By: HARVEY SCHWARTZ
Original Article: LACAR.COM
© All words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz
As a high-performance specialty vehicle designer and builder, Steve Saleen builds vehicles that are designed, engineered and manufactured in compliance with the same government guidelines as those of larger automotive companies – ensuring safety, emissions compliance and quality.
Headquartered inside an 180,000 square foot facility in Irvine, California, Saleen high-performance Mustangs are built by highly trained technicians whose work is double and triple checked as the car slowly goes down the line to completion. Saleen builds about seven custom Mustangs a day, and each one is built to order.
With the Saleen supercharged Mustang, you get a complete system of enhancements in styling, power, performance and interior comfort. The total package is carefully designed, engineered and rigorously tested on the street and the track. Everything here works together seamlessly. It helps when the same company designs all the components from the ground up. Saleen’s quality and workmanship is so well regarded by Ford that they back up every Saleen with a 24-month warranty.
I tested the all-new Saleen S281 Supercharged Mustang – a real thrill machine, with neck-snapping straight-line acceleration, superb handling ability on twisting roads, and eye-popping braking.
With the addition of the new, more powerful, Saleen-designed 2.3 liter Series VI integrated twin-screw supercharger with a dual-stage water-to-air intercooler, the V8 is further tuned up with a 3.55″ x 3.54″ bore and stroke, a Saleen Powerflash performance calibration upgrade to the CPU, and a Saleen performance air filter to bring in more air. The hot gases generated are exited through a Saleen design, 2.5-inch stainless steel performance quad-exhaust system with 4-inch wide, dual outlets in the center of the rear lower bumper, and one outlet at each muffler end. This exhaust really howls with a sweet bass sound when you start the engine, and whenever you give it more throttle, no matter your speed. You can hear the Saleen Mustang coming from a long distance away.
Power generated from the 4.6-liter V8 is raised significantly, up to 435 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, and a whopping 420 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The supercharger works so easily that boost is set at just 4 psi. The supercharger whine is a great complement to the howl of the custom exhaust.
All that torque is channeled to the rear wheels via a Saleen quick-ration five-speed transmission with an 8.8-inch differential gear, and a ratio of 3.55:1 with the manual, and 3.31:1 with the optional 5-speed electronically controlled automatic. You can also option for the Saleen MaxGrip speed-sensitive limited-slip differential to get even more rubber to the pavement.
With the all-new Mustang’s stiffer and stronger chassis and frame, Saleen has a more solid foundation in which to mount the race-bred suspension, brakes, wheels and tires. The car is pinned to the ground up front with a MacPherson strut with lower control arm setup that includes Saleen Racecraft N2 struts with linear-rate coil springs, a 1.38-inch tubular stabilizer bar with urethane pivot bushings, and specially calibrated suspension settings. The rear suspension features the factory live axle located by three links, a Panhard rod, and upgraded with Saleen Racecraft N2 shocks, direct-acting linear coil springs, and a 0.79-inch stabilizer bar, all specially calibrated.
The car rides on big, wheel-well stuffing, 20 x 9, seven-spoke Saleen designed alloy wheels that are wrapped with high-performance Dunlop 275/35ZR20 Sport tires. My Saleen Mustang came with the optional 20 x 9 front and 20 x 10-inch rear seven-spoke, Saleen-designed alloy wheels wrapped around ultra-high-performance Pirelli 275/35ZR20 front and 27540ZR20 rear P Zero tires for the ultimate in traction and grip.
Wow, we’re talking ultra-high-performance. The 435 horsepower supercharged Saleen Mustang rockets out to 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.6 seconds and tops out at over 180 mph.
Quickly stopping the forward movement of the car are very powerful brakes. Up front are Saleen designed 14-inch slotted and vented aluminum rotors clamped with Saleen ABS four-piston calipers. The rear brakes are left factory since 80 percent of your braking power is generated from the front brakes. You can opt for the same front brake rotors and calipers in the rear for even stronger braking power.
Even with all this power and torque at my disposal, the car is well behaved in slow Los Angeles street traffic and when driving in stop-and-go rush-hour freeway traffic. The short-throw five-speed is so smooth and easy to operate, I never miss a gear change. At these slow speeds, the best part is the sweet and loud growl coming from the performance exhaust. The sound really turns heads, but it’s the unique, aggressive styling of the car that makes everyone even more curious.
The new Saleen air management aerodynamic bodykit is very aggressive and bold. The brilliantly styled body easily projects the enormous power and performance under the sheet metal. The body enhancements work to keep the front and rear solidly planted on the road during high speed driving, and when challenging the tightest curves. The Saleen-designed body enhancements include a power-dome hood with dual heat extractors, front aero ducting, injection-molded front fascia, injection-molded side skirts and door cladding, front blacked-out grille and integrated front turn signals, injection-molded rear fascia, rear center body panel, rear spoiler with end caps, and a very bold rear wing. Everywhere I stop, I’m asked if this is the new Saleen Mustang, “it’s bold, it’s loud, and it must be a whole lot of fun to drive.” It’s true in every case. You can tell that it’s a Saleen Mustang because of the Saleen badges front, side and in the rear.
What makes the new 2006 Saleen Supercharged Mustang even more enjoyable is the upgraded interior. You get custom Saleen leather sport bucket seats with extra side bolstering, louvered head rests with embroidered Saleen lettering on the seatbacks, a Saleen-design instrument cluster with a 200 mph speedometer, and 8,000 rpm tachometer with smaller gauges in the middle for fuel, oil pressure, engine coolant temperature and volts.
On the shelf above the center stack is a pod containing a Saleen-design boost gauge and an air temperature gauge. You’ll notice the Saleen-design dash vents and bezels, Saleen steering wheel badge, Saleen performance driving pedals with driver foot brace, and a Saleen close-ratio shifter with the new billet shift knob. Open the doors and you’ll also see Saleen door sill plates for a real custom look.
Completing the authentication is a Saleen windshield graphic, Saleen fender badge, Saleen signature graphic on the lower doors, Saleen-serialized engine bay plaque, Saleen-serialized bumper number, Saleen-serialized dash plaque, Saleen championship wreath, S281 custom floor mats, Saleen key fob, a Saleen ‘Eagle One detail kit, and a Saleen owners document portfolio and warranty guide.
Saleen also offers many custom paint schemes, plus optional Saleen-design HID headlamps, a large glass Scenic Roof for the coupe model, a Saleen convertible Sport Bar that my test convertible came with, and the Saleen Speedster package – which consists of the Sport Bar with wind deflector and Speedster designed three piece tonneau cover that fits in the trunk with its own storage bag when not in use.
I enjoy every second behind the wheel of the new Saleen supercharged Mustang, whether I’m stuck in traffic with all eyes focused on the car, or traveling at triple-digit speeds on the open road with adrenaline rushing through my veins. If you’re serious about Mustangs, and you want to deal directly with one custom builder, then Saleen should be on the top of your list. With Ford standing behind Saleen, it’s hard to go wrong.
Power in the hands of a few was never so benevolent.
For more information about Saleen products, go to www.saleen.com
More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com
Name of vehicle:
2006 Saleen S281 Supercharged Ford Mustang GT Convertible
4.6-liter, three-valve, aluminum V8 with Saleen intercooled twin-screw,
Five-speed Quick-Ratio manual transmission, five-speed automatic optional
Front-MacPherson struts, lower control arm, Saleen Racecraft system with N2
struts, with linear rate coil-over springs, 1.36-inch tubular stabilizer bar,
urethane pivot bushings, sport -tuned by Saleen
Rear-Live axle located by three-links, plus Panhard rod, Saleen Racecraft system
with direct-acting linear-rate coil springs, N2 struts, 0.79in. solid stabilizer
bar, sport-tuned by Saleen
Front-14-inch slotted and vented with 4-piston calipers
Rear-11.8-inch solid disc, single-piston calipers
Front: 20X9 seven-spoke alloy wheels and P275/35ZR20 tires
Rear: 20X10 seven-spoke alloy wheels and P275/35ZR20 tires