Tom Wilson
May 19, 2008
Photos By: Guy Spangenberg
Ultra-powerful, precise, poised, and handsome, the S302 Extreme fully delivers on the Saleen promise. If one needed to mark their 25 year in the performance car business, this one would do.

Horse Sense: Collectors should note the S302 Extreme is the last Saleen Mustang developed during the Steve Saleen era, and combined with its ultra-performance, limited-production, and eye-watering exclusivity, it ought to prove rewardingly collectible if anything is collectible from this twilight of the pure gasoline era.

Now that it has reached the promised land, it's ironic that Steve Saleen is no longer with his old company. It's been a 25-year struggle from body kits and bolt-ons to building one of the most powerful, yet civilized and highly detailed speed machines ever offered to the domestic performance enthusiast. You'd think it would've been satisfying to hang around and accept the accolades.

But that's not how it turned out, and so the reality is that the thoroughly corporate Saleen is offering a robust line of specialty performance vehicles, topped by the most powerful EPA-certified, 50-state-legal, series-produced Mustang you can drive off a dealer lot--the 620hp S302 Extreme.

Also extreme is the $79,995 sticker price, which rumbled right along on our demo car with the addition of a $2,799 chrome wheel upgrade, as well as $1,550 worth of destination and delivery charges for an MSRP of $84,348. This doesn't include $2,660 Gas Guzzler tax, nor sales taxes ($6,537 in our corner of the country), licenses, or dealer prep charges. That exceeds $90,000, and should you opt for one of Saleen's enticing $18,000 special paints you'll have ushered in the era of the $100,000 Mustang. Actually, you'd be playing catch up, as we saw an '07 Extreme convertible with Liztick Red paint, chrome wheels, and speedster tonneau at Saleen's Irvine facility last year, and it was clearly 100 large.

Yes, we did say "'07 Extreme." Curiously, it's not new for 2008, but is rather mainly a carryover from 2007, when the company quietly produced small numbers of the uber-Mustang essentially in its current form. For reasons unknown, this was done without press coverage, especially in the screwdriver magazines such as this one. The '07 Extreme was on the Saleen Web site, however, so it wasn't as if it were a total secret.

Saleen's unique front and rear body clips, vented aluminum hood, and other design details have worn well. The Extreme plays the quiet, strong man with a rear wing delete and handsomely understated silver paint on our demonstrator car.

Whatever the rationale for keeping the Extreme out of the limelight last year, we're glad Saleen chose to highlight the car at its '08 model introduction. We're even happier we were able to take the demonstrator home for a week of real-world evaluation following the introduction. It's a persuasively seductive machine; a car that suavely demands you come back for another dip into the power pool, a bit of transport even jaded enthusiasts look forward to driving. And in its power and refinement, it's also a new sort of performance Mustang, one that straddles the traditional ponycar enthusiasm with luxury intentions and an overwhelming dose of tire-smoking muscle. The Mustang has never bulged a tuxedo quite like this before.

Naturally enough, the pleasantries begin underhood. Saleen engineers need go no farther than the all-forged Saleen/Parnelli Jones engine for the power foundation. Stroked, but not bored, to this magazine's favorite displacement, the short-block is topped with five-axis, CNC-ported, Three-Valve cylinder heads and a pair of Saleen-specific camshafts. It's these cams that largely differentiate the engine and give it such a powerful personality.

Pushing 12 pounds of boost into all this is Saleen's own twin-screw supercharger. Saleen buys the critically machined twin-screw rotor pack from specialty blower manufacturers in Sweden, but the remainder of the system is Saleen's. It follows the familiar Saleen layout, with the supercharger floating in the engine valley, suspended under the intake manifold and water-to-air charge cooler. Thus, you can't see the blower, but you can sure feel it.

The intake air system starts with a Saleen airbox and high-flow mass air meter, runs up to the stock throttle body, and enters the supercharger/intake manifold casting by crowning over the intake package and curving down into the rear of the supercharger. Mere 39-lb/hr fuel injectors are employed; they seem part of Saleen's philosophy of using relatively low boost and supporting equipment to get big jobs done. The smallish fuel injectors--at least compared to mega-power tuner practice--no doubt have something to do with idle quality and emissions.

We're not sure precisely which clutch Saleen uses, but it's likely the Shelby GT 500 piece. The transmission is a Tremec 6060 six-speed manual, which is straight out of the GT 500, and the final drive is via the time-tested 8.8-inch solid rear axle with 3.73 gears rotating in the Saleen MaxGrip limited-slip differential. As a historical note, the '07 Extremes used 4.10 gears, but they proved too short.

Saleen couldn't resist the siren's call of 20-inch rolling stock on its flagship performer. These are the Extreme standard five-spoke 20x9- and 20x10-inch wheels in chrome; a seven-spoke wheel is optional. The 275/35ZR-20 front and largest on a production Mustang 305/35ZR-20 rear Pirelli rubber are sticky, precise, and major contributors to the Extreme's notable chassis poise.

Saleen's chassis-tuning sophistication has been improving for years, and the Extreme arrived at a spring-shock-swaybar tune that not only gives a pleasing ride, but does a commendable job of hanging on to the pavement. The Extreme further benefits from Saleen's stout Watt's link rear-axle locating device, and superb 20-inch Pirelli ultra-high-performance P-Zero tires.

Saleen engineers confirmed the P-Zero rubber was a particularly happy marriage with their chassis, but also emphasized the Watt's link as a significant upgrade. The previous Panhard bar arrangement limited the workable spring-shock-swaybar tune, and when they brought the Watt's link online, they were able to stiffen the rear swaybar. This tightened the rearend, reducing understeer at the frontend, which is one of the Saleen chassis' notable accomplishments.

Given the huge power, Saleen's choice of 15-inch front and 11.8-inch rear brakes doesn't seem outlandish. The front binders sport equally macho six-piston calipers while the rear calipers, ABS, and vacuum power assist systems are stock Mustang GT.

Inside, the Extreme displays the increasing competence Saleen has gained in fit and finish. We noticed the seats first. They're upholstered in black leather with white stitching, and the workmanship was excellent--absolutely worthy of a mainstream OEM. While the Extreme is all about performance, Saleen chose large but not obtrusive bolsters to maintain daily driver access.

Across the dash is the usual array of Saleen-faced instruments, including its traditional 200-mph speedometer that doesn't look quite so silly anymore. Atop the dash is a twin-gauge pod housing boost pressure and charge-cooler temperature information. A tastefully subdued serial number plaque is glued to the far right of the dash. We enjoyed its semigloss black finish, but in this price league we'll bet a more sophisticated material than molded plastic would be appreciated by customers attracted by the Saleen's exclusive, serial-numbered nature.

Because Ford has done such a good job with the basic Mustang interior, Saleen need not change quite as many parts these days. The door panels, for example, remain stock. The overall affect is of a Mustang interior that has only what needed upgrading changed: a bit of welcome subtlety. Saleen brochures call for a Rockford Fosgate Punch sound system, but our demo car was equipped with the familiar Shaker 500 system.

With 200 Extremes slated for '08 production--an optimistic number given the economy these days--our tester carried a S302E 2008 010/200 serial number. Descriptive, but a mouthful.

Looking down the stock center stack of familiar Shaker 500 sound and HVAC controls brings us to the shifter, which Saleen has fitted with a nicely turned-out leather boot to match the seat upholstery, along with a smallish, tapered cylinder of a shift handle, also done in hide-like trim. Acknowledge the Saleen script door thresholds, floor mats, and aluminum pedal pads and that's about it for interior modifications. The affect is quietly upscale, with a masculine purposefulness. Clearly Saleen recognized the S197 Mustang interior is already a nice place to be, and they did a good job of moving it up a notch while avoiding the dreaded tacky or boy racer pitfalls.

Impressively, turning the key and setting the moving parts in motion doesn't dispel this tony mood. There's a touch of firmness in the clutch effort, but nothing serious. Likewise, the exhaust has a purposeful growl, not enough to render the stereo totally useless but absolutely part of the environment. The Extreme continues Saleen's habit of providing the exhaust with two outlets. The first is under the car, a set of dump tubes mounted right at the end of the mufflers, which are in the standard S197 location. These dump tubes are not visible to casual observers. At high engine outputs, a valve opens an additional set of tailpipes terminating at the visible center-outlet exhaust tips. This dual exit design reduces backpressure when it counts, aiding power when the supercharger is doing its thing.

Another noise maker is the supercharger itself. It lightly grinds and gear whines at idle such that non-enthusiasts will think things are mechanically noisy underhood, but true believers will just grin in anticipation. This is precisely the noise an OEM such as Ford would fall on their sword over, but it's the joy of specialty manufacturers.

Slipping the shifter into gear is different than standard Mustang practice. Mounted completely on the transmission, the shifter has a short, precise throw, but with an unexpectedly light effort. It's a snick-snick sort of shifter, the kind of thing sports car fans and road racers enjoy, and not the long-levered slam-it-home device seemingly in favor with drag and circle track fans. Clutch take up is normal, engaging in mid-travel with perfectly standard street-car action.

So is simply driving around, which is a major part of the Extreme accomplishment. This really is a daily driver Mustang with easy ingress/egress, normal sight lines (save for the quarter-window covers--more on which later), a plushly elegant cabin, relatively low noise, no racy rattles or vibrations, normal control efforts--in short, all the comforts of home.

With power and torque in the 600 range, the twin-screw 5.0-liter Three-Valve is heart of the Extreme. Key to its energetic personality are its upgraded camshafts. They put a small upward bump in the midrange when they reach their effective rpm range, but there's so much torque down low that the power transition is hardly felt and is never an issue when controlling so much thrust.

But mat the gas in any gear and it's anything but normal. First thing that happens is the supercharger wails a scream that's applause to the enthusiast's ear. At the same time, the exhaust ramps up the volume and all the traffic on the freeway begins rolling backward. This is a fast car.

Much of the excitement is the way the Extreme makes rivers of torque from above idle to redline. This is the vaunted "torque on demand" marketing types love to kick around in press conferences, except this time there really is meaningful thrust underfoot. Helping considerably are the 3.73 rear axle gears. The Extreme, like all current hot-rod Mustangs, is no lightweight at 3,645 pounds, but the steep gearing ensures it jumps out of the hole like a teenager. The rest, of course, is due to the 600 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, a most assuredly satisfying figure.

As expected, even with the weight and sticky tires, the massive power is more than adequate in First gear. Even walked carefully off the line, squeezing the throttle gently to the floor results in wheelspin at the top of First. Best acceleration comes with an abbreviated launch, then quickly jumping into Second where full throttle requires no further driver management unless the surface is slippery. You're home free in Third, except by this point you're already felony-fast. Sixty miles-per-hour comes up in around four seconds from a dead stop and in about half that given a roll. With such willing energy, the acceleration rush lasts far into the triple digits.

In other words, the car is so fast, the fun is over about as quickly as it starts. As with other mega-powered cars, the Extreme thrust is so intoxicating that it takes willpower to lift off the loud pedal, even when scattering third graders in a school zone. This is definitely a car for the mature enthusiast.

So much of this accelerative pleasure comes from the instant torque. The power is always there and needs no winding up to get rolling. This would be dangerously explosive, in the old Shelby Cobra roadster sort of way, except the power is wonderfully linear and childishly easy to dial in or out as needed. The driver is in full control, backed up by the traction control, which understands that power-induced wheelspin is necessary for the expert driver, but is ultimately not going to let things get out of hand.

Saleen has never been shy with styling elements, and the Extreme carries a faux rear diffuser just for looks. Anyone else getting as low as our photographer might notice the four exhaust outlets; the two visible polished outlets at center and the two hidden outlets just aft of the mufflers.

So reassured, we found the Extreme a great partner even when it came time to jump into busy traffic flows from side streets or merge onto flying freeway traffic from long uphill ramps. It makes fabulously usable power.

This is in contrast to Saleen's earlier big-bore Mustang, the storied S351SC from the mid '90s. Those SN-95-based war-wagons relied on hulking, centrifugally supercharged 351 Windsors, which were a real rush but required some driving technique. They casually blew the tires off in First, which was a nearly useless gear, and spun madly in Second before pulling like a warp drive in Third and beyond. They were real cage-rattling animals, and not half as civilized, daily driver tolerant, or easy to drive as the Extreme. But brother, did they rage.

In contrast, the Extreme passed finishing school with honors, and it's absolutely ready for daily duty. As a cruiser it does relax, but never slumbers. The transmission gearing is not stratospheric in the upper cogs. Therefore, unlike a six-speed Corvette, which falls to nearly 1,500 rpm at freeway speeds, the Extreme keeps about 2,000 rpm on the clock in Sixth while rolling with traffic. Delicate, off-boost lane changes and such occur as eagerly as they would in a stock Mustang GT; alternately, kept in Fifth, the Extreme strains to run hard. Of course, boosted power is only a tickle of the right foot away.

Just as Saleen has been upping its power game, its Mustang chassis engineering has been improving as well. The Extreme carried itself confidently, with more than expected responsiveness.

As a performance street car, the Saleen is almost plush, but with noticeably more control and precision than, say, Ford's GT 500. In daily driver mode, there's some feel to hard-edge obstacles, but nothing objectionable or out of the daily driver category. The steering is light and precise, with slightly improved feel over a civilian GT, and the turn-in and mid-corner grip is confidence inspiring. Encouraged to a fast touring clip on secondary roads, the Extreme is a rewarding companion.

Mesmerized by the Extreme's superb power, it's easy at first to overlook its balanced and willing chassis. Few Mustangs are as rousing or satisfying as this one on a winding road, especially in the heavyweight power class. A day in the country with this car is one to remember.

Pushed harder, the Extreme exhibits surprisingly good balance before signing off with modest to moderate understeer almost at the limit. The limit is high, and the understeer remains in the background until nearly the end. Thus, the Extreme doesn't have that unfocused, musclecar apathy when spurred. Likewise, body roll, while there isn't an issue and in general, roll, pitch, and overall traction balance are nicely harmonized. The frontend doesn't feel so heavy. If anything, the Extreme pitches up and down with the throttle, but 600 lb-ft of torque will raise the nose, won't it? Movement no doubt aids corner-exit traction, and again, with this much umph, a bit of telegraphing from the chassis aids driver confidence.

Designed strictly as a street car, the Extreme's precision and grip are just short of today's best pure two-seat sports cars, but miles ahead of the GT 500 musclecar paradigm. Sure, it could use more spring and shock should you venture out on open-track day (we didn't and probably wouldn't). On the street we found the grip and handling confidence-inspiring relative to the massive power. We'll admit we quickly adopted a point-and-squeeze driving style; it's perfectly natural in this car, as there's always so much power that trying for that last bit of cornering power doesn't seem worth the risk. You can just go faster down the next straight if you're really that late to the airport.

Braking was nearly stellar. Our demo car stopped nicely in casual use, but had just a hint of pedal softness when pushed harder. Asked to perform across a huge speed range, we'll bet close attention to pad maintenance would pay off for the Extreme owner. A few truly hard stops on occasion ought to keep the glazing rubbed off. He'll definitely need all the braking power when inevitably exploring the time-bending upper speed ranges this car is so easily capable of.

Given the willing chassis and killer power, it's easy to understand how we found it difficult to sit at the computer while the Extreme was in our driveway.

Of course, it's never all sweetness and light, and there are Extreme nits to pick, or opinions to express. We'll cite the rear quarter-window covers; Saleen diligently pointed out how our test car was fitted with such styling aids, and how they were strictly for evaluation at this time (they were the only non-stock items on the entire car). After a few thousand blind lane changes our opinion on these window covers remains the same: They stink. Visibility is notably reduced, and we're not excited by that entering-the-cave darkness in the back-half of the cabin. Besides, this car doesn't need such a styling add-on. The Extreme already has a subdued forcefulness to its exterior design, especially in silver. It doesn't need window covers.

To tilt at windmills, with the $84,000 Extreme it's long past time to remove the boy racer Saleen graphic atop the windshield. Not that we really expect it to go away, as we made the same comment 21 years ago when we drove our first Saleen, and you can see how much good that has done.

As good as the Extreme's fit and finish is--Saleen's best--there are a few vestiges of its cottage-industry roots. The gauge pod's white instrument lighting doesn't fit in with the MyColor Ford lighting, for example. And some things never seem to change, such as the Saleen-specific HID headlights that were maladjusted to shine about a yard in front of the hood, or the check engine light that lit for no apparent reason. We won't count the tire-pressure-monitoring fault code, as those seem to illuminate with every new car we test.

In the end, those concerns faded to the rear, just as the scenery does when the Extreme throttle opens wide. What does stay with you is that Second gear rush. Believe us: You never get tired of it.

5.0 Tech Specs
GENERALIgnition
Weight{{{Ford}}}
3,645 lbs.Instruments
Weight distributionSaleen-faced and recalibrated
53/47 front/rearFord instrument cluster w/
Wheelbase{{{200}}}-mph speedometer, 6,000-
107.1 inrpm redline tach; boost pressure
Trackand charge cooler water temp
{{{62}}}.8/63.9 in f/rin twin gauge pod atop dash
Horsepower 
620 hp at 6,{{{300}}} rpmSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
TorqueFront Suspension
{{{600}}} lb-ft at 4,400 rpmFord-based MacPherson strut
 w/ Saleen gas-filled struts,
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINSaleen springs
BlockRear Suspension
Aluminum FordFord-based 8.8-in w/ Saleen
Displacementgas-filled shocks, Saleen
5.0L (302 ci), 3.554x3.800-in boresprings, Saleen Watt's link,
x strokeSaleen sway bar
Rotating AssemblyBrakes
Forged stroker crank, forgedFront: 15-in slotted and vented
H-beam rods, forged pistonsrotor, six-piston Saleen-script
Camshaftscaliper; Rear: 11.8-in slotted and
Saleen-specific, blower-vented rotor
optimizedWheels
HeadsForged five-spoke 20x9 front,
CNC-ported Ford Three-Valve20x10 rear standard; Forged
Intakeseven-spoke 20x9 front, 20x10
Saleen-specific with integratedrear optional; Chrome optional
supercharger; high-flow masson all wheels
air, conical air filter, Saleen-Tires
specific airboxPirelli P-Zero Ultra High
SuperchargerPerformance 275/35ZR-20 front,
Saleen Series VI twin-screw w/305/35ZR-20 rear
water-to-air charge coolingBodywork
Fuel SystemSaleen aluminum/vented hood,
39-lb/hr fuel injectorsinjection-molded TPO fascias
Exhaustfront and rear, grille, carbon-fiber
Saleen-spec 2 1/2-inch high-flowsplitter, TPO side skirts and
w/ undercar dump tubes and on-door cladding, carbon fiber
demand center-exit tailpipes atdiffuser, rear body panel and end
high gas flowscaps, rear wing (delete option),
TransmissionHID headlamps
Tremec 6060 six-speed manual;Options
{{{GT}}} 500 shifterConvertible, w/ Speedster
Final Drivetonneau and sportbar, Scenic
8.8-in differential, 3.73:1; Saleenroof (coupe only), Saleen colors
MaxGrip limited-slip($17,000 or $18,000, depending
 on color)
ELECTRONICS 
Engine Management 
Saleen PowerFlash calibration, 
defeatable Ford traction control 
Saleen's instrument graphics are neatly trim, but difficult to read. All the normal Ford dashboard functions--traction control, mileage computer, MyColor lighting--are retained in the Extreme.

To verify the tremendous acceleration we were all agog about, we ran our S302 Extreme tester over the Dynojet rollers courtesy of Magnaflow Performance Exhaust.

The results were encouraging, with a maximum torque of 494 lb-ft, and max of 524 hp. Adequate, as the man from Rolls Royce used to say, and a real accomplishment in a 50-state legal, EPA ultra-low-emission vehicle. Furthermore, these maximums came after driving the car an hour and a half to the chassis dyno. The power was simply read out; no icing, extended cool downs, or other tricks were employed.

Magnaflow's wideband O2 sensor also showed the Extreme was running a rich 10:1 air/fuel ratio at wide-open throttle throughout the meat of the powerband. This is a point and a half richer than optimum for supercharged power, but protective against detonation--a requirement with a production supercar. So, even more power could be made from this combination should the driver be willing to carefully monitor temperatures and environmental conditions, which we highly recommend against in a street car.

As it is, the power curve is wonderfully linear and easy to drive, and the lie-detector Dynojet shows the Saleen power ratings are correct assuming an 18 percent driveline loss or slightly more power under ideal test conditions.

RPMPowerTorqueRPMPowerTorque
23001924384300395482
24002044464400407486
25002154564500417487
26002284614600433494
27002394654700439491
28002514714800447489
29002634774900451484
3000276483{{{5000}}}454477
31002864845100465479
32002834645200476481
33002884595300488484
34002994625400489476
35003174755500494472
36003344875600498467
37003404835700{{{505}}}465
38003504845800508460
39003554775900516459
{{{4000}}}366480{{{6000}}}521456
41003744796100524451
42003834796200523443

Saleen has been owned by Hancock Park, an investment and holding firm, for approximately four years. Until late spring of 2007, Hancock Park remained in the background to outside observers behind company founder and front man Steve Saleen. When Steve left the company, along with engineering head Bill Tally, designer Phil Frank, and others, Hancock Park stepped into a more visible position.

In the summer of 2007, Hancock Park bought American Sunroof Company and has since combined the management of Saleen and ASC using mainly ASC personnel. After evaluating and reorganizing Saleen throughout the summer and early fall of 2007, the new regime made its public debut with a press introduction of the '08 Saleen model line. Held at the former MCAS El Toro--another proud entity undergoing fundamental change (the runways being pounded by ploughshares to twist a phrase)--the press intro was our chance to meet with Saleen/ASC President and CEO Paul Wilbur, Saleen General Manager Marques McCammon, Vice Chairman and Chief Technical Officer Chris Theodore, Saleen Powertrain Lead Rob Simon, and Saleen Chassis and Dynamics Engineering Lead Derk Hartland.

While it was our pleasure to meet Paul and Marques for the first time, Chris was familiar from his previous career at Ford, where he had a lot to do with bringing the Ford GT to fruition. Likewise, Rob and Derk are old friends with years of Saleen employ under their belts.

Many changes have taken place, not the least being the shift of all production to Saleen's Troy, Michigan, facility. This will contain shipping costs and make best use of Troy's up-to-date production facilities.The plant also installs Saleen superchargers on Ford's Harley Davidson F-150 as an OEM vendor, along with painting and sub-assembling the Dodge Viper SRT-10 for Chrysler.

Saleen engineering continues at the Irvine, California, headquarters, which seems empty now that it houses just engineering, the small S7 build team, the pranksters in the fabrication shop, and headquarters staff. No Mustang or truck production remains in Irvine, although Saleen service, modification and prototyping activities remain. Saleen will remain in the current Irvine building, but will no doubt retain a California presence in a smaller, more rationally sized building when it's time to leave 76 Fairbanks.

Saleen management positions the brand as "America's premiere niche car manufacturer" and vows to "under promise and over deliver." Its message is of "reawakening" and "a new vision."

That new vision was summed in the press materials: "We remain true to the careful balance and integration of Saleen products, but we are raising the bar: creating the one true American exotic automotive designer and manufacturer. Now, we are free to pursue this audacious but well-in-reach goal.

"Saleen is no longer the vision of one man--it is the collective passion of each employee," the press release concludes. Our thought is Saleen is headed upmarket, similar to the migration Porsche made from curio sports car maker to exotic marque decades ago.

As for Steve Saleen, he's no longer associated with, represents, or has any position in the company that bears his name. Currently, he's involved in importing Chinese cars and trucks into the U.S., an effort that hasn't quite reached the publicity spotlight, but will soon. This is keeping him fully occupied, but having known Steve for 20 years, we don't believe he's left high-performance cars behind forever.

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:

 RemarksRatingBase MSRP
"Heritage" 
H302 3-ValveA Saleen/PJ in
different colors
390 hp$56,999
H302 SuperchargedSaleen/PJ in colors
w/ blower
580 hp$74,999
"Saleen" 
S281 3-ValveNaturally aspirated335 hp$43,999
S281RF SuperchargedRed Flag, SC, stock
hood, brakes
465 hp $49,995
S281 SuperchargedSC, w/ aluminum
hood, big brakes
465 hp $53,999
S302 ExtremeThe Ultimate Saleen
Mustang
620 hp$79,995
Trucks 
S331 Supercharged
SuperCab
{{{Pickup}}}, SC,
extended cab
450 hp$43,999
S331 Supercharged
SuperCrew
Pickup, SC,
SuperCrew
450 hp$53,999

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.