We love supercharged trucks. So we went to two of the biggest names in automotive performance to borrow a couple of powerful pickups. Roush Performance and Saleen. Jack Roush and Steve Saleen hitched their fortunes to the Ford brand more than 20 years ago, launching companies that have brought racing and rabble-rousing to Ford enthusiasts everywhere. Both have been involved in various forms of auto racing since the '70s, and have branched out into OE product development and the transformation of daily driver automobiles into street racers.
One of Roush's companies, Roush Performance, markets the good stuff- such as supercharged Ford F-150s and Mustangs, and a suped-up Focus-to go-fast enthusiasts like you and us. Roush Performance has just started to share the adrenaline by offering powertrain upgrades for GM vehicles and will soon go after Dodge and Chrysler customers, as well.
Saleen, the company, channeled Carroll Shelby and started by building the very fast Mustang S351 and lower-costing Mustang S281. Eventually, the company produced a performance version of the Explorer, as the XP8, and a much faster Mustang, SR version, before plunging into the development of the first Saleen model developed in-house from the ground up: the mid-engine super-car S7. The company now builds various forms of the Mustang, the S7, its first in-house developed mid-engine supercar, and the S331 SC-Saleen's first truck, which was based on the F-150.
We spent some time with Saleen's pickup truck. Saleen was in-corporated as a manufacturer at its inception. Rather than offering upgrades that allow vehicles to be upfitted at a dealer, for example, the company builds its vehicles from scratch. In so much as scratch means to heavily modify a Ford F-150 FX2 Sport in the company's plant in Troy, Michigan. Most of the company's other vehicles are built in Irvine, California. The company's OE mindset could be why the truck looks so well integrated as a package: the sweep of the sideskirts, recessed and functional hoodscoop, assertive horizontal upper grille and mesh lower grille, black trim that breaks up the expanse of the F-150 tailgate, Saleen badging, dual-flush exhaust exiting from each side of the truck, and luscious Speedlab Yellow paint. The truck retains all of the signature Saleen serial numbering-ours was truck 03-windshield banners, and so on. The S331 SC turned heads and sparked spontaneous and surprisingly long conversations in parking lots with passersby who were surprised to see a Saleen truck.
The interior of the Saleen is essentially a Ford F-150 with dark leather seats, brushed-aluminum trim, the FX2 instrument cluster, Saleen badging, and a boost gauge and air charge temperature gauge on top of the dash.
The experience of driving the Saleen was very similar to the Roush, except that either a finer suspension tuning or the larger, 23-inch wheels and lower profile BFGoodrich g-Force 305/40R23 tires served up a more solid ride that was steadier on the bumps and more precise on the turns. The supercharged 450 hp and 500 lb-ft 5.4L engine pulled us satisfyingly through traffic with an unusual exhaust note that roared like a T-Rex in the Jurassic Park film. Ford enthusiasts who can't stand the idea of driving a supercharged truck unadorned by the Blue Oval can take heart. Ford is now offering an optional Saleen-supercharged engine for the Harley-Davidson Edition F-150. This is the same setup as that in the S331.
Luckily, driving the Saleen is a satisfyingly rowdy affair that will shake you out of the sticker-shock stupor induced by this truck's $80,000 price tag (rounding down), thanks to a base price of $53,999 and these options: the lusciously pearled $19,000 Speedlab Yellow paintjob, $2,499 15-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, $1,499 Class III standard-duty tow package of up to 5,000 pounds, with hidden hitch and cooling package, $1,395 retractable tonneau, which is a handy feature that can be partially or fully rolled shut, and a $299 drop-in bedliner. Tack on the cost of the transportation to the dealer in an enclosed trailer and you're paying a total of $80,241.
We tried to emulate the 0-60 performance of the Roush by taking the Saleen pickup to the same spot for acceleration testing. But, we got lousy times, which we attributed to the fact that we were doing this during the heat of the day rather than in the evening when it's cooler, which is when we tested the Roush. So, we took the vehicle out in the cool of the night and did get better results by more than half a second, but still not the times we were expecting. The best time we got was 7.3 seconds. Granted, the Saleen was heavier than the Roush by 300 pounds, taking into account the base-curb weights, the weights of the drivers of each vehicle, and any gear in the vehicles. If you get better numbers, let us know!
We got a hold of the Stage 3 KTM Edition Roush F-150. KTM, the motorcycle maker, and Roush saw the possibilities of marketing to performance-minded truck buyers who also own bikes. This appears to be a natural relationship, since people haul other toys around in their trucks, right? Our unscientific confirmation came when one of our staff was driving the truck on the freeway, and a stranger hauling his KTM motorcycle in the bed of his F-150 pulled next to the KTM Edition Roush and declared his moto-solidarity with "Woo-hoo! Yeeaah! Allriiiight!"
This truck is an upfitted F-150 FX2 Sport SuperCab that is painted in factory white and a diagonal black strip along the side from bed to front wheel, and wrapped in bright orange vinyl, textured black, and the KTM logo. Black and orange are KTM's colors. Our version rolled on 20-inch wheels and 285/55R20 BFGoodrich g-Force tires, rested on a slightly tuned suspension, had painted bumpers, a chin spoiler, a billet grille, side skirts, fender flares, a non-functional hoodscoop, and dual rear-exit exhaust. This truck came with a supercharged 5.4L V-8 that cranked out a respectable 445 hp and 500 lb-ft.
Knowing that the factory speed limiter on the Roush was activated and set at around 95 mph, we didn't bother taking the truck to a 1/4-mile dragstrip. Actually, we tried to schedule a track, but unexpected logistical conflicts, travel schedules, and an unforgiving magazine production schedule forced us to improvise. So, we took the Roush to a nice patch of asphalt that we know, where we tested the 0-60 performance. Out of five runs, we twice made a time of 6.76 seconds.
We drove the wheels off the Roush during daily commutes, weekend road trips, and an out-of-state jaunt. Accelerating in the Roush is hardly a visceral experience, thanks to the cab's thoroughly effective sound insulation and that darn muffler. Yeah, stomping on the pedal does elicit a supercharged whine and exhaust rumble, but they sound faint. It's kind of like the wafting sound of a hot rod, charging down a far-away deserted street, that you hear from your bedroom window while trying to fall asleep at night. The upside of this is that you can keep the radio turned to a reasonable volume or hold a normal conversation with someone on the phone, and generally cruise around in aural comfort. The downside is exactly the same. If we were to drop 48-large on a supercharged pickup truck, we would want the joyful brashness of a rowdy exhaust note to blast away any lingering sense of buyer's remorse.
The truck cuts and thrusts through traffic far more responsively than a stock truck, thanks to the supercharged torque and tuned suspension, but its firm ride is easily unsettled over larger bumps. From a practical standpoint, the truck tows just like a Ford would. This isn't a stripped-down muscle truck.
The interior of the truck sports some Roush badging on the floormats, KTM badging on the headrests, black and silver leather on the seats, a Ford logo on the steering wheel, and an overall F-150 Lariat interior. The price of the truck was $34,000 with Ford's standard and optional features. Roush's standard equipment is the F-150 Sport package, $805. Roush options include: the black and silver leather seats $1,586, Lariat instruments $310, billet pedals $100, locking lug nuts $55, Lariat brushed-aluminum interior trim $520, a painted rear bumper $617, Roush embroidered floormats $95, chin spoiler $570, painted front bumper $815, 4x2 sport suspension $1,775, and a Magellan portable navigation unit was integrated into the top of the dash as a permanent piece $1,399. Final price is about $47, 373.
The two trucks dished out a performance package in entirely different ways. We like the aesthetics of the Saleen much more than those of the KTM Edition Roush, and the Saleen offers a more exciting and sportier driving experience. But the Saleen presents a pricier proposition. The Roush offers the fun of a supercharger and tuned suspension and a much lower price at $48K; but the driving experience is much less immersive than in the Saleen and the truck has looks that only a motorcycler would love. Both trucks retain very good towing capability, and the retractable tonneau on the Saleen is a great feature. Do we have a winner? You drive them both and let us know which one you like best.