Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
C6 vs. Roush Stage 3 - Battle of The $50,000 Sports Cars
Can the Roush Stage 3 beat the Z51 Corvette in a head-to-head comparison? We take them both to the track to find out.
Roush Stage 3
Months ago, we were impressed by the '05 Stage 2 Roush Mustang, which offers an upgraded suspension, wheels, tires, a body kit and interior bits, but leaves you with a stone-stock 300hp powerplant. With the Stage 2 package, Roush transformed the way the Mustang handles, turning it into a real thorough-bred, a go-getter for the street or track. Gone is much of the push Ford dials in--it's replaced with more neutral, balanced behavior. But power didn't match the looks. We couldn't wait to sample it with the extra 115 hp and bigger brakes found in the Stage 3.
For $20,225 over the base price of a Mustang GT, you get a Roushcharger intercooled blower, an EPA certified custom tune-up, giant 14-inch brakes with four-piston calipers, and forged (rather than cast) 18-inch wheels shod with BFGoodrich 275/40ZR18 tires, among other niceties. Throw in $1,300 for a gas-guzzler tax, $445 for the Roush short-throw shifter, $530 for custom exterior stripes, $350 for the interior dress-up kit, and a few other goodies and the total cost of the Roush balloons to $51,635.
Atop the mod mill is a Roushcharger that takes the Mustang GT's base 4.6-liter SOHC Three-Valve V-8 and brings it to a different place. The Roots-style blower makes the engine a rather torquey beast. It's rated at 415 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque, but our tester put down 391 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels on the Dynojet at JDM Engineering in Freehold, New Jersey. It does this with a claimed 4-5 psi of boost.
The Stage 3 is downright racy, and it drew mad attention wherever we went. It combines Ford's classic retro styling with modern body-work, and those Le Mans stripes just scream speed. Inside you'll find reskinned seats, a slathering of carbon-fiber overlay, Roush gauges, and a big, tall Roush shifter that looks like a Hurst gear jammer from the '60s.
Performance is awesome both on the street and on the track, as the Stage 3 has loads of torque and all the handling a Mustang owner could wish for. We've been amazed for years at Roush's ability to lower a Mustang, yet maintain excellent ride quality. And those brakes, oh, those brakes. We drove the blue beast for all it was worth on our closed test track and could not get the brakes to do anything but stop the car on cue.
The Mustang turns in nicely and accurately, but doesn't have quite the feel of the Corvette. Still, handling is near the top of the performance-car scale. With all the power and braking ability, the Roush feels lighter than it really is.
If we could make changes, we'd like to see a reduction in weight and taller gearing. The 3.55s just don't cut it as we crossed the quarter-mile traps at the top of Third gear, rather than being maxed out in Fourth. There is no doubt that 4.10s or 4.30s would be worth a few tenths in the quarter, and with a gas-guzzler tax already employed, what would be the big deal to make 4.10s an option? This would get the Stage 3 in the low 12s where it may run away from the Vette. We'd also like to see a drag race version with stock brakes, fewer body mods, cloth seats, 4.30 gears, and the 415hp powerplant. If Roush could get the weight down, it could be an 11-second player.