Saleen’s new entry into the upper realm of high-performance super cars is the Saleen S55 Raptor concept. With a swoopy, rounded exterior that suggests a cross between a Ferrari and a Lotus Exige, the S55 is a definite departure from the more aggressive, angular lines of the S7.
The chassis is made completely from aluminum and the lightweight design helps the street car reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour.
Also contributing to that lofty top speed is the 650 horsepower 5 liter V8 engine. Derived from the 5 liter Ford power plant, this supercharged beast also makes 630 lb-feet of torque.
Perhaps most surprisingly, it runs entirely on E85 ethanol, which may or may not impart some degree of ecological consciousness to this bird of prey.
Altogether, the Raptor is capable of launching itself to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds, which is certainly fast enough to be mentioned in the same breath as an Italian exotic. In fact, the S55 overpowers the Ferrari F430 by 150 horses.
The S55 Raptor concept rolls on 20 inch rims fitted with 6-piston, 15 inch brakes, which in combination with traction and stability control act in concert to keep the Raptor from taking flight in the middle of a hard corner.
Shifting is accomplished through a 6 speed manual transmission, although Saleen claims that a paddle-shifted automatic is poised to be dropped into the car when it finally goes into production. No one is certain how much of the concept will make it into the final version of the vehicle, which will find itself in showrooms starting in 2010.
Whereas the S7 is essentially a race car which can also be licensed for the street, the S55 is slated to slide in below it in both performance and price. Indications are that the S55 will be sold for around $185 000, well belong the $700 000 it takes to get behind the wheel of an S7 but competitive with Ferrari’s F430.
While the S55 Raptor may offer greater performance than the Ferrari for a lower price, it will have to fight against the stigma that has haunted domestic supercars since the de Tomaso Pantera first began to fight the good fight against European imports in the 70’s.
However, Saleen was quite successful at convincing wheel-heeled buyers of the merits of its much more expensive S7 supercar, so perhaps there is no need to worry about the S55 finding its way into garages more accustomed to housing Lamborghinis than anything made in the United States.