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Wednesday - 2 December 2020

Absolute Power: Roush Mustang RS3 Review

There is an old saying, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” While this has often been true throughout world history, the same cannot be said in the world of the Ford Mustang. Since the golden days of Ford’s pony car, countless tuners and performance boffins have been doing everything they can to give buyers the most extreme and powerful Mustang’s money can buy.

One company which has gained a cult following in their own right is Roush Performance. Jack Roush’s closely knit team have been fettling Mustangs since the noughties and many of the Mustang faithful have made Roush their Mustang tuner of choice. The only New Zealand dealer actively giving buyers a chance to have their own ludicrous Roush tuned Mustang’s straight from the showroom floor, is Team Hutchinson Ford in Christchurch. Having their flagship Roush RS3 up the drive for a few days was not something this motoring scribe was going to pass up.

So, the Roush Mustang RS3? Well the 3 in the nameplate refers to the third tier of Roush’s performance Mustang’s. You can still get licenced Roush performance bits and bobs for your regular Mustang, but if you want the full Roush package, there is a choice of three. The RS1 is a lightly tuned Ecoboost four pot, the RS2 is more of a tastefully modified ground coverer, whereas the RS3, in BBQ terms, is the full flame grilled red meat, with easy on the sauce.

Despite being called an RS3, the RS3 name cannot be found anywhere on the car itself. One assumes that a certain German premium car maker might have a few choice words to say about that if it were. Instead you get a simple “3” in the front grill to complement the large ROUSH insignia splayed across the rear in black on black. Looks good actually.

It’s obvious the RS3 itself is miles away from the regular V8 Mustang looks wise. While the tell-tale signs of Mustang-ness are there, the Roush gives you so much more to drool over. The ROUSH R8 aero package fitted to the RS3 gives you a high flow upper grille, optional blacked out 20-inch rims, chin spoiler, side scoops, aero corner pockets, air-vents, intakes and a small spoiler with rear diffuser. These nods to Roush’s involvement with Ford in NASCAR make for a beastly looking “stang.”

While a rakish muscular Mustang is nothing new, the biggest difference from the Roush and the regular car lurks within. The RS3’s beating heart gets a tonne of go-faster kit added to the Mustang’s Coyote 5.0L V8, the core of this being the ROUSHcharged TVS2650 Supercharger kit. Power? Try 710hp. Torque? Yeah, that’s around 825Nm mark. You want grunt? You got it. Mated to the Mustang’s 10-speed automatic box, or optional six speed manual, you will see 100km/h from a standstill in a claimed 3.6 seconds.

Inside, it is very much regular Mustang, be it with a few tweaks. The Roush leather and suede seats are some of the most comfortable and hip hugging seats I have found in just about any car. Also, a Roush emblem containing Jack Roush’s signature is nice touch, as are the Roush illuminated door sills and alloy foot pedals.

Right, time for action. Foot on brake, press firmly on Engine Start button, and way-hey, glorious “Roushcharged” V8 burble. Thanks to the RS3’s active exhaust, you can dial the noise down on start up so you don’t become “that neighbour” when leaving for work. However, once leaving your place of residence, flicking up from “Quiet” mode to “Normal” becomes a frequent pastime.

You would think that with all that rip-snorting power the RS3 would be a handful when on the commute, but no. Its turning circle isn’t much cop but negotiating the inner-city backstreets of Christchurch is no hardship. Sure, you won’t exactly be getting average fuel consumption, but that’s not really why you want one is it?

The RS3 sits quite low, so one needs to be careful when approaching one’s driveway or speedbumps. However, when you do, people will be looking at you. The RS3 very much a rubber-neckers dream. Many passers-by know what a Mustang is, but the RS3 just gets that many more looks, especially as they will hear you before seeing you.

Time to leave the city and into the great wide open. Sport mode selected, manual mode engaged, and we are off. Very quickly too. For such a torquey unit, the supercharged, sorry, Roushcharged V8, likes to rev out. A 7,000rpm redline is met quicker than you first think. The RS3 never loses its appetite for acceleration, pinning you back in the seat every time.

Even with the traction control on, you sense at all times every time you give it some stick, the back end wants to come out and play. Plant boot at 70km/h, fourth gear and the TC fights to keep the RS3 in a straight line. It’s just savage. However, don’t play silly billies and the RS3 can be quite docile if you want it to be.

The 10-speed auto box is a joy to use, though lifting off the throttle is advised for seamlessly smoother changes. Its much better on the way down, with the crackling and booming from the active exhaust akin to a far-off battlefield. The steel disc brakes front and rear bring things to a stop in quick succession too, and you don’t need firm shoe to bring this pony under control.

Underneath the RS3 gets what Roush call a Performance 1-way Coilover Suspension System. Thanks to suspension set ups like these, the old unfair reputation of a Mustang being unable to negotiate the twisty stuff at speed is no more. The RS3 can corner with immediacy and the steering is direct and well weighted, especially in Sport Plus. Cornering almost flat at speed in the RS3 is a strong testament at just how good the system is. The only trade off is a firm ride at slow speeds.

The closest rival to the Roush RS3 is easily the $175,990 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. While the ZL1 rides better, the Roush produces more grunt and at $139,990, is $35k less expensive. So, if you want an American automotive adrenalin pump and don’t give two hoots about fuel bills or flying under the radar, the road going missile that is the Roush RS3 Mustang is easily worthy of your shortlist.

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