Chinese savior + defunct German GT = $100K USD sports car
Steve Saleen is again poised to begin applying his name to a brand-new car—one with what is described as an all-new body and mid-engine chassis, powered by a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that is also described as brand-new—cylinder block and all. And he is planning to sell this scratch-built newbie for $100,000 USD. It all strikes us as a skosh too good to be true—especially given the financial woes Saleen Automotive has faced over the last year or so—but it is good-looking, and it promises mid-3-second acceleration to 60 mph and an impressive 105-foot stopping distance from that speed, so we’re eager to have our doubts squashed by the resounding success of the new Saleen 1.
As is the case with many financially troubled car companies, Saleen Automotive’s money challenges have been eased by a Chinese partnership now called Jiangsu Saleen Automotive Technologies Group. The original plan for the car was to purchase the tooling and rights to the defunct German Artega GT two-seat grand tourer. That car had been powered by a 3.6-liter Volkswagen Group VR6 engine, but apparently adapting the Artega to suit the four-cylinder engine and to meet modern Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards proved too difficult, so a scratch-built car was designed. But compare photos of the Artega GT and Saleen 1, and it’s hard to view the 1 as entirely new. The doors and glass (very expensive parts to tool) appear conspicuously identical, for example.
Dimensionally the new car is 16.0 inches longer, thanks to a dramatically stretched nose (likely for crash compliance), a slightly longer tail, and a wheelbase that grows 0.6 inch (probably due to the unique engine and rear suspension cradle that accommodates the new engine. Weight increases by about 225 pounds (102 kg), with a 42/58 percent front/rear bias.
Few details have been divulged about the engine except that it will reportedly produce 450 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission will be a six-speed manual, with a paddle-shifted automatic becoming optional (no further transmission details were provided). Suspension is via control arms and coil springs (the show car displayed featured coil-over-shock units, but that is not production intent).
Keep rowing the gears with the hammer down, and that 3.5-second 60-mph time begets an 11.3-second quarter-mile time en route to a 180-mph (290-km/h) top speed. Maximum skidpad grip is pegged at 1.2 g, thanks to sticky Continental rubber sized 255/30ZR20 in front and 335/25ZR20 in back. And we’re promised fuel economy will be impressive, given this level of performance.
A factory in China will eventually supply global production, but cars will initially be built in the U.S. We’re told to expect a production launch in late summer of 2018. Launching any new car these days is a herculean task, and for Steve Saleen’s sake we hope the Jiangsu folks have Elon Musk money. If so, perhaps Steve’s latest automotive incarnation, JSAT, will survive to produce a Saleen 2.