With more than 500 kW and 800 N.m each, these Mustangs offer instant gratification but they’re not one-trick ponies...

The way people react to cars is fascinating. Some incredible ones move under the radar (most Porsche 911s, curiously), while others most people simply cannot get enough of; they go nuts when they see them. These two tuned Mustangs are prime examples.

The Race Red Roush RS3 Mustang and the Oxford White Mustang RTR Spec 3 are both Stage 3-tuned versions. This means both visual and body enhancements are included alongside mechanical upgrades, which encompass the enticing fitment of a supercharger to the engine. To assist with cooling, there are additional radiators for the power unit, supercharger and transmission, and a cooling system for the differential. To lower the engine’s temperature, the frontal surface area of the radiator has been increased by 28 percent while the transmission-cooling surface area is boosted by 65 percent and the volume of oil cooling the transmission by a staggering 84 percent.

The upgraded suspension has new springs, dampers and sway bars, while the braking system has been boosted significantly to handle the additional performance.

From the faux intake and outlets to the graphics kit, front splitter, rear wing and diffuser, the Roush and RTR set themselves apart from a standard Mustang 5,0 GT. The result is both closely hug the ground, worth keeping in mind when you approach speed bumps and driveways.

Other than that, these tuned Mustangs remain very practical sport GTs. They retain their four seats and ample boot space, surely part of the reason they are selling well even here in South Africa.

Another reason both these tuned options have caught buyers’ attentions is that they’re supported by Ford Motor Company of SA; they are available through the dealer network and come with a Ford Protect drivetrain warranty of three years/60 000 km. If you use your boosted Mustang often, you can extend this (at additional cost) to four years/120 000 km. Interestingly, if you have a V8 Mustang which is less than a year old or has less than 10 000 km on the odo, you can have these upgrades fitted, too. There are a number of additional options: a suspension upgrade, further visual changes, wheels, a Roush trunk-mounted tool kit and, for the RTR, a Street Spec Axle-Back exhaust.

Each vehicle’s interior remains pretty standard with the exception of the carpets, Roush and RTR plaques and illuminated door sill plates. It’s a comfortable environment and the sport seats (heated and cooled although, curiously, lacking full electric adjustment) offer ample support. The rest of the cabin replicates the standard Mustang.

Enough of the practicalities! How do they drive? Press the starter button and their burbling exhaust notes assure you that these are no ordinary Mustangs, even if they’re in the mildest of their driving modes. That long bonnet stretches out in front of you while your side mirrors reflect flared wheelarches.

Mustangs naturally draw attention, so imagine when you hit the road in these two.

The reactions are always the same: no matter gender or age, the first time you floor the throttle, passersby go wild. And with good reason; the standard naturally aspirated 5,0-litre V8 engine usually delivers 331 kW/529 N.m but now offers around 550 kW and 880 N.m of torque sent directly to the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The driving modes include snow/wet, normal, sport, sport+, drag and race track and, as in the standard Mustang, the design of the digital instrumentation screen changes as you toggle through the various modes. After several days, I opted to use either normal (relaxed) or race track (flat out). In the latter, both vehicles immediately adjust all the parameters to the most aggressive, sensitive settings. In this mode, the throttle pedal is markedly more responsive, the suspension becomes firmer, the tone of the exhaust notes intensify and the steering feel is heavier. As these two are mechanically identical, their on-edge response is the same.

Choose a dead-straight road and even minor throttle inputs allow you to discard traffic in split-seconds. Brace yourself, push the throttle to the floor and you are in for a treat … even in the higher gears. The tyres momentarily struggle to transfer all that torque to the road as the Mustang’s deep metallic exhaust note kicks in and you are rewarded with the type of acceleration usually achieved with a sports bike or supercar. The combination of speed and sound makes you want to laugh out loud. Don’t be surprised if pedestrians clap or encourage you to do it again.

With 10 gears to access, there are moments when you sense the software working overtime to calculate how many cogs to drop following a throttle input. Fortunately, there is the option to use the small steering-wheel-mounted paddles, allowing full control over the transmission. In the racier modes, the engine will run all the way past 7 000 r/min and hit the limiter. 

Mustang GTs are renowned for losing traction on the rear axle with even the slightest provocation. Imagine this with an additional 60 percent of power and 56 percent of torque. You first need to test the waters, though… Although the fundamental characteristics of the Mustang are unchanged, there is grip to be found in faster corners when you use the throttle carefully. In race track mode, the electronic system relaxes the traction limitations. You feel the rear move a little if you are overzealous with the throttle but that’s easily corrected with some opposite lock. However, even with all the systems switched on, it’s still great fun. With large 20-inch wheels wrapped in 285/35 tyres at the rear and 255/35 in front, once the car is settled in a corner, you can lean on the accelerator and marvel how the rear-end squats and fires the big two-door forward as you exit a bend. Be warned, though: if you don’t respect that maximum torque output, it will bite you.

On our test strip, we managed a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 4,91 seconds on the one vehicle, bearing in mind they’re mechanically identical. While that doesn’t seem particularly quick by modern standards, traction can be an issue and both models weigh more than 1,8 tonnes. From the driver’s seat, it feels closer to four seconds dead.

The upgraded braking system is a highlight. With an average stopping time of 2,76 seconds across 10 emergency halts for the same tested model, the brakes feel strong and consistent. If you consider these two press cars have had a hard first few thousand kilometres as demonstration vehicles, that time is mightily impressive. Fade is practically non-existent and there is always good feedback. You do need to press the pedal firmly, though.

Make no mistake, there is a sense of memorable old-school muscle car about these Mustangs, whether on part-throttle or at full attack. They’re meant for everyone to enjoy, from the driver to their passengers, pedestrians and motorists alike. The love is obvious. And that’s something worth celebrating.  

Options aplenty

Roush offers a couple of different customisation options for the 2,3-litre EcoBoost model as well as the 5,0-litre GT. Kit RS1 includes a number of visual enhancements for the EcoBoost Mustang, including 20-inch wheels, a front chin spoiler, graphics kit, Roush badges, carpets, sill plates and rear spoiler.

RS2 is offered (for the same price) on the 5,0-litre GT and spans a similar breadth of upgrades to RS1 but adds, for example, performance pedals and a diffuser kit.

The RTR Spec 1 and 2 can be ordered for both the EcoBoost as well as the GT. The former is mainly a visual enhancement in terms of the body, a graphics kit and 19-inch wheels with lowered springs. The latter adds upgraded front and rear sway bars and adjustable shocks as well as an even more aggressive body kit.

All packages come with plaques, either just in the engine bay, or the bay and interior. These prices include VAT and fitment, and the same three-year/60 000 km drivetrain warranty as the Stage 3 packages applies.



FAST FACTS

Model: Roush RS3/RTR Spec 3
Engine: 5,0-litre, V8, supercharged petrol
Power:  +-550 kW
Torque:  +-880 N.m
0-100 km/h:  4,91 seconds (tested)
Top Speed:  260 km/h (limited)
Fuel Consumption:  9,4 L/100 km (claimed)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic