Once we were out of the mess and the road began to open up, the Roush had a chance to show a little of what it's got. Acceleration is strong - banging gears is fun, but the shifter takes a little getting used to - it feels a lot like some of the old four-speeds in classic GM cars - that if you weren't careful, would become misaligned under load - it's a remote linkage in the S197 remember, but after a while we're getting used to it. It actually feels better than the stubby stock piece and even on a regular GT, the Roush shifter is one mod we'd now definitely consider doing.
Boot the throttle and you hear the blower start to whine as the rpms climb and the cam profiles change - this car wants to pull. We find a long stretch of road, downshift from fourth into third and nail it. The Roush picks up - you feel the weight transfer - but it's subtle. The rear tires bite and the car just goes - it's not angry and choppy like older Mustangs with 400 plus horsepower. The car stays straight and the acceleration is almost turbine smooth - the speedo and the tach rise but the car just keeps on going. It gobbles up the miles, but once you're really in the boost, you can almost watch the fuel gauge as the engine chomps away on every gallon of premium gas.
The only two things you need to watch out for during high speed cruising are the occasional tramming from the front end and the hood shaking a little. Those chrome forged rims are 18 x 10 inches all the way around and the BF Goodrich KDs have a huge contact patch, even up front - so when you hit a rut or two, especially as road speed increases, the car tends to follow them and can snatch the steering away from you.The hood flapping is most notable at 70 mph and up, as the high pressure air pocket around the front fascia starts building, but this is by no means unique to the Roush and we're glad to say that the hood didn't fly off during our entire time with the car.
As much fun as it is banging gears and accelerating, it is in handling and braking where we feel the Stage 3 makes its presence known. We've already talked about how compliant the ride is during normal street driving, but when you hit a few turns, the car really begins to show you what it can do. If there ever was a street Mustang that was track ready, this is it. Into the corner, off the gas, turn the steering wheel, power on and go - there's seldom need to change gears that often - the V8 has an ample spread of power all the time with no bogging. As you push the Stage 3 into the corner it goes where you tell it. The front end is wonderfully neutral and when you get the power on again the back end stays in line. Switch off the TCS and try it - you end up with pretty much the same result. The car just grips and holds the line right from entry to exit. Start pushing it a bit harder and the tires will start giving you a little more feedback, but again, the Roush feels very controllable. That doesn't mean you can't get into trouble - spike the revs too much by dropping gear too quickly and you'll start to feel the back end telling you it wants to break loose. But either on the street or the road course the Roush is by and large a benign car to drive with limits far, far greater than most mortals who'll get behind the wheel. The Roush Alcon brakes on the Stage 3 car work well in conjunction with the chassis and suspension, hauling it down without fuss, time and again. It's the wholesomeness of the entire package that make this car so endearing - everything about it is powerful and hugely capable. The Roush accelerates hard, corners hard and stops hard - but it never feels overly fierce. It's more 'speaking softly and carrying a very big stick' versus 'brute hard core performance with the subtlety of a smack in the mouth.'