Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsHow To Engine
Burning rubber at the strip and in the corners with a 670-horsepower Stage 3 Pony
2017 Roush RS3 Automatic Track Test
Since 1995, Roush Performance has been feeding Mustang enthusiasts a healthy dose of increased acceleration, high-g handling, and superior style. Roush Mustangs have always produced excitement and the 2017 model is clearly the best one yet. Amazingly, you can strut into a Roush-authorized Ford dealership, sign on the dotted line, and drive away with a 670 horsepower ground-pounding Pony capable of eating up a road course, winning show awards, or ripping off low 11s at the strip.
Roush Performance offers a variety of “Stage” packages, including 1, 2 and 3, plus the RS model. MM&FF recently took possession of a beautiful Ruby Red RS3 Roush, that was equipped the new Active Exhaust and automatic transmission. Our mission: drive the wheels off it and bring back quarter-mile numbers from the strip. No problem, give us the keys.
We picked up the Roush from Elder Ford in Tampa, Florida. It was shined up for delivery and ready to rock with a full tank of 93. Elder had a load of new Roush Mustangs in a variety of colors, but the Ruby Red caught our eye.
The 2017 RS3 is rich with content, giving owners enhancements from the sharp-looking front fascia back to the quad-tipped exhaust. Roush spends countless hours using the latest in CAD/CAM design to engineering a Mustang with performance over stock and upgrades where they really matter. Engineers strive for maximum power without sacrificing durability or drivability. Each Roush RS3 gets a 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and it will meet government emission standards. Roush owners expect extreme performance and this one delivers.
Supercharging is the theme, and Roush teamed with Ford Performance to produce a 2.3L intercooled Eaton Twin Vortices positive displacement blower to drastically increase output. The blower utilizes a four-lobe rotor design with 160 degrees of twist for maximum efficiency and it looks awesome when you pop the hood. A stock Mustang GT just can’t compare to the power produced by the supercharged 5.0L Coyote. Underhood also features a new air inlet, Roush coilcovers, Roush serialized plaque and engine bay plaque with build signature.
In base trim, the boosted 5.0L kicks out 670 horsepower and 545 pound feet of torque. If that’s not enough, Roush offers a post-title Phase 2 package, ramping up to 727 Corvette-killing horsepower. Our 670-hp RS3 was also fitted with the awesome-sounding Roush Active Exhaust. With the twist of knob, we could switch between Touring, Sport, Track, and Custom mode.
To be honest, we didn’t use Touring mode much, save for highway cruising. In Sport mode, accelerator position and vehicle speed are used to determine valve position, so when you nail it, it kicks the exhaust open for a more aggressive sound. As you probably guessed, Track mode is wide-open, giving you a throaty, but not obnoxious exhaust note at all times.
Lastly, the system features a custom mode that lets you create a personalized sound map. You simply download the Roush Active Exhaust App, which gives you full control over the valves based on vehicle speed, rpm, and accelerator position.
We’ve always been a fan of Roush suspensions because they provide a lowered stance; great handling and virtually no degradation in ride quality. “The RS3 you drove featured our one-way Adjustable Coilover Suspension Kit, which drops ride height by 1.5-inches in the front, and 1-inch in the rear,” said Nic Shafer VP of Marketing. “And it doesn’t give up ride quality on the street,” he added. Each kit comes complete with two front struts, a front and a rear spanner wrench, a rear adjustable shock assembly, red “Roush” rear springs, and rear adjustable spring mounts.
The interior is improved with illuminated Rocker sill plates, Roush-specific gauges, Roush pedal covers, and each car gets a serialized dash plaque, including Roush embroidered floor mats. And while the stock Mustang GT seats are nice, we would like to see Roush improve them with additional side bolstering for better cornering support.
Our team has driven countless manual transmission Mustangs, so we were anxious to check out the combination of the supercharger and the automatic. It’s something you can’t get in any other new high-performance Mustang, and we hoped the RS3 would live up to our expectations.
Ford automatics have come a long way, and Roush has dialed in the calibration to work nicely with the additional power. Tip in response is great and the upshifts are crisp, but not harsh. The auto is great for cruising, and it would make the Mustang a dream in traffic—had we encountered any. Ford’s paddle shifters let you snap off the gear changes, but the computer did a fine job of finding the right gear for us most of the time. The rev-match feature blips the throttle on downshifts, which was cool, and sounded especially awesome with the exhaust in Sport mode.
Building on the 2014 model, Roush styled the latest Stang with an aggressive front fascia that features horizontal bars in the grille, relocated driving lights and a low splitter that was strategically placed just above standard parking lot curbing. Our RS3 also wore aero-enhanced side rocker spats and hockey stick side striping. Roush went with its own spoiler, a “ROUSH” emblem across the rear of the decklid and a quad-tip exhaust. To us, package is racy with a touch of class. As Roush says, “Between a race car and a road car is a Roush car.”
Rolling stock on our RS3 were 20-inch forged wheels in black that fit the theme and looked great. And in terms of colors and options, Roush has a giant list of them so you can completely personalize your Mustang to fit your taste.
We were fortunate enough to pack two track tests into one story, testing the auto at the strip and a similar RS3 with a manual at Sebring International Raceway. With 670 horsepower, the Mustang scoots on any track. At Sebring, we ran the RS3 around the full 17-turn course and we had a blast doing so.
We found the Roush was balanced nicely, with limited nose-dive under braking and very little body roll, even under extreme cornering. “The TrakPak 3-way adjustable coilover suspension that has been custom-tuned by World Challenge professional driver Jack Roush Jr. to achieve a phenomenal 1.07g skid-pad performance,” said Shafer. Roush also offers one-way coilovers with adjustable ride height.
And while we didn’t do timed laps, we pushed hard and the Roush never complained. We found it predictable and easy to drive. If we braked smooth, the weight transferred to the nose and we had a solid feel and lots of grip. We would then roll the power on and the Roush went where it was pointed. The RS3 did very well in basic street trim, but we would love to come back with race-style pads and R-compound tires. No doubt it would eat up the track like a full-blown racer.
To gather quarter-mile data we headed to Bradenton Motorsports Park (Bradenton, Florida)—twice. Bradenton is home of the NMRA Spring Break Shootout and is a great facility for drag racing. Wanting the best possible elapsed times, we went right to a set of Mickey Thompson 20-inch Drag Radials. Weather was in the high 70s and the track was sticky as usual.
The beauty of the automatic is simplicity—you can literally drop it in gear and go. Missing is the satisfaction of rowing perfect powershifts, the trade-off was not worrying about missed gears, broken driveline parts, or anything else that challenges you with a stick. In fact, our Roush has the Extreme-Duty half-shafts.
Nevertheless, achieving maximum performance still required technique. With the Roush, this meant setting tire pressure, flipping the traction control “off,” doing a suitable burnout, and staging shallow.
Technically, prior to each run, we made sure the blower was at least warm to the touch, the engine temperature was below 190 degrees, set rear tire pressure to 28 psi, and heated the tires before each run with a mild burnout.
With the tight suspension the Roush scoots straight forward from the line with very little nose lift. Acceleration was brisk and the 60-foot times were in the mid-1.60s, which is downright amazing for a car setup for handling. For the rest of the ride, the Roush pours on the boost, runs to redline, shifts and repeats. It pulls like a train, and thanks to the Roush Active Exhaust, you hear the growl from the quad-tip pipes.
If you do it right, and you have traction with decent weather, you’ll be traveling at roughly 123 mph when you cross the stripe, which takes just 11.30 seconds. Our best run was 11.28 at 124 mph, but averaged mid-11.30s over a dozen or so runs. We were amazed at how simple it was to run low 11s, and at how repeatable it was to do so. Was it fun? Heck yes! That left us wondering, would the 727-horsepower option would get past the 11-second barrier? We’ll have to call Roush and get one with the 50 extra ponies and see if it can go 10.99 or better.