If you're longing for the good ol' days of big-block Mustang musclecars but would rather avoid the hassles of driving and maintaining a vintage Cobra Jet Mach 1, then you might consider recapturing the power, torque, and overall muscle sensation of the '60s with a new Roush Stage 3 Mustang. With its ROUSHcharger supercharger atop the three-valve 4.6 helping to pump out 415hp and 385 lb-ft of low-end torque, the Roush Stage 3 responds instantly to the slightest touch of the accelerator pedal, just like an old 428. The exhaust note is oh-so-similar too, and the view over the scooped hood, especially with the optional racing stripes, takes you back to the days of ram-air and Shelby Le Mans hood-striping.
Few cars on the road will compete for attention with the Roush Mustang, especially when dressed in Screaming Yellow. The Roush aerobody kit adds a front fascia with an air dam and foglights, a non-functional hoodscoop, side rocker panels (no more side exhausts for the Roush Mustangs), a rear fascia that incorporates neat exhaust-tip cutouts, and a rear wing. Combined with the GT Mustang's standard grille-mounted driving lights, the extra foglights provide the Roush Mustang with two pairs of auxiliary lighting. However, you can only operate one pair at a time to prevent blinding oncoming motorists-and to be legal in some states that outlaw more than one pair of operating foglights at any given time.
The combination of lowered suspension and low front air dam does make the front fascia susceptible to curb damage; the Roush Mustang will clear normal curbs, but you'll have to park back from taller abutments. Also, with the optional rear quarter-window louvers, we found that even with slots to peep through, visibility is not ideal. They look cool on the outside, but it's not so cool when you're pulling out at an angle and can't see the tractor-trailer headed your way.
The 18-inch, five-spoke chrome wheels come from Roush's recently announced performance-wheel program. Several people commented that even the 18-inchers look smallish on the Stage 3, no doubt an optical illusion caused by the large front fascia and low rocker panels.
Inside, the Roush Stage 3 package replaces the factory GT seat covers front and rear with leather Sport covers, eye-popping yellow and black in the case of our test car. Also included are white-face gauges, embroidered floor mats, and billet-aluminum pedals. The shifter handle follows the vintage-musclecar theme with its resemblance to an old Hurst shifter. It's taller than most shifter handles for '05-'06 Mustangs, which adds to the vintage vibe.
Based on the Mustang GT, the Roush Stage 3 is larger than it looks and relatively heavy, with a standard GT weighing in at over 3,300 pounds, plus the Roush equipment. So we were surprised by the Stage 3's nimble feel, especially at low speeds. Roush's combination of struts, shocks, and springs makes the car feel smaller and sportier. With additional help from Roush-spec front and rear sway bars, the Stage 3 can achieve a lateral acceleration of 1g, according to Roush engineers.
For improved braking, Roush replaces the GT's factory 11.5-inch rotors and twin-piston calipers with higher-performance 14-inch slotted rotors and four-piston calipers, painted red for visual effect behind the five-spokes. The rear discs remain stock GT.
Now for the juicy part. First off, from Ford, the three-valve 4.6 is an exceptional engine, making 300 hp in factory form. For the Stage 3, Roush bolts on its new ROUSHcharger supercharger, a Roots-style blower with a companion aluminum intake manifold that generates 5 pounds of boost. An air-to-water intercooler cools and condenses the air charge, which flows freely through a larger air inlet and low-restriction filter. With a unique Roush supercharger calibration, output is rated at 415 hp, which doesn't seem all that impressive these days when compared to the 500hp rating for the new Shelby GT500, and even more from competitive cars like the Steeda Q 525. Likely, the Stage 3 could be calibrated for more, but in the usual Roush-OEM style, the calibration is set for powerful yet safe and durable performance.
Not that you really need more power. Around town, the Stage 3 is a joy to drive. Roots-style superchargers are noted for low-end torque, and the Stage 3 generates plenty, over 350 lb-ft in a wide, broad arc from 2,000-5,000 rpm. That's what gives the Stage 3 its vintage big-block feel.
The exhaust note is also retro. Other than some annoying resonance at around 2,000 rpm, the tone from inside the car is similar to a '70 Mach 1. At full blast, the combination of muffler sound from the rear and quiet whine from the supercharger up front is like stereo music to our ears. We also like the square exhaust tips that tuck neatly into the rear valance cutouts.
Based on the prices we've seen for vintage big-block Mustangs at recent auctions, the new Roush is a bargain at around $50,000 for the coupe version. Our bright-yellow press car stickered for $49,925; $27,415 for the Mustang GT, $20,225 for the Roush package, $700 for transportation, and $1,585 worth of Roush options, which include the racing stripes, carbon-fiber interior-trim kit, rear quarter-window louvers, locking lug nuts, billet-aluminum shift knob, and Roush's trunk-mounted tool kit, a rather pricey $295 option that provides a few basic handtools along with mechanics gloves and a tire pressure gauge, all encased in a fiberglass box that mounts to the underside of the trunk lid.
Check out a Roush Stage 3 Mustang, or any Roush Mustang or F150, at any Roush-authorized Ford dealer. Locate one by visiting the Web site at www.roushperf.com. Unlike a 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1, you can get a brand-new Roush Stage 3 Mustang and probably save money in the process.
Roush Stage 3 Equipment
- ROUSHcharger 4.6L powertrain system-supercharger, intake manifold, intercooler and radiator, air induction system, Roush calibrated ECM
- Aerobody kit-front fascia, front spoiler, hoodscoop, rocker panels, rear fascia, rear wing
- Roush suspension-front struts, rear shocks, front and rear springs, front and rear sway bars, pinion snubber
- Front brakes with 14-inch two-piece rotors and four-piston calipers
- Lower valance foglights
- 18-inch chrome wheels with performance tires
- Performance exhaust with square tips
- Fender badges, decklid emblem, and windshield banner
- Billet-aluminum shifter handle
- Billet-aluminum pedals (including dead pedal)
- Stage 3 white-face gauge cluster (electro-luminescent)
- Stage 3 Sport leather seating
- Embroidered floor mats
- Roush plaques
- Racing stripes ($530)
- Carbon-fiber dash-trim kit ($350)
- Quarter-window louvers (coupes only, $315)
- Locking lug nuts ($60)
- Lightbar ($910, convertibles only)
- Billet-aluminum shift knob ($35)
- Billet-shifter arm with Roush shift knob (to be announced)
- Short-throw shifter (to be announced)
- Trunk-mounted tool kit ($295)