Jim Campisano Editor
June 18, 2006
Photos By: Planet-R/Randy Lorentzen

One push of the start button and it was all over. I was in lust. The exhaust on the Saleen S7 Twin Turbo crackled to life. Unlike the Ford GT, which is as muted inside as a Crown Vic, the S7's 427 explodes with each engine revolution. It barks and snarls, seductively stimulating every automotive-loving nerve ending in your entire being-and a few non-car-related ones, too. Revving the force-fed powerplant made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Mat the throttle in any gear and it's not just the hair on the back of your neck that'll be standing up.

Seven hundred and fifty horsepower can have that effect on a person, especially when said power is in a wrapper that weighs a scant 2,750 pounds. Think about it-that's 200 more horsepower than the Ford GT, yet it weighs 800 pounds less. Not to mention it has 700 lb-ft of torque. That's a recipe for success.

I was about to go on the drive of a lifetime. I was being unleashed on a canyon road not far from Saleen headquarters in Irvine, California, but I felt about a million miles from planet Earth. Riding shotgun was Bill Tally, vice president of engineering for Saleen, who just happens to use an S7 Twin Turbo for a daily driver. He wasn't there to play nanny; no, he was present to explain the car's finer points, answer the myriad of questions I'd no doubt have, and encourage me to beat the hell out of this supercar.

Nice guy
Of course, this trip to Southern California was not just so I could push the limits of sanity in the S7, pamper myself at the Ritz Carlton on the beach in Dana Point, and/or escape the warmest Northeast winter on record. Before I piloted the Saleen wundercar, I got to sample the latest S-281 Supercharged, the Scenic Roof model. As you can tell by the photos, the Scenic Roof option replaces the steel in the center of your Mustang's top with a glass center section. It's available on all Saleen Mustangs.

Suddenly, it's 1954 all over again. Remember the Ford Skyliner? This was a similar concept offered from 1954 to 1956 on certain Ford (and Mercury) coupes. While offering panoramic views, the tinted glass roof in the Skyliner made your Ford a four-wheeled Easy Bake Oven-remember, this was back in the dark ages before air conditioning was commonplace on low-priced family cars. Tint technology wasn't that far along, either.

This was not an issue on the Scenic Roof car we drove. Though you could feel some sun through the heavily tinted roof, it did not cause unpleasant interior temps. Kicking up the A/C a notch was all you needed to restore climatic bliss.

The plusses are that it affords spectacular views on starry, moonlit nights, and it brightens up the otherwise stark charcoal gray Mustang interior. The once bunker-like cabin was now quite airy.

A calibration change increased the rated output of the 4.6 in the blown S-281 from 400 in 2005 to 435 for 2006. Also new on the Super-charged is a 14-inch front brake system, which we feel is a nice insurance policy. With the weight of the current Stangs at about two tons with passengers, the bigger the better for binders.

Like our March '05 cover car, this Saleen had power to spare. The brakes were reassuring when we pushed the car to its limits on the Ortega Highway, a serpentine canyon road that climbs from sea level to the hills between Orange and Riverside counties. It's a fun, challenging public thoroughfare; the downside is one mistake at speed and your "off" is waaaaaaaay off, like down the side into never-never land. Brakes are a good thing.

The Saleen Mustang displayed all the traits we liked in our '05 test vehicle-poise, power, balance, and comfort-with an added helping of sex appeal. The ride is firmer than other S197 Mustangs we've sampled, attributable in part, no doubt, to the massive 20x9-inch wheels and P275/35ZR tires.

The S7 Experience
Everything about the S7 screams race car, but the reality is quite different. It is remarkably civilized. The air conditioner blows cold, there's a stereo (that we never turned on), power window lifts-you name it. Especially trick was the power-operated scissor doors that freaked out unsuspecting gawkers in parking lots. They look cool, but are especially functional, too, as ingress and egress is a bit challenging thanks to the wide doorsills. Still, we'd climb across barbed wire to get the S7 thrill again.