Test Drive Tuesday review: 2007 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo
Born in 1983, Saleen is said to be the most successful Mustang tuner in America. But in 2000, founder Steve Saleen tired of being only that, and set about showing the world what its team could do given a blank slate.
They came up with the S7, the first all-American supercar. Long, wide and low, adorned by multiple aerodynamics elements and propelled by a NASCAR-derived 7.0 liters engine, the S7 immediately made an impression. Developed as a basis for a GT racing car, it spawned a highly successful GT1 racer, the S7R. But in 2005 Steve Saleen decided to go one step further, and twin-turbocharged the S7, giving birth to a proper monster for the road. This is a car that weighs less than 3 000 lbs, makes 750 bhp in “normal” trim, and produces its own weight of downforce at 160 mph. Which will prove quite helpful.
You can certainly feel the racing intentions of the car. If you take aside braking and gearing, which could be improved, the S7 TT is closer to a GT1 car than anything else that bears a number plate.
When braking into a corner, the back-end gently rotates, as every proper race car should. It makes nailing the apex easier, and corner-exit cleaner. The S7 does have a lot of grip, and you can really feel the downforce. But that doesn’t cost the car its playfulness. If you want the rear-end to step out under power, you’ll find that there’s enough torque to do so even in the highest gears. Handling is properly sorted then, and despite being rocket quick, the S7 isn’t all that difficult to drive.
Massive torque means that you don’t have to worry about the gears – which is good because this car has got a tall enough gearing to go past Mars and keep accelerating. The natural understeer can be cancelled by trail-braking, and then by playing with the throttle a bit. Downforce will help you through the fast bits.
I don’t remember thinking too much about the S7 when it came out. I thought it would be another American attempt to replicate the Cobra effect by sticking its largest engine to a rubbish chassis. Think Hennessey Venom. But I was wrong, the S7 has been properly engineered, and it’s a genuinely good car.
This, I think, had to do with the fact that the car was kinda intended as an homologation brother for the S7R: there’s no better motivation to develop a car the right way than racing. It’s also much more fun to drive than the other Simraceway’s GT1 homologation special, the Maserati MC12, although you might miss the fabulous V12 and general italian-ness. The S7 feels properly racecar-ish, and never felt out of place at the very demanding Sonoma track. And it’s only a second slower than the much more advanced Pagani Huayra round Watkins Glen.
America’s first production supercar is a great one.
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