Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
January 31, 2014
Photos By: Steve Turner

Horse Sense: The RS3's R6 Aerobody package consists of a revised front bumper cover and grille, front splitter (I love those), rocker side splitters, rear side splitters, aero rear valance, and a rear deck spoiler.

The great thing about this job is that we get to drive the baddest Mustangs on the planet. Unfortunately, when we're able to drive the baddest Mustangs' little brothers, they might not shine as bright as their more powerful stablemates.

We recently drove Roush's Phase 3 Mustang for the August '13 issue (“Quick Spin,” p. 32), which featured a Ford Racing Aluminator engine with a Roush 2.3-liter TVS Roushcharger, a Tremec Magnum XL six-speed transmission, and a 675hp flywheel rating. We saw 585 hp at the wheels with the Phase 3 Roush, and 11.80s at 126 mph in street trim.

Not long ago, in the Oct. '12 issue, we were behind the wheel of the Raybestos giveaway car (“Givin' It Away,” p. 42), which was built by Roush Performance. This car—which we didn't win—featured much of the same equipment as the Phase 3, but with eye-popping Raybestos NASCAR short-track brakes and a Moser Engineering 9-inch rear. Before that was the '10 Roush 540RH in the July '10 issue (“Sleeping Giant,” p. 120), which is the car that started this author's love affair with Roush Performance vehicles.

Therefore, the '14 Roush RS3, or Stage 3 seen here, has huge shoes to fill. Like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James trying to fill Michael Jordan's ... uh, Jordans, the '14 RS3 can only hope to come close to those aforementioned game changers. However, also like Kobe and Lebron, it's no slouch.

The '14 Roush RS3 is a great car. Even after driving the aforementioned Roush Mustangs before hopping into the RS3, we have to check ourselves. Back in the Fox days, if someone had told us someday we'd be able to buy a 500-rwhp Mustang, drive it daily, knock down 20 mpg, and run 11s all day, we probably would have said they needed medical attention. However, those attributes are exactly what the '14 RS3 offers.

Our test car featured a stock Coyote engine with Roush’s Eaton-designed Roushcharger 2.3-liter TVS supercharger. Rated at 575 hp and 505 lb-ft of torque, our test car put down around 500 hp at the wheels. Of course, a Ford Racing Aluminator engine is on the option sheet, in Phase 2 (625 hp) and Phase 3 (675 hp) offerings. Even with the standard Coyote offering, it boasts a Roush high-efficiency intercooler and an OE-style PCM calibration. The driveability of Roush Performance Mustangs is one thing we’ve always celebrated. With our test car, we had zero issues from a driveability standpoint.

Sure, we might be spoiled with what we get to drive, but the RS3 is still a tough package to beat. Standard RS3 equipment includes an intercooled TVS Roushcharger, a performance-tuned suspension, Roush 18-inch chrome wheels with Cooper RS3 treads, dual-chamber exhaust tips, and all the requisite Roush graphics and RS3 call-outs.

The intercooled TVS Roushcharger is said to push the factory Coyote engine to 575 horsepower and 505 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. On the SIM Tech Center Dynojet, the car put down roughly 500 hp at the feet. A Ford Racing Aluminator engine is available for the 625hp Phase 2 or 675hp Phase 3 upgrade, should your wallet allow.

Roush takes the already spectacular Mustang underpinnings to new heights thanks to custom-valved dampers, rate-matched springs, a more robust front stabilizer bar, and a revised upper control arm designed to eliminate wheelhop. By the sound of all this, you'd think the ride would be less than compliant, but that's not the case at all. The car doesn't beat you up, and it soaks up everyday driving with ease. It's truly a comfortable, capable car, able to putt-putt down the road, yet attack the curves when the road goes squiggly.

The RS3's exterior is still a bit understated, despite its R6 Aerobody package, even with the yellow graphics our test car featured. The yellow is what Roush calls Launch It Lemon, and during our stay in the car, people either loved or hated the yellow graphics. Roush says over 250 color combinations are possible, with optional custom paint available featuring Sherwin-Williams' finest hues.

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They can even custom-paint the car for you using Sherwin-Williams' finest hues

Despite the loud accents, the exterior is largely void of gaudy look-at-me graphic shout-outs—just a few Roush emblems, RS3 badges, and reflective lettering within the Launch It Lemon graphics. The reflective lettering is a subtle design touch, and we like it.

Another exterior addition for 2014 we really like are the new optional 20-inch wheels. Roush doesn't really have an official name for them, but they're a traditional five-spoke design, available in Chrome, Hyper black, and Graphite. As you can see, the graphite units look perfect against the factory Ingot Silver paint.

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The car wasn't without fault, though, but we suspect these issues will not be present on production Roush RS3s. Our test car suffered from gear whine, which also caused a rattle within the rear quarter trim, which may have been accentuated by the X-brace/rear-seat delete. We're sure with a rear seat in place, the noise would've been reduced. However, we also realize these press cars aren't treated to a life of luxury. They are often beaten within an inch of their lives, which can add in some post-title NVH.

Still, we would be happy to go shopping on Roush Performance's website for our own RS3. Of course, we'd have some trouble picking from the over 250 different color combinations. For once, the wheel choice would be easy—the optional 20-inch shoes, please. And you better believe we're checking off the Ford Racing Aluminator engine option, along with the 675hp Phase 3 upgrade. And yes, the biggest brakes, too.

After all, we enjoy driving the baddest Mustangs on the planet.

Our test Roush RS3 came bathed in Ingot Silver with Launch It Lemon graphics and optional 20-inch, five-spoke wheels. Whatever exterior combination you can dream up, Roush has you covered. They can even custom-paint the car for you using Sherwin-Williams’ finest hues. What we found with our test car is that the silver with yellow graphics is polarizing. There was no in-between. This author thinks they work just fine together, but don’t worry—if you don’t like the pairing, you can get your RS3 painted to your desires.


Tech Specs: 2014 Roush RS3

Engine and Drivetrain


Block: Stock
Crankshaft: Stock
Rods: Stock
Pistons: Stock
Camshafts: Stock
Cylinder heads: Stock
Intake manifold: Roush Performance intercooled lower
Power Adder: Roushcharger 2.3-liter TVS supercharger
Fuel system: Stock w/ Roush Performance injectors
Exhaust: Roush Performance dual-chamber axle-back
Transmission: Getrag six-speed manual
Rearend: 8.8-in w/ 3.73 gears

Electronics


Engine management: Stock Copperhead w/ Roush Performance calibration
Ignition: Stock
Gauges: Roush Performance

Suspension and Chassis


Front suspension
K-member: Stock
A-arms: Stock
Struts: Roush Performance custom-valve
Springs: Roush Performance rate-matched
Brakes: Roush Performance
Wheels: Roush Performance 20-in, Graphite, five-spoke
Tires: Cooper RS3

Rear suspension
Shocks: Roush Performance custom-valve
Springs: Roush Performance rate-matched
Control Arms: Roush Performance
Brakes: Roush Performance
Wheels: Roush Performance 20-in, Graphite, five-spoke
Tires: Cooper RS3