2006 Roush Stage 3 Mustang
It was one of those days. Tech Editor Roy and I were due to meet up at his place at 7:30 am sharp. The plan was, to then drive to Livonia, Michigan, where a brand new 2006 Roush Stage 3 Mustang was waiting for us to flog - for a full week. However, not 10 minutes out from my pad (on the way to Roy's), an 18-wheeler pilot decided his rig could take on ramps like a fast Mustang. Unfortunately, the big Peterbilt rolled, spilling lord knows how much lumber across three lanes of southbound carriageway. The resulting traffic snarl lasted close to six hours and yes, I was stuck right in the thick of it. Still, we did eventually hook up and managed to make it to Livonia - albeit six hours behind schedule. Still, John Clark and Tony Marzalek at Roush Performance were most accommodating and even found time to give us a quick tour of the facilities, before handing the keys to a stunning Sonic blue Roush with light blue racing stripes. Our day had definitely taken a turn for the better by that point. "This car, although it is a Stage 3, is kind of unique," said John, "it's actually prototype." And what a stunning prototype it was. We'd seen the S197 Roush cars in a variety of colors before, but this prototype tester had a look all its own. The paint, the stripes, the Roush seven-piece body kit, including hood scoop, along with 18-inch chrome and of course forged, Roush aluminum wheels shod in meaty BF Goodrich rubber made this thing simply jaw dropping - tough and beautiful. We'd put odds that this car garnered more attention during the week we had it than Paris Hilton would streaking down Sunset Strip.
There are plenty of 'tuner' vehicles out there that we (and I'm sure some of you), have driven in the past. Some of those cars felt like a parts catalog on wheels - various sub assemblies tacked onto a chassis that suffered from a lack of communication between each other. The Roush Stage 3 isn't like that. Although each example is in many respects hand-built (a signature plaque under the hood is signed by the person responsible for each car), when you get in it and start it up, the car feels like a regular Mustang GT with exhaust work. Inside there are a few hints that you're piloting something different. Sure, there's a Shaker 500 sound system, tasteful blue 'n' black upholstery (with Roush signature embroidery), the special Roush gauge package, and a tall Roush shifter with old school style cue-ball handle sticking up from the console and out of the leather boot. Real carbon fiber inserts around the air vents, center stack and console are also a nice touch. Heading out and onto the busy, rutted boulevards of South Eastern Michigan, it was time to get down to business. The current Mustang feels 'vintage' in a number of ways, even in just regular driving. So does this one, but the thing is - you've got at your fingertips a a good deal more of performance and distinction than a regular Pony - but around town you'd never guess. It's docile and tractable, plus when you go over bumps and potholes it feels very, very solid. Despite performance suspension, ride quality remains compliant, even after you've had to endure a couple hours of those wonderful roads, culminating in a traffic jam by I-696. Another thing often associated with high performance cars like souped up Mustangs, often revolves around issues such as cooling, clutch and shifter feel in gridlock - ie the engine wants to boil over and spew coolant all over the street and your left leg feels like it's just about ready to fall off. Not here. Yes there's a Roush Charger bolted to the top of the 4.6-liter 3-valve V8 and blowers do tend to generate heat - but the temp needle stayed put, even with the air on and the clutch is both linear and smooth - dare we say almost light in feel.