Roush steps in with an alternative again, but it’s not the one you want.
Ford raised all manner of hackles when it announced the 2020 Shelby GT500 would only be available with a dual-clutch transmission. “My manual!” the purists shrieked, ignoring the fact that the GT350 was still a thing and that the last stick in a GT500 wasn't very good. While Ford made the right decision – the Shelby's seven-speed DCT is an achievement – manual fans were left whining.
For their consideration, I suggest a visit to Roush Performance, where the Stage 3 Mustang tuning package provides GT500-like power and pace, a manual gearbox, and a similar total price ($25,000, plus a donor Mustang GT with the Performance Pack 1). What I can't recommend, though, is the limited-edition Jack Roush Edition Mustang, which is the Stage 3 kit with a smidge more power and equipment that costs twice as much.
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What You Get
The headliner for the Jack Roush Edition is its limited availability – the company will produce just 60 units for US consumption. Beyond that, folks will note the extra power – the supercharged 5.0-liter V8 produces 775 horsepower, up 25 from the Stage 3, while retaining that car's 670 pound-feet of torque. The sprint to 60 happens in 3.4 seconds according to Roush, which feels reasonable. The GT500 and its quick-shifting DCT do the deed in a manufacturer-estimated 3.3 seconds, but I suspect Ford is sandbagging; the Shelby feels quicker than either that estimate or this modified Mustang.
Beyond the increased output, the JRE Mustang adds a Roush-specific calibration for the magnetic dampers, a Roush exhaust, six-piston Brembo stoppers shared with the Shelby GT350, 20-inch forged wheels, and some extra cooling bits. On the aesthetic front, this special edition shares its R9 body kit with the standard Stage 3 package but attaches a neat active rear spoiler. Also, there are stickers aplenty.
The headliner for the Jack Roush Edition is its limited availability – the company will produce just 60 units for US consumption.
The cabin is broadly similar to the standard Mustang GT, aside from flashy leather/Alcantara upholstery for the sport seats, an Alcantara wrap for the steering wheel, a cue-ball shifter, and a Roush-branded boost gauge.
The total sum for all of this is $50,995, and with the donor car requiring at least $45,695, the out-the-door price for this rare Roush is $96,690, or $1,095 more than a GT500 with the Carbon Fiber Track Package. Unfortunately, the drive experience is neither good enough nor distinctive enough to justify that sum.
Well, It's A Roush
The JRE is no slouch, although you can’t spot the Roush Edition's 25-hp advantage over the Stage 3. Like that car, the engine still provides immediate and effortless power that feels on par with the GT500. Simply drop a gear and the Mustang rears its nose slightly before the Continental tires grab the road and the car shoots ahead. Where the entire affair falls short of the similarly powerful GT500 is with its gearbox – humans simply can't execute gear changes as quick as a DCT. But that sacrifice aside, there’s little arguing this setup makes the JRE a more engaging companion than the Shelby.
Managing a Roush Mustang’s power has always been relatively easy, since the company is always certain to pair the added grunt with stickier tires. The JRE features Continental ExtremeContacts as stock, although a Competition Pack includes non-street-legal slicks. Even with the DOT-approved rubber, pinning the throttle in the Roush Edition is fun and manageable – a steady foot on the gas keeps the nose going in the right direction, while there's enough grip on corner exit for aggressive acceleration.
The JRE is no slouch, although you can’t spot the Roush Edition's 25-hp advantage over the Stage 3.
But despite the added sense of speed, the all-encompassing sound out the back, and the slightly more energetic swing of the tachometer, it's hard to divorce the experience of wide-open-throttle in the JRE Mustang from that of a stock Mustang GT. This is that car's 5.0-liter Coyote engine, and the supercharger, cold-air intake, and added cooling can't hide that fact.
The throttle response and clutch take-up are identical, and even with the borderline-obnoxious exhaust package, the Roush turns the volume up without changing the station. This car lacks the charms of Ford's own 5.2-liters – the GT350's sublime flat-plane-crank variant or the GT500's own supercharged V8. But if the goal is extreme straight-line speed, beating heart be damned, the Roush is hard to ignore.
The handling character is competent, but while Roush says it tweaked the magnetic dampers, good luck spotting the company's work on public roads. Overall, the body movements are only marginally tighter than that of a stock Mustang GT, but the JRE falls short of the no-nonsense GT500's behavior – where the Shelby feels supercar-worthy even on public roads, the JRE Mustang is only so poised and precise.
There are other flaws here, and they're the same issues Roush Mustangs have faced for some time. The unmodified steering, arguably the standard Mustang's weakest point, remains – there's little feedback through the wheel, so taking advantage of the ostensibly sharper handling means relying on the chassis to do the talking.
Anyone that modifies Mustangs on a large scale is okay in my book, but no one is so okay that I want to see their signature every time I open a door or look at the dash.
It's also difficult to ignore some of the Roush Edition's kitchiness. Anyone that modifies Mustangs on a large scale is okay in my book, but no one is so okay that I want to see their signature every time I open a door or look at the dash. For crying out loud, Roush signed the airbox under the hood. The company ended our test by giving us a Roush-branded stress ball with a six-speed shift pattern on it – Roush had signed that too.
I also have some fit and finish concerns in the cabin. The Mustang's instrument cluster includes controls for its active exhaust, but Roush added a physical knob to the right of the shifter – it looks tacked on, and I spent most of my test questioning its functionality. Switching a factory active Mustang's exhaust from Quiet to Sport to Track has a noticeable effect on the volume, but even with the JRE’s Touring, Sport, Track, and Custom settings, this car is loud all the time. And while the Alcantara steering wrap is good, the leather/Alcantara upholstery on the seats felt worn despite there being less than 2,000 miles on the odometer.
The biggest issue remains the Jack Roush Edition's price tag. At $51,000 not including the cost of a donor Mustang GT, it neither distinguishes itself from the $24,995 Roush Stage 3 package nor the $72,000 all-in price of the GT500. Those two vehicles are easy to recommend because they provide similar levels of excitement for similar amounts of money, despite their radically different performance characters. The JRE feels too much like any other Roush Mustang. If you missed out on one of the 60 Jack Roush Edition Mustangs, don’t worry about it – the Stage 3 is every bit as good, nearly as uncommon, and costs half as much.
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Gallery: 2020 Jack Roush Edition Ford Mustang: Review
2020 Jack Roush Edition Ford Mustang