Push the button and the 2017 Roush Stage 3 Mustang burbles to life. From inside the cabin the exhaust is a bit deeper than a stock Mustang, but otherwise this 670-horsepower machine behaves like a stock Mustang. Grabbing the round shift knob and gliding it into First gear to pull out onto the legendary Sebring International Raceway and the exhaust comes alive. Something special is about to happen…
“The 2017 ROUSH Stage 3 Mustang is a direct reflection of our culture at Roush Performance,” said Roush VP of Products, Justin Schroeder. “Our people are passionate about creating the high-performance lifestyle. We live it, and want to enable our customers to live it as well.”
Setting The Stage
Ford invited media members from a myriad of outlets to experience its latest Stage 3 Mustangs on the historic pavement of Sebring International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Roush Performance)
We were recently invited along with a gaggle of enthusiast media, social media influencers and Roush customers to experience the company’s latest top-tier Mustang on the storied Sebring pavement. Though we have driven earlier versions on the street, the chance to drive one in anger on this track is not to be denied, and it served as a fine venue to test the mettle of the Roush vehicles.
“This is like our gameday,” Roush Performance specialist, Trevor Wright, explained. “As you are seeing, we are out here at one of the bumpiest road courses in the world.”
The cars in question were brought down to Florida from the largest Roush dealer in the world, Tindol Ford of Gastonia, North Carolina. They were all Stage 3 Mustangs with various options, but the basics of the RoushCharged Coyote engine and Roush suspension were constants.
Thrust for the top Roush Mustang is courtesy of a stock Coyote 5.0-liter engine that is boosted by a RoushCharger TVS supercharger, which is based on Eaton’s proven 2.3-liter rotor pack. It delivers 670 horsepower and 545 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel.
The difference between a Roush car and any other car is fine-tuned engineering.—Trevor Wright, Roush Performance
What really makes these higher performance Mustangs is the work that goes into designing and engineering them. These efforts all stem from the exacting methods that Jack Roush has set forth in his aviation and racing efforts.
“The difference between a Roush car and any other car is fine-tuned engineering. We all know that Jack Roush takes absolute pride in fine-tuning,” Trevor said. “He doesn’t call himself an engineer. He calls himself a tinkerer, but I will tell you these are the most finely tinkered vehicles on the road.”
Respect The Bumps
When you are seated in a Roush Mustang, you know the car is special thanks to numerous Roush-themed styling enhancements from the doorsills to the seat upholstery. Some of the more significant upgrades are the round shift ball and the numbered Roush dash plaque. One you can’t see from the cockpit has been around as long as there have been Roush Mustangs—the trunklid-mounted Roush tool kit.
• 20-inch Quicksilver wheels with ultra high performance Cooper tires
• High performance one-way height adjustable coilover suspension system
• Roush front fascia kit: front fascia with aero pockets, high-flow upper grille with 3 badge, high-flow lower opening, front chin splitter, and driving lamps
• Roush Stage 3 graphics package
• Choice of style, dual slash or hockey stripe, includes side, hood, and RoushCharged accent
• Hood scoop (body color)
• Body side scoops (body color)
• Roush fender badges
• Side rocker aero aids
• Rear blackout panel w/ Roush badging
• Rear decklid spoiler (fastback only)
• Stage 3 serialized engine bay plaque
• Roush interior medallion on dash
• Roush design instrument gauge cluster
• Roush embroidered floor mats
• Roush doorsill plates
• Roush supplement owner’s guide
• Forged 20-inch Palladium Gray wheels (staggered 9.5-inches and 11-inches) w/ ultra high performance Cooper tires
• Roush engine coil covers
• Roush TrakPak three-way coilover suspension system
• Roush active exhaust system with quad tips and rear valance
• Roush hood heat extractors
• Low-gloss black rear decklid spoiler
• Billet performance pedals
• Roush leather seating
• Six-speed shifter ball
• Roush trunk-mounted tool kit
• Roush hood strut lift assist
To show how finely tinkered these machines are to those of us who live and breathe this stuff, Roush let us both ride in, and briefly drive, the latest Stage 3 Mustangs on the full course at Sebring; which puts a vehicle through its paces on both tight turns and long, wide-open straights.
“We are super excited,” Trevor said. “To be able to sell a car is one thing, but to be able to take a car out to the track and put it to the test, is another thing. It gets the engineering of the car really working, and it tells you whether or not it’s a real car. And, as they say, between a road car and a race car is a Roush car, and it definitely stands by its name.”
To find out, we started by buckling up in the passenger seat while noted road racer and son of the company founder, Jack Roush Jr. took us on a couple of hot laps around the track.
He was going to push the car harder than we even could, so it was quite an education seeing just how capable the RS3 street car was on the unforgiving Sebring surface. The suspension just ate up the road imperfections, while the Cooper tires provided ample grip to put down the 670 horsepower on corner exit.
“Sebring is not the most forgiving track. It’s bumpy and there’s tons of history, which is what makes Sebring, Sebring,” Trevor explained. “It’s a three-way, coilover adjustable suspension. A Roush car is set up a lot softer than a normal car. Obviously Roush, coming from a strong racing background, set it up to absorb tracks such as this so it keeps centered in the corners and the car feels like it’s going to stay under you.”
Behind The Wheel
The Roush RS3 looked and sounded great lapping Sebring. Notably, the blower sound was muted, but the signature Roush quad-tip exhaust announced the car’s presence before it entered the range of our camera lens.
The latter was all the more important when it was finally time for us to slide behind the wheel. Perhaps our only real complaint about the balancing act between street and road course cars was the absence of harness belts. Certainly it would be easy enough to add them, but the factory seat belts don’t keep you locked in place while driving a car with this level of performance.
While we knew that keeping up with Jack Jr.’s seasoned pace was beyond our reach, our time following an instructor around the course while he wheeled another RS3 showed that the car is indeed capable and forgiving. The brakes are definitely up to snuff and the suspension just squats and hooks as you exit the corner and roll into the throttle.
Of course, the grin on your scribe’s face shone the widest as we went flat out on the back straight. The RS3’s supercharger just keeps pulling until you run out of nerve, and then its time for those brakes to do work. In all, our short stint behind the wheel just made us want more seat time in the top-tier Roush ’Stang (and that might actually happen in the future).
Ready For Action
As we mentioned, the RS3’s sounded great. Some were set up with the standard quad-tip exhaust, while others had the optional, adjustable system (right). “Our other Stage 3 model has our Active Exhaust, which is adjustable. It has an electronic baffle in the exhaust system, and you can choose between Touring, Sport, Track and Custom,” Roush Performance specialist, Trevor Wright, told us. “If you live in a neighborhood and you don’t want to make your neighbor mad, you can start it up in Touring mode and put on out. But, if you don’t like your neighbor, you can always go to Track mode. Or, you can customize it from you smartphone and make it sound like a stock car starting up, so it’s a pretty cool feature.”
When you purchase a Roush from Roush Performance, it is built on engineering…—Trevor Wright, Roush Performance
For now, we can say that if the Roush RS3 can take on Sebring in as-delivered form, it can definitely serve as a multipurpose ride for your performance pursuits from the street to the racetrack.
Moreover, these are high-performance machines that you can drive off the dealer lot and actually bring them back for repair knowing they are backed by the same level of warranty that a standard Mustang features—three years and 36,000 miles on the parts and the powertrain.
“When you purchase a Roush from Roush Performance, it is built on engineering…” Trevor added. “You know when you purchase a Roush from Roush Performance that it is going to be the absolute top-of-the-line engineered vehicle out on the road.”
After witnessing a handful of these cars taking an all-day beating at Sebring, we have to say the Roush Stage 3 is definitely a proven package.
What impressed us the most about the RS3 Mustang was its ability to soak up Sebring’s infamous bumps and put down its prodigious power. It was controllable and balanced. Even when it would hang the tail out a bit, it was easily reeled back in to attack the next section of track. Despite its forgiving disposition, the RS3’s adjustable coilover suspension is said to deliver 1.07g on the skidpad.