Saleen 302 Mustang (2011) Review

By: David Berthon, Photography by: Mark Bean

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Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang
Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang
Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang
Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang Saleen Mustang

Engine, chassis and styling all get the magic wand in this low-number exotic

Saleen 302 Mustang (2011) Review
Saleen Mustang

 

Saleen 302 Mustang

"Power in the hands of a few" - the motto of Saleen Performance Vehicles from Troy, Michigan - is a fitting expression for the few lucky Australian owners of their latest offering, the 2011 Saleen 302 Mustang.

Launched at last year's Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the limited-edition Saleen 302 comes in both coupe and convertible and just 10 will be imported Down Under this year.

The opportunity to drive one of possibly two convertibles was impossible to resist, and I survey chassis No.11 with a degree of excitement and trepidation.

After driving a 'blown' six-speed manual 5.0-litre V8 Saleen 301 Extreme Coupe several years ago, I figured this six-speed auto naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 was going to be a touch more docile.

The 477kW of the Extreme versus the convertible's 317kW obviously makes a big difference, but this drop-top Pony Car is still no slouch and pushes to 100km/h in a claimed 4.7sec - not bad for moving 1761kg of American black iron from rest.

Converted locally to right-hand drive, this American exotic is very nicely executed. The stock 5.0-litre V8 Mustang convertible gains a number of bold, yet tasteful styling elements that avoid making the Saleen look like too OTT. After all, at $189,500, this is a luxury 'Stang that will appeal more to the pockets of well-heeled baby boomers.

The overall appearance of this American legend is tastefully offset by 20-inch seven-spoke Speed Star wheels are actually quite European in appearance and fill the Mustang's wheelarches, assisted by moderately-lowered Saleen Racecraft sports suspension.

It's nearly 27 years since racer Steve Saleen produced his first Saleen Mustang and while he's no longer involved with the company, his high-performance enhancements live on under the skin of this latest derivative.

Importantly, the adjustable Racecraft suspension, featuring specific-rate coils, nitrogen-pressurised front struts and rear dampers, and a front strut-tower brace, tame this Mustang but maintain a level of comfort consistent with the needs of a luxury-car buyer. There is no sense of scuttle shake, even on the worst surfaces.

It feels sharp, with great turn-in but without the ride harshness that can be inflicted by the fitment of low-profile P-Zero Rosso tyres - 275/35ZR20s on 9.0-inch wide rims up front, and 275/40ZR20s on 10-inch rims at the rear.

Braking is aggressive - 315mm front and 300mm rear vented discs haul this heavy rag-top up without fuss with good pedal feel, though one is always conscious of its extra bulk under heavy braking.

With no right-hand-drive electric power steering rack available for the Mustang at present, the conversion from a left-hooker utilises hydraulic assistance. Nicely executed and a neat fit, it provides generally good feel, but could be a little sharper off centre when moving quickly on switchback curves.

Exhaust tune with any V8 is all important and while this car doesn't have the increased supercharger growl of the Extreme at higher revs, it produces an amazingly powerful sound from start up.

"We tune the four-pot exhaust system here for maximum presence," importer Adrian Ashton suggests, and it must be very close to the legal limit. With the hood down, under load the noise is music to the ears of any V8 fan. While this car doesn't have the raw performance appeal of the blown Saleen Extreme and goes about its business without the rolled-up sleeves, it still won't disappoint the Mustang fraternity.

From a comfort standpoint the rather wide leather-covered seats with contrasting stitching and suede inserts are generous and supportive, while the dash layout and interior are somewhat subdued, offset by an in-vogue piano black centre console and deep-set, black-faced instruments.

Certainly, the detail touches on this 'all-American playboy' are more Euro in feel and Saleen has cleverly crossed the cultural divide, delivering a Yankee Mustang convertible with global appeal.

Highly equipped from a safety, convenience, and comfort standpoint, its most endearing appeal perhaps is its sheer exclusivity in an over-fed, upper-luxury performance market.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Saleen Mustang

 

ENGINE: 4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v

POWER: 317kW @ 6500rpm.

TORQUE: 535Nm @ 4250rpm.

WEIGHT: 1761kg

GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic

0-100KM/H: 4.7sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED: 300km/h (claimed)

PRICE: $189,500

 

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