Saleen's FourSixteen shocks the lawn at Pebble Beach
On the road and stylistically, the Tesla Model S is simply outstanding. But If you’re Saleen Automotive founder and performance mod-guru Steve Saleen, you see room for improvement. I spoke to him on the concept lawn at Pebble Beach's Concours d’Elegance about his vision of a better Tesla, which is realized in the FourSixteen.
The most obvious changes to the stock Tesla Model S come in the form of aerodynamic modifications. Saleen showed me how the reworked hood design and grille now feature a tiny cowl induction setup to help keep operating systems at optimal temperatures. A guppy-esque mouth replaces the stock Tesla grille while underneath a new splitter helps control and manage airflow. Blade-like trim details reside in the bigger flanking intake sections.
Big 22-inch wheels/tires fill out the FourSixteen’s wheel arches nicely, giving the car a tighter, more dynamic appearance. On the rear deck lid of the car, there's now a sizable spoiler that makes the tiny aero-device of the stock Model S look overtly understated in comparison.
"Nothing on this car is for excess, every aerodynamic alteration and revision was designed to clean up the air around the car and improve how it moves through the air," revealed Saleen. "Everything you see on this car is there for a reason and not just as a visual statement."
He then got down on his knees and pointed out an aerodynamic trick used by the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini – a new diffuser system running under the length of the car. The system isn't new but is effective in polishing and smoothing out "dirty air" under the car.
Aside from the obvious aesthetic revisions, Saleen also made some modifications to Tesla’s electric gearbox. Even though power remains unchanged in the FourSixteen, the car is quicker thanks to a reworked gearing ratio.
"The car is now faster through initial acceleration thanks to a gearing update, giving it a 0-60 (96 km/h) time in the low four second mark," noted Saleen. "We expect the FourSixteen to now adequately compete with the likes of a similarly-equipped Mercedes Benz AMG product."
It’s important when comparing the FourSixteen against the Model S to note that Tesla's P85 version, which delivers 416 hp (310 kW), is already capable of hitting the 60 mph mark in 4.4 seconds, whereas the stock 60 kWh Model S does it in 6.2 seconds and the "standard" 85 kWh model has a time of 5.6 seconds. Saleen reports output of 416 hp on the FourSixteen, meaning the modified vehicle is working off the same powertrain as the P85.
Saleen also pointed out that, in keeping with the car’s performance mandate, the exhaust note/generator whine is significantly more pronounced as a result of the new gearing. Unfortunately no new data on other performance statistics was made available, but he did say that the FourSixteen is even more capable in the corners thanks to a software update, bigger anti-sway bars and better brakes. Carbon ceramic brake rotors are optional.
Inside the car, alterations are minimal but noticeable. The headliner has been changed, as have the door inserts, and steering wheel inserts. Where the Tesla Model S features a bench rear seat configuration, the FourSixteen boasts Saleen embossed white-on-black bucket seats instead. The idea being that if you’re going to throw the car around it’s imperative that all passengers remain in their respective zip codes during the voyage.
When asked if Tesla had any say in the build or modifications, Saleen reservedly replied, "we’ve been in the business long enough making the Saleen S7 and Mustangs, so we’re pretty good at taking care of ourselves when it comes to altering and building vehicles." He did confirm that neither Tesla nor Elon Musk participated in the 9-month transformation from Model S to FourSixteen.
Saleen Automotive is ready to provide a FourSixteen for around the US$152,000 mark, making the upgrade roughly $60,000 over and above Tesla's P85. The FourSixteen can reportedly be in your driveway in two months.