Road Test: 2013 Roush Stage 3 Mustang
When Roush called us up and asked if we’d like to review the 2013 Stage 3 Mustang the answer was an obvious yes. Our affirmative reply may not be for the reason you might think, though. Yes, a part of us simply wanted to hoon around in a 565 horsepower supercharged Mustang for a week, but another part of us – perhaps the more sensible part – was genuinely curious to know how the company had evolved its flagship model for this year. After all, the market for the turn-key aftermarket Mustang has changed rapidly over the past few years. Gone are the days where tuners like Roush, Shelby and Saleen were a necessity to fulfill the horsepower craving of the speed obsessed – the 662 horsepower Shelby GT500 takes care of that direct from the factory – and those wanting something more track-oriented and hardcore need only to turn to the Boss 302. That leads us to the question – is there still a role to play for Mustangs like the Roush RS3? That’s what we aimed to find out when we took delivery of the Stage 3 test car clad in Race Red.
First, the exterior. With Ford changing up the Mustang’s styling for 2013, Roush was forced to do so as well. The new design is significantly busier (can you name another car currently in production that has a scoop, vents, AND graphics on the hood?), but Roush manages to pull off the look. The sixth generation body kit includes upper and lower high-flow grilles, chin spoiler, side splitters, the aforementioned hood scoop, rear spoiler and rear fascia. Overall we find the car fairly attractive, especially in this color combination (Roush offers a multitude of paint/graphic combinations), although we’re still not sure about the black plastic surrounding the fog lights up front. We do like the 20-inch wheels, however. They’re a carryover from 2012 and look fantastic in the Hyper Black finish – chrome is also available.
Is the look of the 2013 Stage 3 Mustang an improvement compared to 2012? It’s tough to say. We can appreciate the more aggressive styling for the newest model, but a part of us misses the clean lines of the previous design. Our guess is that if you like the updates done to the 2013 Mustang, then you’ll likely appreciate the changes Roush has made as well.
Moving inside the RS3 not much has changed since 2012. A set of new white-faced gauges come standard as well as embroidered floor mats, console badge and Jack’s signature on the dash. It’s the optional items that really set the Roush apart from stock including the leather and suede seat inserts, the cue ball shifter, vent pod with boost gauge and suede steering wheel and shifter boot. A little over a year ago we would have told you that the upgraded seats were worth the price of admission, even at a price tag of $2,150. Sadly, that’s no longer the case. The factory option Recaro seats are cheaper at $1,595, are more comfortable and more attractive. We’d love to see Roush offer a custom option for these, perhaps with the similar Alcantara inserts and colored stitching as with the standard seats.
As for the rest of the items, like the vent gauge pod and cue ball shifter, they are cool but not a necessity. It’s fun to keep tabs on boost levels, if only for a little while, and the shifter, while great looking, doesn’t really do much to improve the feel of the throw. Even so, we’d likely check both on the option list.
In 2012 the Stage 3 Mustang had 540 horsepower, just 10 shy of the Shelby GT500′s 550 ponies. It’s a different story for 2013, though, with the Shelby jumping up nearly half a liter in displacement and 112 horsepower. Roush has upgraded as well, this time to 565 horsepower – nearly 100 shy of the Shelby. A significant gap, yes, but it’s still nothing to be ashamed of. Perhaps the more significant gain is with torque, which jumps from 465 lb-ft to 505 lb-ft. That said, we didn’t really notice the extra horsepower or torque compared to the 2012 model. The 25 horsepower gain isn’t necessarily insignificant, but it’s a fairly minor increase – a little over four percent – when you’re already dealing with so much horsepower.
To be honest, traction is the limiting factor when it comes to acceleration at speeds legal on the street, and since our last speeding ticket came about 18 months ago in a 2012 Roush RS3, we weren’t anxious to experiment with higher speed acceleration runs. If you’re really itching for a substantial increase in horsepower, Roush does offer Phase 2 and Phase 3 packages that provide 625 and 675 horsepower respectively. Roush does limit the warranty to their parts only for these kits, though, meaning you’d better be ready to upgrade to forged pistons and connecting rods.
While the difference in horsepower is the reason why many would likely choose the GT500 over the Stage 3, we tend to think that it’s not that big of a deal. You see, Roush has always been about balance, not letting horsepower overpower the chassis or vice versa. Plus, with the car fitted with street tires, there’s not much more performance to be gained at lower (legal) speeds with the GT500′s horsepower. Plus, the Roush is geared more aggressively compared to the 2013 GT500 (3.73 vs 3.31), giving it that extra boost at lower speeds. Where the Stage 3 Mustang really shines is on a twisty stretch of mountain roads, which we made sure to find plenty of during our time with the car. Whereas GT500 feels nose-heavy and plows through corners, the Stage 3 pulls around corners without a hint of understeer. The suspension system feels well balanced, handling both slow and fast corners with ease while managing to provide a comfortable ride when cruising. The exhaust system continues to be one of our favorite parts of driving a Roush Mustang. The Stage 3 has a muscle car roar under acceleration and provides a deep grumble-pop-grumble under off-throttle deceleration. It’s a beautiful sound to behold.
While the 2013 Roush RS3 can be had for under $50,000 – a base model with no options rings in at $48,045 – we doubt that many can be had for this price. Our test car came with several high-cost options including the 20-inch wheel/tire upgrade ($1,115), interior package ($2,150) and competition brake package ($3,500) as well as a multitude of smaller items like the engine coil covers ($285) and the quarter window louvers ($370). In total, the as-tested price came to $60,675. In comparison, a 2013 Shelby GT500 with the SVT Performance Package and Recaro seats will cost you $60,535.
While others might disagree, we feel that there’s still a place world for the Roush Stage 3 Mustang. Yes, the 2013 Shelby GT500 is undoubtedly the better choice for those solely interested in straight-line performance, but the Roush is the superior car for anyone who enjoys carving up canyons or the occasional track day. It seems that as much as things change, everything seems to stay the same. Think of it this way – if you can’t decide between a Boss 302 and a Shelby GT500, go with the car that offers the best of both – the Roush Stage 3 Mustang.
Photos © 2013 MustangsDaily.com
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