Click above for a high-res gallery of the Roush 437R Trak Pak Mustang.
We've driven our fair share of Mustangs, but it's a rare occasion that we get to drive one at the track. That's part of the reason why we made the seven hour trek from Southern California to Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA, to get behind the wheel of Roush's new 427R Trak Pak Mustang. What's so special about the Trak Pak? For starters, it's got a supercharged V8 packing 435 horsepower and an abundance of race-ready items like an adjustable suspension, carbon fiber wing, and 14-inch brakes that all make it ideal for the weekend warrior who wants his vehicle to handle the daily grind and track-day floggings. With only 100 being built, this may be one of the few opportunities to see one in the sheetmetal, let alone to drive it on the track. While inclement weather the night before threatened to ruin the trip, we were blessed with a rain-free day, allowing us to explore the limits of the Trak Pak'd 427R. Follow the jump to read our impressions.
All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
We arrived at the track before the sun came up, hoping to snap a few photos of the Trak Pak right at sunrise. Luckily, the morning clouds and wet pavement made for some picturesque photos, especially with the "Cyclone" hill (turn five) in the background. We couldn't take too many pictures, because we needed to go through a short safety briefing and get the layout of the track before we headed out. We also learned that the local Volvo club would be sharing the track with us for the day. God forbid we get passed!
With the track safety rules in mind and a rented helmet in hand, we headed out again to get a closer look at the Trak Pak. We had a standard 427R in the Autoblog Garage nearly two years ago so we already had a good idea of what we were getting into. Many of the standard 427R features have been carried over, including the Roush-spec front fascia, hood scoop, leather seats, short-throw shifter, 427R graphics, free-flowing exhaust and, of course, a roots-style supercharger system that adds 135 horsepower to the 4.6-liter V8's output. To bring the car up to Trak Pak spec, Roush adds several go-fast goodies that are necessary to take on a weekend of racing. Good brakes are of utmost importance and it's one area that Roush didn't skimp on. Massive two-piece, 14-inch brakes with six-piston calipers, race brake pads, and high temperature brake fluid provide consistent stopping power. A brake cooling system that feeds cool air fed through the front fascia ensure that braking is consistent and fade-free. Handling is also a top priority, and Roush has provided top notch suspension components to keep things planted at speed. Adjustable front and rear shocks, new front and rear springs, thicker front and rear sway bars, along with adjustable camber/caster plates. Even more grip is provided by an adjustable carbon fiber rear wing and a set of sticky BFGoodrich gForce KDW T/A tires mounted to 18-inch forged wheels. A high-flow grille, strut tower brace, functional hood pins, and a three-gauge dash pod with engine oil temperature, coolant temperature and boost, join shift light gauges to round off the standard equipment. Our test car also included the three available options -- white face gauges, a carbon fiber dash trim kit, and quarter window louvers.
We headed out onto the track with David Ray in the passenger seat, a local driving instructor for Hooked on Driving. He had significant seat time in the Trak Pak and knows the turns of Thunderhill like the back of his hand, so he was the perfect guy to show us the ropes. As he guided us along the proper racing line, he raved about how the Trak Pak was so well sorted. It should be; Roush logged thousands of miles on tracks like Road America, Gingerman Raceway, and Hallett Motor Racing Circuit to get everything just right. Ray also informed us that the wing on the back isn't just for show. When the car first came to the track it required a little bit of braking for turn seven, proving that the wing was set for a high speed track. A few tweaks to the aerofoil provided more downforce and the turn can now be taken without lifting at all. It might look out of place on the street, but no one will complain while cornering at 90 mph.
After a few laps we had a pretty good idea of the track layout and started to push through the corners. The faster we went, the more we discovered that the Trak Pak was extremely well balanced. There is virtually no understeer, even through the long 180-degree curve at turn two, and we only experienced minor oversteer after giving too much throttle coming off turn 15 onto the straight. The Trak Pak goes exactly where you point it, and the communicative steering ensures that hitting apexes is a breeze. In fact, it's almost too easy. We definitely wouldn't brag about our skills at the racetrack, but the Trak Pak makes us feel like a pro. As we expected, the brakes were outstanding. They never exhibited any fade and provided neck-snapping braking from 100+ mph consistently throughout the day.
While we were mostly impressed with the handling and braking, the Trak Pak was no slouch on the straights. The supercharged V8 provided enough grunt – 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft torque – to hit 130 mph just before hitting the brakes for turn one. There was enough torque to pull through some of the slow corners in third, although we enjoyed changing gears with the classic shifter. The whine of the supercharger sounds fantastic from inside the car, and even better from alongside the track.
After a full day of hot laps around Thunderhill, we couldn't find much fault with the Trak Pak. It's a superb track car and probably makes a decent road car, assuming you can put up with the stiffer suspension and occasional squeaks from the racing brake pads at slower speeds. While the Trak Pak isn't cheap at $58,245, it's a steal considering its out-of-the-box abilities, not to mention its potential to embarrass any number of vehicles around a circuit. Even a few Volvos.
All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.