The design was by Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Later year models actually achieved better fuel economy at higher speeds than lower ones due to the combined effects of the front airdam and rear spoiler. This was especially true of the hatchback CSE model vehicles.
The original 9000 was a 5-door hatchback. A 4-door sedan version was later added (the 1988 CD) and, in 1992, the hatchback appearance was modified and modernized, in the CS version.
Because its platform was shared closely with three other cars, the Saab 9000's ignition key was situated on the steering column (like the Saab 95/96/97), instead of the Saab 99/900 location, between the front seats. The later 9-5 returned the ignition back between the front seats.
For the first year, the only engine available was a watercooled DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with a turbocharger, at 1985 cc, giving 175hp (129kW). It was equipped with a computer display (the EDU, electronic display unit) showing actual and approximate fuel consumption, distance to an empty fuel tank, alternator output voltage, lowest battery voltage during engine start and the outside temperature. If the outside temperature fell to a range of 26℉ (−3.3℃) to 38℉ (3.3℃), the temp display is automatically selected to warn of possible 'black ice' road conditions. Later models added more trip computer functions to a separate display combined with the clock, including setting trip distances, arrival times, average speed, and excess speed alarms. A separate pictogram monitored oil pressure, showed open doors/hatch, and all exterior light bulbs in case of failures.
Additional unusual features included backup lamps incorporated into the front turn signal lamps (USA models only). Aero models had rare side and shoulder bolstered seats. Window controls were placed between the seats, like in the Saab 900.
The wheelbase is 2.67 m (105 inches) on all models. Total length is 4.66 m (183 inches) on the original 9000. The 9000 CD's total length is 4.79 m (189 inches). The 9000 CS' total length 4.76 m (187 inches).