• Jan 11, 2008


Click above for high-res images of the 2008 Saleen S302 Extreme

My first experience with the Saleen S302E Mustang was an absolute blast. I was handed the keys and told to let loose on abandoned airstrip. Mash the throttle from a standing start and the 620 horsepower underhood would quickly turn the rear tires into a cloud of smoke. Use the throttle carefully and the rear tires would maintain traction, catapulting the car forward at an incredible rate. Brake to the absolute threshold, take a corner at high speeds, and then kick the tail sideways while exiting the turn - I was able to experience the full potential of the S302E, unrestricted by traffic and speed limits, with plenty of forgiving pavement in case of a spin.

Read on after the jump to hear about living with the S302E as a daily driver and check out our fab pics in the gallery below. Believe it or not, we took them ourselves.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.


A few weeks later it was a whole different story. No, the car hadn't changed. It was still just as powerful and just as fast. The only problem was that I was now driving on public roads. Within the first few feet of driving the car I ran into my first challenge: exiting the parking lot. The carbon fiber front spoiler that looks so great on the car is also extremely low, and I take it slow with a sideways angle to clear the dip in the road. A few stoplights later and I realize the clutch that was so great for fast launches is not as great at slow, smooth starts. A few minutes later and I'm on the freeway. Remember those massive rear tires responsible for putting 620 horsepower to the ground? They're pretty darn loud at 70 mph. At least the exhaust is relatively quiet, due to the gearing from the 6-speed transmission.

So what am I supposed to do with this thing? If I mash the throttle, I'll be exceeding the speed limit by a fair amount in about two seconds. How am I supposed to put the 15-inch brakes to use? Experiencing the handling limits of the car would put me at twice the speed limit around corners. It seems that all of the great qualities of the car that I loved on the track have turned out to be much less useful for driving on the street. The S302E's capabilities are so far above anything that can be used on the public roads that you only get to experience a very small portion of the car. It is a strangely unrewarding experience, knowing the full power that can be unleashed underneath your right foot and not being able to do anything about it. On the contrary, my previous experience with a Saleen, the Parnelli Jones Edition, was one of the most fulfilling driving experiences I have ever had. The silky-smooth, 400-bhp V8 and well balanced suspension made it a true pleasure to drive, and it has been unmatched by any other Mustang I've ever driven on the street.

That said, there is no doubt that the S302E is an incredible machine. It's one of the most brutal cars I've ever driven, and it is sure to give plenty of thrills to anyone who puts down just under $80,000 to buy one.

What does that 80k get you? One heck of a motor, to start. Saleen has taken the 24-valve V8 to the... well ...extreme. A forged rotating assembly punches displacement out to 5.0-liters like in the Parnelli Jones Mustang, but Saleen takes it a step further and bolts on its Series VI twin-screw supercharger with integrated water-to-air intercooler to force the maximum amount of air into the engine. Saleen then adds ported aluminum cylinder heads, a more aggressive camshaft, duel fuel pump, 39 lb/hr fuel injectors, and a high-flow cold-air induction system. Handling all that power is a beefy 6-speed transmission and high performance clutch.

The rest of the S302E is standard Saleen Mustang with the exception of a few upgrades. A carbon fiber front splitter and rear diffuser spice up the exterior along with lighter 5-spoke wheels. The differential comes with limited slip and 3.73:1 gears, and the front brakes are a massive 15-inches compared to the standard 14-inchers.

So is the S302E worth it? As far as bank-for-buck goes, it's right up there with other sub-$100k sports cars. Compared to a Corvette Z06, it's slightly more expensive but has 115 more horsepower (a new Z06 is $72,125). It's about $5k cheaper than a Viper ($84,895) and has 15 more horsepower. The S302 also has rear seats and a pretty decent sized trunk. Yes, it's still a Mustang underneath, but probably the most capable one ever built. It's not something you'd want to drive consistently on the street, but it would be a fantastic car to use as a weekend racer for the local road course or drag strip.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 41 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ahw shucks...nevermind.
      • 7 Years Ago
      amen brother
      • 7 Years Ago

      To MK, come on man, you can not be serious. I believe you are the guy who bought the brand new Legacy 2.5GT and if not I stand corrected.

      However, "value" is entirely relative to the person spending the cash, and just because you don't view something as particularly "valuable" for your dollar, does not mean that the guy with 2 mil in the bank comparing these super machines would agree with you. That's why there are things called TARGET DEMOGRAPHICS for every price point and category.

      For example, I wouldnt consider the 30k you spent on YOUR NEW car a value for me. Why? Because there's ALOT more car I can (and do) buy for 30000.00. Range Rover, S Class, 7 Series. Those are the cars I LOVE, not anything NEW at 30k.

      But that is just me.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Actually, I bought a USED legacy GT last year, and spent a lot less money than new for a car that is faster than a showroom stock Legacy GT, in a color that is no longer in production. I flew half way across the country to drive it home, and made a bit of a vacation road-trip out of it.

        I think you and CW are both taking me out of context, and the wrong way.

        *The article claims that this vehicle is a performance value, like the Z06 and Viper. I don't disagree that this is a similar vehicle to those.

        *Yet he also talks about most of that performance being unreachable and unuseable on the street.

        I wouldn't even consider this car in the wet, let alone the snow. People are already cracking up AWD Nissan GT-Rs within days of purchase, with less power and more traction than this car has. Why even think about risking an extremely powerful saleen in foul weather, with more power and less traction? What is the likelyhood of even a very good driver mangling a car in those conditions?

        *He said that he wouldn't really consider using the car on a daily basis, but for a weekend toy, it was quite an amazing machine. Or a race car.

        Race cars, even amateur ones lead somewhat hard lives, and require even more money than simply the purchase price, like tools, brake pads, fluids, tires, and other ancillary equipment.

        *Then you have the $80k price.

        The Average median HOUSEHOLD income in the US is ~$40k. This is not built for the average household, that isn't up for contention.

        Now, with those article points in mind, Let's play Sesame Street.... Which of these things is not like the other?
        Impractical, too powerful for the street, too powerful for inclement weather, too exclusive to risk as a daily door ding magnet, too expensive for the vast majority of automotive enthusiasts to even purchase, and the word "value".

        That last value bit is the part that doesn't fit.

        AGAIN, I am not at quarrel with the fact that this car exists, nor am I disputing that the mustang is popular. I did voice a few issues that have turned me OFF of the S197 Mustangs, as a former enthusiast, and those are my opinion, just as you have yours.

        I don't think an $80K weekend toy, which will depreciate, therefore can NEVER be considered a 'good investment', is a good VALUE. It may in fact be a good car, it may be the most fantastic mustang ever, but that doesn't make it a good value. It is merely not as expensive as some other even-more-expensive toys.

        I used my own car to contrast.
        It cost me 1/4th the price.
        It drives EVERY DAY in the muck and the salt, rain and snow.
        And even with 300 fun horsepower, it also has AWD, and can HANDLE the muck and the rain and the snow.

        I wouldn't want a Saleen to drive in the winter, I agree with the article author that it isn't a daily driver. It just isn't practical. Practicality is an element in VALUE.

        My car isn't anywhere near as fast, I know that. But it is more fun *more of the time* than a faster saleen that I can't drive very often, and can't really utilize in the real world, and that would cost me 4 times as much money to sit in the garage.

        THAT is Value. Smiles and miles per dollar. The Saleen Extreme is not even meant to be that. The Saleen is about big thrills with money being little or no object, and that is the antithesis of fiscal value. The Viper, Z06, Porsche 911, Ferrari, etc., are the same. Big thrills, money no object. They are not "good VALUEs." That doesn't make any of them bad vehicles. I am taking to task the article author asserting fiscal value where I don't see it, I am not attacking the merit of existence of the vehicle, or vehicles like it.

        And the interior of that $80k car is not 4x nicer than the interior in my Legacy GT. $80k can buy a used Audi S8, or something else that has more power than my Legacy GT, AWD capability, and a heck of a lot nicer interior than both a subaru and a ford put together. Comfort might play a bit of a role with value, as well as being every-day practical.

        My father has an S197 mustang. I've driven it. I've touched the upholstery panels and the dash. It looks nice enough by design, but when you touch it, the materials are a let down. Even the seat leather is coarse and stiff, not supple and taut. maybe Saleen seats are better... but the Ford stuff is not all that great, the same way new chryslers and some GM cars have poor interiors. Just because it is a saleen doesn't mean it escapes criticism where criticism is due.

        The IRS/Live axle debate is going to go on forever, and I am not going to concede on it, so don't even try.

        I know how they work, and first hand how both behave, and yes, even on the S197 mustang, and on predecessor mustangs. On the street it just makes things l
          • 7 Years Ago
          ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dammit, that reply was to a previous comment...
      • 6 Years Ago
      About your comment about i wouldnt drive this thing in the snow or water.. just think about this for a moment... would you honestly drive a Z06 in the rain? or Snow? or for that matter a Lambo or viper? Negative. Also. Power that you "cant harness on the street" Do you think you can honestly unleash the zo6 or the viper on the street? Not without a Class B Felony riding on your record. Its a fun car to drive, people will pay.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I lust in your general direction Autoblog.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have to edmit the Saleen S302 is better than the Corvette and Viper. It's more powerful, looks fiercer and has more features than the other 2 cars.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Saleen easily makes the most impressive Mustangs. They really sweat the details and their work is of the highest quality. Although I like the Extreme the Parnelli Jones edition they created is my absolute favorite.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Okay, this is really starting to bother me. You guys got any job openings?

      On Mustangs:

      1. Saleen
      2. Roush
      10. Everybody Else.
      • 7 Years Ago
      What a beast.
      • 6 Years Ago
      80K is too expensive for what your getting. I have a friend that has one of these. He wishes he did what I did.
      Get a Shelby GT500 for 45K base with all options. Spend 10-15K max gets you the ultimate suspension package, stage4 (Super Snake) Supercharger Package, wheels, tires, etc.. & Have 748RWHP 756RWTQ (Dynoed) = 880HP - 15% Std loss of power to the rear wheels = 748 RWHP. This is the best bang for the buck. Of course you can send the GT500 to Carrol Shelby & pay 18K for the Super Snake option & only have 605HP or pay 28K for the GT500KR upgrade & get 540HP but if buy the parts your self & are pretty handy (Ex. Super Charger Upgrade is direct bolt on) you can save alot of $$$$
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ok, it has lots of horsepower…what’s its grip…what's its skidpad, braking, lane change/slalom? After all that; is it still comforatable, or did they just make a teeth rattling tack car?

      Anyone can slap a supercharger on an already fast car and make it faster…but can they make it a better car? I found this review lacking in content and information that can seriouly be used to judge whether than car is worth 80k. For 80k this car better have 0.93g (or more…definitally more) and braking withing the Z06 range.
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