Saleen, bullish on EVs, reinvents Tesla Model S

Saleen gave the Model S aerodynamic updates and a new fascia, suspension, sport differential, 22-inch wheels, carbon ceramic brakes and a rear spoiler.

UPDATED: 8/17/14 5:02 pm ET - adds photo

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Saleen Automotive is best known for brash takes on American muscle cars such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

The tuning company pushed in a new direction on Sunday with the unveiling of its first electric car, the 4Sixteen, based on the Tesla Model S. And the company’s founder and CEO, Steve Saleen, says it has him sold on electric cars.

“Electric cars are not a fad. They’re a trend,” Saleen said in an interview. “Tesla, with what they’ve done with this car, it’s a game-changing vehicle. It allows for the creativity that we offer, to target specific audiences that might want a little bit more performance.”

The tuner, based in Corona, Calif., started taking orders for the Foursixteen on Saturday and parked it on the concepts lawn Sunday at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The car is based on the most powerful version of the Model S, the P85, which delivers 416 hp from its 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack.

Saleen’s modified Model S is listed as having the same peak horsepower and torque numbers, but the company says it changed the drive ratios for more rapid acceleration. The company also gave the car aerodynamic updates and a new fascia, suspension, sport differential, 22-inch wheels, carbon ceramic brakes and a rear spoiler.

Inside, the car gets sport seats with more side bolstering and a new center console.

The base P85 starts at $105,070 before tax incentives, including freight. Saleen’s 4Sixteen will cost $152,000 before incentives. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 6 to 8 weeks.

Photo credit: GABE NELSON

Saleen’s historic specialty has been gasoline engines, but the company has been building its expertise in EVs. One of the leaders of the 4Sixteen project was vice president of advanced engineering Sven Etzelsberger, a five-year veteran of Fisker Automotive whom Saleen hired in 2013 after the fledging EV maker laid off most of its workforce ahead of its bankruptcy filing.

“Our challenge was really to find methods to manage the energy that is generated by the electric motor and rotor assembly,” Etzelsberer said in a statement on the car.

“With the 4Sixteen we have successfully found a comprehensive solution to increase performance and harness power in an efficient manner.”

You can reach Gabe Nelson at

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