How do you make a Tesla Model S better? Give it to Steve Saleen, head of famed Mustang tuner Saleen Automotive. He’s shifted gears from American muscle cars to the all-electric Model S, creating what he calls the Saleen FourSixteen and boldly claiming that this is the “new sound of electric”.
The Model S P85+ is no performance slouch, able to sprint from 0 to 60 MPH in as little as 4.2 seconds (at least officially) and a top speed of about 130 MPH. But the Tesla’s on-track performance has left some buyers wanting more, which is where Saleen comes in. While the tuner left the battery pack and drivetrain well-enough alone, they did change the gearing and improve the cooling system to allow for better acceleration and pushing the Model S a bit harder on the racetrack. One of the main areas of focus though was on improving the aerodynamics of the already-slippery Tesla as well as the suspension, something Saleen has built quite the reputation for.
As mentioned in a recent interview with Saleen, getting the sound right was also a big part of making the FourSixteen feel right. Combustion cars have a natural tone that can be tuned, but Saleen had less to work with when it came to the mostly (but not totally) quiet Model S. Watching the Saleen FourSixteen scream past with that futuristic whirr totally feels like a scene out of I, Robot or Bladerunner, which is exactly what I think the tuner was going for.
Of course all of this comes at a steep cost with the starting price of the Saleen FourSixteen around $152,000. It’s a high cost of entry, but for that money you get one of the newest and hottest cars around with a legendary car tuner’s name attached. Saleen can see the writing on the wall, and wants to position itself as a leading tuner of electric cars. It’s a tall order, but the old business adage is “Adapt or die” for a reason.
Will this be a highly-coveted classic 30 years from now, the vanguard of a new wave of modified performance EVs, or just a vague memory from the early days of the electric car revolution?