Even though this is my 5th Mustang review, I am going to say again that this is not your typical Mustang. In fact, it is not just a Ford Mustang. Rather, it is a Roush Mustang. I should explain. Roush is a separate tuning division that specializes in Ford vehicles, namely Mustangs and F-150s. Jack Roush, a famous automotive figure in motorsports racing, worked as an engineer for Ford. Possessing a passion for hot rods and NASCAR as well as Mustangs, Roush sought to make a car that combined all three. In 1988, Roush presented Ford with the first Roush Mustang which featured a 400 horsepower twin turbo engine. Unfortunately, this car did not take off as costs of mass producing the Roush Mustang was too high for Ford. Roush started his own company, Roush Performance Products. Initially, it consisted of fitting aftermarket packages to Mustangs. The first actual Roush Mustang with the complete Roush package inside and out was born in 1998. Roush sought to narrow the gap between street and track, and as such the Roush Mustangs are fitted with performance and exterior modifications. This is not your ordinary Mustang. The objective behind the Roush Mustang was to give the Mustang the driving dynamics and looks of a racer. The Roush treatment has also been applied to the F-150 truck. As I mentioned earlier, this is my 5th Mustang review. However, I have not reviewed the latest Mustang which came out in 2015. The current third generation Roush Mustang comes in four flavors: RS, Stage 1 (RS1), Stage 2 (RS2), and Stage 3 (RS3). The Mustang in this review is the Stage 1, which comes with the turbo four. Don’t worry, I made sure it was a manual transmission! I was a bit nervous about testing the new Mustang as it looks like a completely different car inside and out. The latest Mustang is now a global car, so Ford developed the car in line with other markets’ preferences. What that does to the Mustang, I will have to find out.
Even though this is the second mildest version of the Roush lineup, the RS1 looks the part. The Mustang looks cool in regular form, but the Roush Mustang looks cool as in Storm Trooper cool (Star Wars reference if you were wondering). Even though there are many creases and curves in the design, the Mustang looks very well put together. The front is very aggressive, and the black detailing helps give it a menacing stance as does the hood scoop. The bumper design and the headlights are sharp. The side looks very detailed, especially with the trademark Mustang side strakes. The side strakes accentuate the side profile well, giving it a lean look. The Roush decals are a nice touch as they do not detract too much from the overall look. The rear when viewed from the side does appear to be overly tapered, but it still conveys a sense of speed and agility. My favorite part of the rear is the ROUSH black slab between the taillights. The lip spoiler and the taillights fit in well as do the quad exhausts. The interior looks very modern and high tech. The Roush fittings do lend a racer feel to the interior.
The older Mustangs have always been nice to drive. They always had that truck like rigidity that made them feel indestructible. This was in part due to the fact they utilized a solid axle, which is what pickup trucks use. Unfortunately this also meant that they sometimes got flustered at the limits, and they also sometimes felt imprecise at times. With the new Mustang however, it feels like a completely different animal. It feels like an actual sports car. The steering is lighter, but it is wholly more precise. It turns in more readily, and at its limits, it felt composed and steady. However, the older Mustangs always offered good road feel, and sadly, the new Mustang is lacking in comparison. Mind you, it still offers some semblance of road feel, but it could be better. The brakes perform flawlessly, and you always feel confident driving this car at any speed. If you are used to the rigidity of the previous Mustangs, the new one will feel fragile at first, but it is such an intuitive car that you get used to it. The ride is a bit stiff, but it is tolerable considering the rewarding handling you get in return.
The engine remains unchanged in the Roush Stage 1 Mustang, meaning that the horsepower rating stays at 310 horsepower. Since the Stage 1 Mustang is originally an EcoBoost Mustang, the 2.3 liters turbocharged four cylinder carries over. Even though there is a slight hint of turbo lag, it is so imperceptible that you do not even notice it on the daily grind. It revs freely, and it feels strong throughout the power band. From the moment you mash the gas pedal, there is no delay in response. It just ups and goes. Sometimes the old Mustangs’ shifters always felt agricultural at times and needed some force to get into gear, but this Mustang’s shifter is a delight. It shifts like butter, and the clutch is light with enough feel. The combination of the shifter and the clutch make it an easy car to drive. Fuel economy for the Roush Mustang should mirror that of the EcoBoost Mustang.
The Mustang is also more refined in terms of insulation and noise. There is still some tire rubble and wind noise around the doors, but overall the Mustang is a pleasant companion (for a sports car). Personally, I prefer the outgoing V6’s growly note as it seems more befitting of a Mustang. However, the turbo four does have an addicting whine when you punch it.
The Mustang is still a two door coupe, so don’t be expecting family friendly accommodations. In the front though, headroom is commendable as tall people can fit in comfortably. There is not that much room to stretch your legs, but it does not feel claustrophobic. Finding a driving position is adequate as long as you can get used to sitting low and peering over a tall hood. Visibility is not that great as it is hindered by the low roof and high window lines, but that is to be expected. The seats are comfortable; as soon as you sit, you feel cossetted by the seats. The backseat is cramped as only little kids should be seated there. Compared to the previous Mustang, the interior quality is a tremendous improvement. The previous Mustang was not bad in any way; it just felt simple and industrial. This Mustang actually feels nice inside. The controls and buttons look and feel high quality. The rocker switches at the bottom of the controls add a racy element to the interior. Even the shifter feels nice to the touch. The soft dash and the solid build quality really brings the Mustang’s cabin quality out of obscurity. The gauges are legible, and the screen displays crisp graphics and works well. The radio and the climate control system are nicely integrated into the Ford Sync system (Ford’s command system). The nice thing about Sync is that it allows for separate buttons of the radio and the climate control system. That way you do not have to go through the screen’s numerous stems, and you can just press one button for your desired function. Access could be better as you have to duck under the low roof, and getting out of the car from the backseat is always an embarrassing affair. The trunk is a nice size as it should be able to accommodate a small suitcase. The Roush effect is nicely brought into the cabin. It is just enough, not so little that it feels like a normal Mustang, but not so much that it feels like a “tricked-out” car. The gauges positioned at the top of the dash display boost pressure and oil pressure, and they are nicely integrated. The ribbed aluminum look that is the dash comes courtesy of Roush.
I will be honest. When Ford announced they were going to make the Mustang global, and as such, develop it to suit a variety of tastes, this made me nervous. The Mustang that we all know and love was going to become a completely different car because Ford used other countries as input for the Mustang. The outgoing Mustang with its butch styling and “proper” V6 and V8s along with its imprecise but rugged dynamics, was what an American muscle car was supposed to be. The new Mustang feels like a ballerina whereas the old one felt like a baseball player. The new Mustang feels fragile, but it also feels agile and more composed. I actually liked driving this Mustang a lot. It felt very capable, and as long as it has a manual transmission, the driving enjoyment is still there with either the turbo four, V6, or the V8. I prefer the outgoing’s styling, but the new one is a looker, especially in Roush attire. As always, the Mustang is always going to be a good choice if you are looking for a muscle car, and this car does not dispute that. This RS1 version is a good choice if you are looking to start out in the Roush lineup. I recommend getting the Roush version, because A) the Roush looks good, B) You need to be able to brag to other Mustang drivers that yours is more special. Period.
Many thanks to Ray Skillman Ford for allowing me to review this car. Check out their website (http://www.rayskillmanford.com/) for similar vehicles or others in their inventory!