The logic and rationality that has gone into its design says a good deal for Saab’s driver-focused ethos.

    The 9000 was supposed to spawn a replacement for the ur-900, but once GM bought 50% of the business, that plan was dropped. Which is a shame. Because although the early-90s 900s were durable and perfectly nice cars, they lacked finesse.

  2. Saab’s were serious dashboards in the best sense. Despite my jackdaw like proclivity for flashy things, trinkets and bright colours inside cars, I could live with that.But people don’t like being serious like that any more.

    For another take on the Thema’a dash, the 8.32 had more burr and larger dials but, oddly, looks less cluttered.

  3. I always really liked and respected this car, and the dash/ inerior shone as a lesson in a rational, if conservative application of ergonomics.

  4. Having driven lots of 9000’s the dash design is one of the best I have driven. The only issue I have had is the hazard switch. It was moved in 1992 to next to the clock.
    I appreciate that dashboards have become more complex but I never needed steering wheel controls for the stereo or computer as the radio was simple with a large volume control and clear large buttons for choice of input. The computer was housed in the display with a simple button to scroll through the options, Job done as they say.
    The classic 900’s is even better in some respects as the radio is at high level and it isn’t burdened with a fuel computer .. fill up when you see the gauge at low and if you must know the fuel consumption – divide the gallons into your tripmeter.
    The 9 5 I currently own is not as efficient though it does have a nice large volume control for the stereo.

  5. You could argue Saab’s concept is close to the optimum in terms of numbers of functions and their layout. Luckily there are lots of quite acceptable nearly optimal alternatives as otherwise all dashboards would have to look the same. I wish Saab had had the money to do their own 9000 and not have to share. It could have been really good and not play second fiddle to its predecessor.

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