Saab had experimented with using electronics to control car engines since the 1970s, including with its respected Automatic Performance Control system in the 1980s that electronically managed turbocharger boost. But it wasn’t until the company was purchased by General Motors in 1989 that Saab had access to the powerful silicon chips necessary to control fuel injection, ignition timing, and turbo boost at the same time.
“They called it Trionic, for its three-pronged approach to controlling fuel, ignition, and boost with ionic combustion sensing. The 32-bit microprocessor, capable of two million calculations per second, is the most power computer ever placed in a production car. ‘It’s more powerful than the computers used in the Apollo capsule on the moon,’ says [Saab engine development director Per] Gillbrand.” — KC