5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
2008 Saleen S302 Extreme - Extremely Civilized
Saleen backs up the body kits and flashy paints with a Mustang of true performance substance
By far, 2008 marks the largest Saleen lineup in the company's 25-year history. It's organized into two basic Mustang lines--Heritage and Saleen families--and the two-model truck line. Yes, 25th Anniversary cars are promised, but haven't been announced.
Heritage cars "honor Mustang heritage" says Saleen. A careful examination shows the H302 Three-Valve is mechanically the popular Saleen/Parnelli Jones of last year, but available in a variety of exterior colors and with the PJ's orange seat insert upholstery replaced by gray Alcantara. The H302 Supercharged fits the exciting all-forged internals 302ci Saleen Three-Valve engine with Saleen's twin-screw, charge-cooled blower. We always knew Saleen would be offering the PJ's bodywork and expensive engine in future models, as both were far too pricey to develop and certify for a mere 500 model run. As the PJ was a favorite of ours, we're happy to see it continue under the Heritage name.
The core Saleen line begins with the familiar naturally aspirated S281 Three-Valve with its lightly enhanced Mustang GT engine. This car carries the signature Saleen nose and extended tail styling debuted in late 2005. Adding Saleen's twin-screw, charge-cooled blower predictably results in the S281 Supercharged, which to many is the quintessential Saleen, boasting the full Saleen body kit, massive 15-inch brakes, and Racecraft suspension.
While escalating Saleen prices don't seem to be a particular bother to its market positioning, abandoning the lower end of the specialty market to Roush, Steeda, and other Mustang tuners is hardly in Saleen's interests, hence the decontented S281RF Supercharged, or Red Flag. By foregoing the S281 Supercharged's vented aluminum hood and big brakes, the Red Flag squeaks under the $50,000 mark to hopefully prevail in the battle of the blower Mustangs. The Red Flag is limited to a 100-unit run, and is available in black or silver.
At the other extreme is the Extreme, an aptly named Mustang if there ever was one. Clearly the S302 Extreme is the ultimate Saleen Mustang, with only 200 available in 2008.
Saleen's truck offerings are expanded in 2008 with the addition of a SuperCrew four-door version of the standard S331 Supercharged SuperCab. These are great trucks, with enjoyable power in supercharged form (last year's naturally aspirated S331 variant apparently slipped out the back door after modest, if any, sales) and retaining all the towing and hauling functions of the F150s they're built from. Sharp looking, filled with handy extras such as optional rear airbag load-leveling, heavy-duty bumpers, and Class IV hitches, the S331 is the satisfying way to tow the ski boat to the lake.
To put the '08 Saleens in quick perspective:
| ||Remarks||Rating||Base MSRP|
|H302 3-Valve||A Saleen/PJ in|
|H302 Supercharged||Saleen/PJ in colors|
|S281 3-Valve||Naturally aspirated||335 hp||$43,999|
|S281RF Supercharged||Red Flag, SC, stock|
|S281 Supercharged||SC, w/ aluminum|
hood, big brakes
|S302 Extreme||The Ultimate Saleen|
While Saleen pricing has left the majority of us who previously bought their products behind, you have to love a car company that supercharges six of its eight models and has a company-wide average power rating of 469 hp.
Finally, the super exotic S7 has been discontinued as a street car in the U.S. because it lacks an airbag--recertifying it with one is far too expensive. The S7 continues as a race car and in European sales, however. Production of the '07 Saleen/Parnelli Jones has also ceased, as all 500 cars in that program were built and sold in 2007.