By: GREG MIGLIORE on May 8, 2014 at 4:56 am
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 59 ISSUE 23

Saleen is poised for a comeback with a potent Mustang

Saleen traditionally has been about speed-specifically, frenetic Mustangs. But lately, it’s been more about controversy. And lawsuits. And piles of other stuff, none of which translates well to fast cars.

But now that it has been absorbed by a group of Michigan-based auto-parts companies, Saleen Performance Vehicles is trying to shift the conversation back to sheetmetal. It’s rolling out a new, souped-up ‘Stang with more power and some subtle styling cues that should help put the speed shop back on enthusiasts’ radars-for the right reasons.

We recently tested Saleen’s new creation, the 435S, in the backwoods of Michigan, and it’s an enjoyable, fairly minimalistic take on the iconic Mustang, with some pure sports-car ethos. The most significant modification is under the hood, where the Saleen Series VI supercharger boosts output to 435 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. The pull is strong, particularly as the revs build, and the short-throw five-speed manual gearbox returns quick, proficient shifts.

The 435S is fitted with a Racecraft suspension, and ride height is lowered about an inch and a quarter. The car feels fast in corners, definitely sporty when you push it, but it’s comfortable enough not to be abusive over gravelly roads or choppy pavement.

There are relatively few cosmetic changes inside and out. The exterior is dressed up with hood and windshield graphics, chevrons, an optional rear spoiler, a blacked-out Saleen panel in the back and, of course, badging. The cockpit gets some minor stitching on the headrests and slightly modified gauges. Our test cars wore 19-inch, five-spoke wheels; optional 20-inchers and the base 18s also are available. Otherwise, it’s a stock Ford Mustang GT, though even at a glance, there’s obviously something special about this steed.

Saleen is looking to sell a modest 300 units of the 435S for the 2010 model year, and it’s really the entry-level model in Saleen’s new lineup. The S281, revealed at the SEMA show, features even more power, gaudier styling and perhaps a return to the lofty “American exotic” status Saleen once strived for.

Steve Saleen is gone; his new speed shop actually competes with his former company. But if the 435S and the S281 can conjure the emotions and visceral appeal of their forerunners, this new (old) Saleen may pull off an improbable comeback.

2010 Saleen 435S Ford Mustang
BASE PRICE: $39,940
DRIVETRAIN: 4.6-liter, 435-hp, 425 lb-ft supercharged V8; RWD, five-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3,535 lb
0-60 MPH: 4.6 sec (mfr)
FUEL ECONOMY: 17 mpg (mfr)