Eight years after it stopped building the Bugatti-baiting S7 to return to its core business of tuning and improving other companies’ muscle cars, Saleen is returning to the performance car market with its own car, the S1.
Making its US debut at the LA Auto Show, the S1 not only looks completely up to date, in terms of exterior styling alone, it could sit comfortably in a parking lot otherwise filled with McLarens, Porsches and high-end Mercedes.
However, unlike the mostly European competition and unlike its S7 predecessor, the S1 doesn’t use a V8 to send power to its rear wheels. Instead beneath the layers of carbon fiber and aluminum there’s a comparatively little (2.5-liter) four-cylinder turbocharged engine sitting in the middle of the chassis for perfect weight distribution and absolutely neutral handling.
Still, that engine, developed in-house by Saleen, can output 450hp, 474Nm of torque and, because the car is light (it tips the scales at just 1,218kg), that motor is more than potent enough to give the S1 a 0-60mph time of 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 180mph — more than enough to keep up with, or pass, any current Porsche 911 (barring the Turbo models).
What’s more, it comes with a proper six-speed manual transmission for purists (a paddle shift box is on the list of future upgrades) and thanks to custom tires from Continental it can hold its line in the corners even when there’s substantially more than 1g of lateral force involved.
Even more impressive still is that Saleen claims it will be initially built in the US and will cost just $100,000. However, the long-term plan will be to move production to China where Saleen’s investment partner, Jiangsu Saleen Automotive Technologies Group, is based.
And that’s because the company believes that by creating a car that’s as affordable as it is exciting, orders for the S1 could hit well over 1000 a year just in the US. Therefore the S1 could be the car that puts Saleen back on the map as a global force performance car builder.