Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
June 1, 2008
We spent most of our time cruising about in this red Q500, which is actually an '05 Mustang GT that's been upgraded from last year's Q335 status to current Q500 specs. Among the gear that sets a Steeda Mustang apart from your common Mustang GT is Steeda's functional competition front fascia, cowl-induction hood with painted blackout, Pentar 18x9.5-inch rims, and Sidewinder stripes.

Horse Sense: One of our favorite Mustangs last year was Steeda's entry-level Q335 ("Orange Appeal," Aug. '07, p. 72). Given our lust for huge power, that's really saying something as the Q335 is a naturally aspirated package, but it offered an exceptional combination of balanced performance. This year, all of Steeda's Q series Mustangs get a power increase, with the entry level beginning at the Q350 and the high-end closing out with the Q650.

I wanted a car that would outperform a GT 500 or a Ford GT that I could also drive every day," says Steeda President Dario Orlando of his decision to build a Steeda Q500 as his personal car. While that's certainly a bold statement, considering Steeda's track record and its exponential growth during the last 20 years, it's hard to argue with the company's main man, especially after you drive the Q500-but more on that later.

Dario is a road racer at heart, but he has been able to scale back on all-out track performance to create street cars that have long provided supple, compliant suspensions that equal or best the power they put to the ground. This trend is no more apparent than with the company's lineup of '08 Q-series Mustangs, dubbed for their stealthy performance, which is built more on practicality than flash. However, such practicality hasn't stopped the company from fielding cars that range from 350 to 650 flywheel horsepower.

Out back is the much-sought-after 5.0&SF license plate option, but also the blacked-out Steeda Street Performance Wing and billet rear decklid badge. To paraphrase one of Steeda's new technicians, he said he enjoys working on Steeda cars because they forgo a lot of showy, impractical mods and concentrate on making the cars perform better.

After spending some time in the entry-level Q car last year, the midrange supercharged Q was next on our list of cars to experience. However, we decided to hold out for the '08 model year's bump in horsepower. We benefited by waiting, as alongside the new increase in power for 2008, Steeda (www.steeda.com) is debuting its new Adaptive Performance Calibration. Not only does this technology contribute to the power increase, it also opens up the latest Mustangs to better driveability and better, safer integration of aftermarket power gear, especially superchargers.

To understand how this calibration differs from the stock and tuned-stock versions, you need background on the intricate Spanish Oak throttle-by-wire management system. This system is designed to produce a given level of torque for a given throttle angle, taking into consideration the limits of the factory systems, particularly the fuel system. If you try to exceed those values, the stock computer will pull back the reigns. Of course, aftermarket tuners have found ways to alter the stock programming to work around all manner of modifications. Typically, however, they're only working with part of the code to get this done.

The red Q500 we drove wore Steeda's 18x9.5-inch Steeda Pentar wheels and 275/40-18 Nitto 555 rubber. This combination is geared toward better performance in the turns, while the 20s on Dario's personal Q are all about the bling.

In contrast, Steeda worked with Ford to develop a completely new calibration strategy, one which actually adapts to modifications and allows you to push performance to the limits of those parts. The amazing components of Steeda's APC include supercharger recognition, adaptive octane sensing, and adaptive control. Essentially, the APC-tuned Spanish Oak will recognize a supercharger and increase torque-production limits. It will also read the knock sensor to take timing to a safe limit and ensure that power limits don't exceed the hardware's capabilities. In naturally aspirated applications, APC tuning will take the car to 400 hp. Supercharged applications can climb to 600 hp, and with a Steeda mass air/injector/inlet/throttle body, upgrade can move up to 700 hp.

Obviously this is some powerful mojo, and when coupled with Steeda's Whipple supercharger kit, it provides the kind of fun we expect from our modern Mustangs. Power arrives at the party early and stays long after the keg is dry. Better yet, the power is there when you want it and practically invisible when you're just putting around in traffic. With technology, having the cake and eating it too is a regret-free experience. What's more impressive is that the APC keeps learning and maximizing power all the time. Dario reported his Q500 still had power to be found as the car learned more about itself.

Take two-they're fast.

What I learned about the Q500 as I spent time driving it around Pompano Beach, Florida, was that it had everything I liked about the naturally aspirated Q, as well as all the power that a longtime 5.0&SF reader desires. From the balanced handling, improved braking, and the car's understated but revved-up appearance, the Q500 was a blast to drive. We didn't get to drive it in true anger during our first crack, but we hope to follow up with a more aggressive drive update in a future issue. Suffice it to say, the Steeda Q500 excels in the environment where most of us want it to-on the street.