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Saleen, Supercars

Saleen S7 Twin Turbo

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The Saleen S7 Twin Turbo is classified as a supercar, alongside Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and the Bugatti Veryron.  It should be classified as a space rocket.  The amount of horsepower and torque squeezed from the Ford-based V8 engine (yes a Ford V8 in a supercar), boggles the mind and leaves your stomach suspended in mid-air two miles behind you, where you just were a second ago.

Looking at the car, you can see that a lot of hard work went into designing an aerodynamic body, but the real miracle sits a few inches behind the driver:  the V8 engine.  On a common supercar, the engine will be sized anywhere between a V8 and a V16, weigh 600+ pounds, and be loaded down with all sorts of fancy controls and cam shafts.  The V8 in the Saleen S7 Twin Turbo laughs in the face of this excess.  It weighs in at a slim 440 pounds, is made of aluminum, has only one cam shaft, and only two valves per cylinder, where most engines would have five.  Sound too simple?  Well, it generates 750 horsepower and 700 lb-ft of torque.

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The original S7 debuted in 2003 and featured a naturally aspirated version of this V8 engine that produced 550 horsepower, but that just wasn’t enough.  So, a few years later, Saleen released the S7 Twin Turbo.  Why?  It seems the Saleen engineers thought that any car that couldn’t go from 0-to-60 mph in 3.4 seconds and reach the 100 mph mark within 6 seconds was just too darn slow.

The unerring devotion to speed is exhibited in the car’s interior, where low weight (the car weighs in at 2750 pounds) trumps comfort.  Would you like an adjustable seat?  Too bad, that weighs extra so grab your wrench if you have long legs and make the adjustments manually (and make sure to get it right the first time).  The pedal configuration not to your liking?  No fancy automatic adjustments like other supercars, so keep that wrench handy.  The footwell is also incredibly narrow, so if you have wide feet, or wear wide shoes, you’ll probably end up clipping the brake when you want the gas a few times, and vice versa.

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The interior finish is well done.  It isn’t overly opulent, like some of the S7′s Italian cousins.  It is simply functional and well made.  Depending on your disposition, though, there may be one thing missing from the cabin:  sound proofing.  The V8 engine is incredibly loud and its ony a few inches behind the seats.  Other supercars have a refined vroom sound to their engines.  The S7 Twin Turbo lets such out a guttural roar that you’d think you had a lion in the backseat, but since there is no backseat, you’re safe.

The S7 Twin Turbo handles like a race car, which can be both good and bad.  Race cars are designed to deliver great handling and response at higher speeds, which the S7 does admirably.  Unfortunately, the same mechanics which make the car steer correctly at 100+ mph makes for a very bumpy ride at slower speeds.  On a smooth track where you can open up and have fun, the S7 is marvelous.  On an average pothole-laden road, you might chatter your teeth straight out of your head.

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The long and the short of it is that if you have $600,000 and want a street legal race car that is packed with American muscle, there is no better choice than the Saleen S7 Twin Turbo, although in order to truly tame this beast you may need a few race driving lessons.  If, on the other hand, you have that sort of money but just want a comfortable ride to the local cafe, then a smoother Italian supercar may be better.

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