During both our first drive and in our full review, we concluded that the 2010 Ford Mustang has raised the bar for modern day pony cars. The sculpted body, finely tuned suspension, higher quality interior and additional horsepower make it one of the best Stangs to ever come from the Blue Oval's stable. With a flood of aftermarket variants sure to come, we couldn't help but wonder if the new Mustang would provide an even better platform to work with, or if tuners might struggle to improve on an already excellent product. We now have the answer.
Roush, who were given inside access to the 2010 Mustang by Ford for their own product development, were first to market with their 427R Mustang that was unveiled back in March. We were lucky enough to be one of the first to get behind the wheel, and recently spent a full week with the 427R. Was Roush able to use their five years of experience with the S197 platform to capitalize on the upgrades and refinements made available in the 2010 Mustang? Read on to find out.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
When Roush Mustangs come to mind, we think of aggressive, edgy styling. Since the late '90s, Mustangs coming from the Livonia, MI assembly plant have had a distinctive look that we could spot from a mile away. That's why we were so surprised when the wraps came off the 2010 427R. Instead of the boy racer Mustang we were expecting, a fairly subtle pony car sat in its place. We had to do a double take to see if Roush had even added a body kit, as the overall profile is so close to a stock Mustang.
We were also somewhat disappointed by the lack of any significant horsepower increase compared to the previous 427R. Not that 435 horsepower is anything to scoff at, but it's the same as the 427R Trak Pak we tested last summer. We also had our doubts. Could Roush improve on the performance of the suspension without rendering it too harsh? How much would they actually be able to improve the interior?
With those expectations, we took delivery of a brand new 2010 Roush 427R. To our complete surprise, it took only a few minutes for us to completely fall in love with the car. You could say it was a case of love at first sound. The Roush exhaust system completely transforms the character of the Mustang from a pony car to a mean, snarling muscle car. The exhaust sounds fantastic doing just about anything – idling, cruising, downshifting, and, of course, at full throttle. Even while slowing to a stop, the tailpipes emitted a wonderful rumble and burble. A quick visit to the Roush web site revealed that the exhaust system is actually an option and not standard on the 427R, but to us it would be mandatory. Since Roush also sells their parts individually, the exhaust is also available for regular Mustangs. If you've recently purchased a 2010 Mustang GT, go buy the Roush exhaust. No seriously, do it right now. It's worth every penny.
That's not to say the exhaust is the only part of the car we loved. While the standard 2010 Mustang is significantly down on power compared to the Camaro SS and Challenger R/T, Roush has made sure that owners of the 427R won't need to shy away in a meeting of the musclecars. A roots style supercharger has been added atop the Mustang's 4.6-liter V8, boosting horsepower to 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft torque that helps to enforce our fondness for this fortified Mustang.
Yes, it's the same rating as the 2009 Roush lineup, but we were reminded that Mustang does far more with its horsepower than either the Camaro or Challenger. The 427R pulls strong and hard from any rpm, with a torque curve flatter than Kansas. We had the chance to strap the Roush to a dyno, and the results more than confirmed that the supercharged V8 was putting out as advertised. The 400 horsepower and nearly 370 lb-ft torque at the rear wheels easily cover a 15% driveline loss and indicate Roush is probably underrating the 427R's motor.
Compared to the previous generation 427R, the engine bay has also been reworked to be more efficient and provide a more OEM look with higher quality materials. The intake tube, which previously wrapped around to the left side of the motor, now has a direct shot to the throttle body to provide optimum air flow. The intercooler reservoir is double the size, and the radiator has been upgraded to provide more efficient cooling.
While we initially had doubts that Roush could do any significant improvements to the Mustang's suspension, we needn't have worried. Roush engineers literally spent tens of thousands of hours on both the street and track to come up with what they believe is the best compromise between comfort and performance, and after a week in the car we can confirm that they did an excellent job of taking the Mustang's handling to the next level.
The setup is stiffer than Ford could get away with on a production Mustang targeted towards the general consumer, but not enough to make the ride harsh or uncomfortable. Thanks to new front struts, rear shocks and springs, beefier front and rear sway bars, and a wheel hop reduction kit, the 427R has virtually no body roll, the steering has a nice weight and feel, and turn-in is quick and accurate. We made sure to spend time on some of Southern California's best driving roads, and couldn't find a stretch of payment that the Roush couldn't handle with ease.
Our test car was also fitted with the Roush big brake upgrade, which includes front 14-inch slotted rotors and 4-piston calipers. It's definitely not a cheap option at over $2,800, but we think it's a necessity for Mustangs with this amount of horsepower. A few years ago we drove a previous generation 427R with the stock brakes and felt uncomfortable in their capability of consistently bringing the car quickly to a stop. We'd recommend checking this on the option list more out of necessity than anything.
That brings us to the exterior. The 2010 Mustang provides a much more difficult canvas on which to work than previous models, with more creases, curves and angles to deal with than before. While we're still not completely sold on the design, we have to admit that it grew on us by the end of the week. It's easier to notice and appreciate the exterior details in person, like the front chin spoiler and the diffuser-style rear fascia, and the 427R now comes off as a more 'grown up' Roush than the previous generation. We especially like the rear spoiler, which gives some additional length to the rear end and somehow makes the taillights look good on the car.
One thing we still don't get is the front fascia and the addition of extra driving lights. The Mustang already has four lights – the main headlights and the auxiliary driving lights in the grille, so we don't know why it needs two more. We're guessing that Roush has future plans to offer a plain billet grille like on the previous generation, in which case we would probably like the look more.
One of our favorite features of the 2010 Mustang was its new interior, with a redesigned instrument panel and soft-touch plastics. Because of this Roush didn't feel the need to change too much. In fact, the only standard interior upgrades on the Roush are embroidered Roush floor mats and a billet aluminum shift knob. Our test car was also fitted with white faces gauges ($320), sport leather/Alcantara seating ($1,725), a vent pod with boost gauge ($435), illuminated door sill plates ($220), and a short throw shifter with black ball knob ($410). Each of the upgrades was a nice touch, but the shifter was the only option that we felt was a 'must have'. Not only does it look awesome, but it provides more direct and accurate gear changes and makes shifting a pure joy.
If there is any downside, it's the price. Our test car came in at a whopping $22,338 over the base price of a 2010 Mustang GT, adding over 2/3 to the price. Roush did the best job they could to keep pricing down, including reducing the cost of the base components by over $1,400 and working to get the $1,000 gas tax removed, but there is still a price increase from 2009 due to the nearly $3,000 additional cost for the Mustang GT Premium model that is used as a base for the 427R.
Still, if you order the car with only the essentials options – the exhaust, shifter, and big brakes – you can limit the damage to just $18,153, putting the price right at about $50,000 and in the same range as a GT500. Which one should you pick? Well, decide what you like better: driving in a straight line or around turns. If it's the former, go with the Shelby, and if it's the latter then pony up the cash for the Roush.
So did Roush come through with their latest offering? You bet. Just like Ford exceeded our expectations and quelled our doubts about the 2010 Mustang, Roush has done the same with the 2010 427R. It's fairly easy to gauge how much we like a car based on how tough it is to give it back at the end of the week, and all we could think about as we handed back the keys is how we were going to miss the sound of the exhaust, the feel of the shifter, the pull of the supercharged V8, and rush of tackling tight corners with the superb suspension. Maybe we can convince them to loan it to us again for another week...
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.