– Detroit, Michigan
Real quick, let me sum up every review I’ve written about Roush-tuned Mustangs over the past decade: looks flashy, sounds like a bear, goes like hell, just get a Shelby GT500. It was kind of a shame – here we had these amazing, factory-backed creations from one of the biggest names in Mustang tuning, yet the one to buy was the car Ford would sell you directly from its dealer. These days, Ford doesn’t make a GT500 – the Shelby name is reserved for the track-focused, 526-horsepower GT350. So with a massive 670 hp from a supercharged 5.0-liter V8, the Roush Stage 3 package, now more than ever, has a real opportunity to stand out.
And oh goodness gracious does it stand out. Yes, you’ll notice all of the Roush-specific changes like the new front fascia with added aero enhancements and chin splitter, body side scoops, rear fascia side splitters, deck spoiler, quarter window scoops, and so on. You know, the usual Roush stuff. I’ll say, this RS3 Mustang looks better than previous generations – credit the car’s great initial design – and it seems Roush is taking a slightly more cohesive, less bolt-on approach than before. The only offensive bits, to my eyes, are the foglamps. Even the big ol’ stripe down the side looks pretty killer.
Roush adds a 2.3-liter TVS supercharger to Ford’s 5.0-liter V8 for a total output of 670 hp and 545 pound-feet of torque.
If the Mustang’s styling doesn’t turn a head or two, its sound will put everyone in your neighborhood on full alert. A naturally aspirated 5.0-liter Mustang already sounds like true American sports car business, but add on Roush’s specially tuned quad-exhaust system and this thing absolutely roars. It’s fully customizable, too – the car features the company’s Active Exhaust option that not only lets you switch between Touring, Sport, and Track settings, but offers nearly limitless customization through a special iOS app. Want your Stage 3 to have a fully open exhaust note when you’re traveling between 40 and 45 miles per hour and when you’re at 45- to 50-percent throttle? The app can do that. The feature may be super fun for owners, but for the purpose of my two-day test, I found it best to leave the exhaust in Sport. That means it’s wide open when you’re on the throttle, and quiets down when you’re cruising. But I promise, start it up in the driveway in the morning, and all your neighbors’ dogs will start barking.
This car is loud and proud, and rightfully so, considering the absolutely monstrous performance it offers. Roush adds a 2.3-liter TVS supercharger to Ford’s 5.0-liter V8 for a total output of 670 hp and 545 pound-feet of torque. To put that in perspective, that’s 144 hp more than the bonkers Shelby GT350, and only 37 fewer ponies than the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, a car that weighs a million pounds. So to say the Stage 3 Mustang is quick is a vast understatement. You can spin the tires in the first three of the manual transmission’s six forward gears; stomping on the throttle results in immediate, suck-you-into-the-seat acceleration, no matter your place in the rev range. And with a bevvy of supercharger whine and exhaust roar, the whole experience is the total automotive embodiment of the phrase, “America – f*ck yeah!”
You know how a Challenger Hellcat is a big, floaty, supercharged barn out on the road? This Mustang couldn’t feel farther from that.
Credit to the Ford engineers who already performed a complete overhaul on the Mustang’s suspension for the sixth-generation car, but equally important are Roush’s enhancements to Ford’s already good setup. Roush adds a new three-way coilover suspension (one-way is standard, three-way is optional) and heavy-duty half shafts. Also of note are the ultra-sticky Cooper RS3 275/35 tires, wrapped around unique 20-inch wheels – this meaty rubber provides a world of traction under heavy load, though it’s still incredibly easy to get the rear-end to step out and burn off some of that tire (trust me).
For the sake of comparison, you know how a Challenger Hellcat is a big, floaty, supercharged barn out on the road? This Mustang couldn’t feel farther from that. It’s taut, nimble, and eager to change direction with a quickness. Ford’s adjustable-effort steering carries over from the standard Mustang GT, though it’s not exactly a shining star in terms of driver feedback. That’s not a problem of the Roush tune, just an issue with the Ford itself. It all feels a bit disconnected, though the added ‘weight’ of the Sport setting feels a bit better in my hands.
Inside, Roush’s changes are limited to a serialized dash plaque, a reskinned instrument cluster, illuminated door sills, a unique shift knob, and some special seats (you can get the unique treatment on Ford’s Recaros, too). The one bit that truly looks tacked on is the control for the Active Exhaust, just to the right of the shifter. It feels fine – not flimsy or chincy – but definitely looks like an afterthought. No matter, I’d have it anyway – that exhaust is amazing. Otherwise, it’s Ford business as usual, with so-so plastics found throughout the cabin, Sync 3 infotainment (good riddance, MyFord Touch), and every other modern convenience feature.
It’s supercharged American muscle with Mr. Jack Roush’s signature under the hood.
The Roush-tuned Mustang’s biggest Achilles heel has always been its price, especially compared to Ford’s factory creations. You’ll need $55,235 to get into a Stage 3 car, including the price of a bone-stock Mustang GT. Load it up like this one and you’ll be somewhere around $70,000. A lot of money, considering a super-cool (but much slower) Shelby GT350 starts around $50,000, but again, with 670 hp on offer, you’re up in $70,000 Hellcat territory anyway. Given the choice between the two, I’d have the Roush for sure – it’s much better to drive, and offers something truly unique. Plus, Roush is an actual OEM and sells these vehicles turnkey through a network of Ford dealers – they’ll source a donor car and everything. This is a full-fledged car buying experience, not a two-step aftermarket process.
The time is now for the Stage 3 Mustang, simply because it stands above anything else Ford makes (right now). But even so, the RS3 is a fantastic machine on its own, competition notwithstanding. It’s supercharged American muscle with Mr. Jack Roush’s signature under the hood. And because of its insane power and the Mustang’s great bones, this Stage 3 coupe the most compelling Roush product I’ve driven yet.
|2016 ROUSH STAGE 3 MUSTANG|
|ENGINE||Supercharged 5.0L V8|
|OUTPUT||670 Horsepower / 545 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||3.5 Seconds (est.)|
|WEIGHT||3,900 Pounds (est.)|
|CARGO VOLUME||13.5 Cubic Feet|
|BASE PRICE||$55,235 (including donor Mustang GT)|
|AS-TESTED PRICE||$70,000 (est.)|
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com