Enthusiasts are saying the new Chevy Corvette C8 would have been perfect if it came with a standard manual transmission. But if you really want the mechanical and direct feel of a proper stick shift in an American sports car, the 2020 Saleen S1 is probably the next best thing.
In this world where manual transmissions are becoming rarer than lemurs, it’s refreshing to see a true American carmaker offering an old-school manual shifter. And the Saleen S1 looks the part as well. Where the marvelous Saleen S7 is intended as a weekend toy, the new S1 is touted to be a street-based supercar.
The new Saleen S1 has real American heritage
Saleen formed a partnership with Jiangsu Secco Automobile Technology Corporation in 2017. The goal was to make Saleen branded vehicles for the Chinese market. Not long after, Saleen debuted the MAC SUV with a gasoline-powered 400-horsepower motor. This was followed by the Maimai, which is a small electric car with 190-miles of range.
But despite the Chinese partnership, the 2020 Saleen S1 will be built in the USA. Saleen is currently discussing plans to expand a proper retail and service network across the country. The dealerships are not only equipped to service the S1. In fact, the technicians are also trained to work on other Saleen models like the F-150 Sportruck, Mustang S302, and future Saleen vehicles in the pipeline.
It has a turbocharged four-cylinder motor
American supercars should naturally come with a powerful V8 motor. But Saleen is joining the bandwagon of reducing engine size in favor of forced-induction. As a result, the new S1 is fitted with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine producing 450-horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.
Power is routed to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. If you have extra dollars in hand, Saleen will replace the stick with a paddle-shift automatic, but what’s the point?
The new Saleen S1 is rather quick
Saleen is yet to divulge how much the car weighs. But with an aluminum chassis, carbon-fiber body, and small engine mounted in the rear, the S1 sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5-seconds. The company also says the S1 achieves a quarter-mile run in 11.3-seconds. If you can find a straight and empty road, the S1 can rush to a top speed of 180 mph (290 kph).
It has double wishbone suspension
Saleen decided to forego the traditional A-arm set up by giving the S1 a set of double-wishbone suspension in both the front and rear. This allows the company to dial-in the perfect suspension kinematics for a relatively comfortable yet firm ride.
The 2020 Saleen S1 also comes with 20-inch alloy wheels inspired by the design of a ninja origami star. The gorgeous alloys are wrapped in Continental tires measuring 255/20ZR20 in the front and 335/25ZR20 for the rear.
The sporty interior has a whiff of luxury
The new Saleen S1 is engineered to be a driver’s car, but it comes with a well-equipped and surprisingly luxurious interior. The surfaces are covered in a mixture of suede, leather, and Alcantara. Saleen also says the S1 comes standard with a six-speaker audio system and Apple CarPlay.
But it comes at a price
Here’s the clincher: the 2020 Saleen S1 starts at around $100,000. That’s big money compared to the $60,000 base price of the new Chevy Corvette Stingray – and you get a mid-mounted 6.2-liter V8 with 495-horsepower to match.
But alas, the new Corvette C8 is not available with a manual transmission. No word yet if Chevy is brave enough to shoehorn a stick in the new ‘Vette, but the $60k base price is simply too hard to resist.
If you’re mourning the death of the manual in a Corvette, don’t fret. The 2020 Saleen S1 might be just what the doctor ordered. Saleen is planning to produce 1,500 units of the S1 annually. Deliveries are expected to begin in mid-2020.