Steve Saleen is a man who became famous for his monster Mustangs and the mighty Saleen S7. But earlier this year we learned he was turning his extensive expertise to a different kind of performance. Now we’re finally seeing the fruits of his team’s labor in the form of the Saleen Tesla Foursixteen, which is making its debut this weekend on the concept lawn at Pebble Beach.
“We’ve turned our attention to electric vehicles because we realize they are not a fad and are here to stay,” said Saleen. “We wanted to provide more of a performance driving experience.” Saleen thinks his Tesla has the potential to take on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG and do it for less money and with no emissions.
While the horsepower of the Foursixteen Tesla remains the same at 416 horsepower, hence the name, the Saleen car has undergone extensive improvements, including significant upgrades to the suspension, transmission, exterior design, and interior. The changes have been made in an effort to lighten the rotational mass, as well as improve aerodynamics, chassis dynamics, and increase stopping power.
The most obvious updates to the Saleen Tesla Foursixteen are to the exterior, with a new front splitter and reworked grille, as well as an integrated rear wing and diffuser. The creased-up hood has two small inlets at the front designed to further improve airflow and aid in cooling the drivetrain system. According to Sean Smith, the lead designer in charge of the project, Saleen wanted to bring an overall sport luxury feel to the car and integrate timeless elements including carbon fiber and brushed aluminum into the mix.
Behind the fabulous new-look rims (22-inch option rims are on the car you see here, 21-inchers are standard), the stopping power has been upgraded thanks to an improved braking setup. Carbon ceramics are an option, including 6-piston calipers up front. Saleen says the changes have led to roughly 30-pounds saved at each corner depending on configuration.
The Tesla’s suspension has also been modified, thanks to a Saleen-specific S4 specification, with either a standard or an adjustable monotube coilover setup. Sven Etzelsberger, VP of advanced engineering for Saleen and former lead engineer for Fisker, says the setup dramatically improves the Tesla’s performance out at the track (the Foursixteen has been undergoing testing at the Buttonwillow circuit in southern California) and the brand’s Maxgrip locking differential and an anti-roll bar help maximize traction and grip.
Inside, the sport and luxury equation has been kicked up several notches. The optional bolstered, four bucket seats with Saleen accents featured on the Pebble Beach car are attractive and designed to keep the driver snug when the going gets twisty. There’s also an available center console with cupholders and device pocket, as well as carbon fiber, Alcantara, and hand-sewn stitching accents if desired.
But arguably the biggest enhancement to the Saleen Tesla Foursixteen has been with the car’s 1-speed transmission, which features a 9.73:1 final gear ratio (an 11.39:1 version is optional). According to Etzelsberger, the Tesla’s transmission has been optimized to further improve performance and give the driver an aural sensation that is somewhat lacking in the Tesla. “The gearbox noise gives the driver a true sense of speed, we didn’t want to have to pipe in any fake sound, Etzelsberger said.
While the Saleen Tesla Foursixteen is out at the Pebble Beach concept lawn, according to Saleen, the car you’re looking at here is basically the finished product and he says they have already begun taking orders, which Saleen stands ready to fill in 6-to-8 weeks. Owners of present Teslas will also be able to upgrade their cars or buy parts to do upgrades themselves. So far no performance numbers have been released. Saleen tells us he expects as much as a 20 percent improvement over the Model S P85, but was quick to stress that the suspension upgrades are just as important, if not more so, to the car's character. Saleen also expects a slight uptick in the P85 Tesla’s roughly 265-mile range due to the aero enhancements and weight savings. Pricing for the complete car from Saleen is expected to start at $152,000 before tax credits.