Pony express: testing a 700hp Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 beast
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Some people wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and let their days play out in a logical manner. Never speak out of turn, take-what-you’re-given kind of people.
They probably wouldn’t be able to make head nor tail of this Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3.
First and foremost, the Ford Mustang GT on which the Spec 3 is based is a perfectly fun, perfectly unhinged machine. The latest wave of improvements implemented on Ford’s “pony car” have made it into a superb sports-car choice.
The singing 339kW 5-litre Coyote V8, edgier styling, louder exhaust bark — all good things … just don’t bring up that crash testing stuff.
Yet there are still people who want more, underlined best by the flourishing after-market sector for these modern Mustangs. And RTR is fast becoming a favoured choice in a complex game.
We've touched on the tuning brand in the past, from its links to drift culture and New Zealand to the last-generation Spec 2 we tested back in March. And this Spec 3 is much the same, except everything's been turned up from 11 to 12.
If anything, RTR's visual upgrades mesh better with the new-look Mustang than they did on the previous model. The more angular, aggro nose pairs well with RTR's splitter and side-skirt set-up.
It's a look full of what marketing mad men would call “synergies” — the revised front spoiler reflects the shape of the secondary grille, while the unchanged sticker pack follows the Mustang's existing contours. Everything works seamlessly, with RTR's signature, sinister grille-mounted LEDs the icing on the cake.
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Of course, looks are only half of the Spec 3's story.
Under the bonnet, Ford's 5-litre gets a heap of attention from Ford Performance and Roush; namely through the latest iteration 2650 Twin Vortices Supercharger. It comes with a larger pump than the previous model, which allows it to gulp in more air for more boom and quicker response.
Supporting the new supercharger are a raft of other technical changes including the 87mm throttle body used in the Shelby GT350, a liquid-to-air intercooler and a custom tune.
The net result is a ticket to the 700hp club.
The RTR Spec 3 develops a claimed 530kW of power and 827Nm of torque. That's like bolting two Suzuki Swifts worth of power (and 227 extra Newtons) on top of the standard car.
So what does this do to the Mustang's driving experience? Does it become some kind of psycho thoroughbred race-car-for-the-road beast?
Despite its bevy of changes, the Spec 3 manages to be quite a docile thing. It's easy to cruise around in, and Ford's active exhaust set-up means it's relatively mild-sounding on start-up and through town (if you want it to be, anyway).
Just like the previously tested Spec 2, it's relatively comfortable to be with — even with a huge 20-inch Tech 7 wheel bolted on to each corner. RTR's Tactical Performance suspension system (which includes new lowering springs, adjustable dampers, front anti-roll bar and more) does a sound job of dealing with broken pavement, while limiting things like body roll.
But as you'd expect, the Spec 3's wild side is where the fun resides.
Stomp on the right-most pedal, and the key difference between this and a bog standard GT emphatically reveals itself.
Though the GT prefers to exploit its rev-happy engine characteristics for power delivery, the Spec 3 makes up the difference lower in the rev range. Granted, it still enjoys visiting the 7000rpm marker, but by that point you'll likely be hurtling down the road at a much higher (and less legal) speed than you would be in the regular car. Get a good launch, and you'll hit 100km/h in about four seconds.
That doesn't sound violently quicker than the Mustang GT, but it doesn't tell the story of how much more power and roar is echoing through the cabin and shuddering through the steering wheel. A longer runway and higher benchmark would probably showcase the Spec 3's performance distinction better.
The Mustang's new 10-speed automatic helps translate the power to the road, and — to our minds anyway — felt slightly more predictable here than on the standard GT. Either way, it remains a comprehensive improvement over the outgoing six-speed.
Depending on your perspective, the weak link in the chain might be the Nitto NT555 G2 rubber. Admittedly, it has a tall task on its hands having to tame 700 horses all at once, but it struggled at times off the line.
Those hunting for traction might not approve, while those who fancy themselves as a “Fanga Dan” Woolhouse in training probably couldn't care less.
RTR Spec 2 (full visuals, damping changes, and Ford's 348kW Power Package' included) and Spec 3 add-on kits are available at CTB Performance for $20,000 and $39,000, respectively, with a full brand new RTR Spec 2 or Spec 3 Mustang setting you back $99,000 or $118,990 all up.
And each package comes with a three-year/100,000km drive-line warranty backed by Ford Performance.
Is that a lot of money for a Mustang? Possibly. But, have fun trying to find something more feral and more ferocious for less.
2018 Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3
Pros: Fast, surprisingly usable, true visual presence, warranty coverage
Cons: It’s thirsty (shock horror), low nose vulnerable to scrapes