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Test Drive : 2009 Roush Stage 3 Mustang

Story by Sam Haymart

Like a fine wine, time has improved the breed.

11-09-08: Jack Roush has been building go-fast Mustangs long enough now that kids know one when they see it. Adults know a Roush Mustang when they see it. As an owner of a 2001 Roush Stage 3 when it was brand new, one had to field many “what is a rooosh?” questions. These days, people give a nod of knowing respect at the gas station and intersections.

For 2009 the Roush Stage 3 Mustang represents the last of the 2005-2009 Mustang in venerable style. The car that started it all for Roush in the supercharged production arena has grown up and aged well. It’s basic mechanicals have been the heart of countless spin-off models like the wildly popular 427R, 428R, and this year the 429R. The BlackJack as well as even the P-51 series owe their existence to the road paved by the Roush Stage 3.

Getting the chance to take the 2009 Roush Stage 3 out onto a road course and let it fly is an experience everyone should get in their lifetimes. The 430hp ROUSHCharged 4.6 liter V8 has evolved into one of the most drivable and dependable sources of raw power available on a showroom today. Putting it down in the curves through the Roush Stage 3 suspension feels as natural and connected as your finger to your hand. Stopping all that speed and mass with the Roush 14” brakes comes instantly in a balanced and refined way that never makes you think “tuner car”.


Roush has had 4 years to improve this breed and it really shows. While most of the changes in the mechanicals have been refinements, several areas have seen improvement including the suspension. Roush worked with Cooper Tires to develop a special tire for the Roush Stage 3 Mustang known as the RS3. With the new limits of adhesion and cornering lateral forces the tire brings, Roush made some minor suspension changes to make the combination really sing.

And sing it does. While these cars will always impress their owners on the street, the driving balance and ability on the track is really where you can measure all the years of development behind this car. There is balance and predictability at the limit when you roll into a corner at 80mph that few “tuner cars” will give you. The 2009 Roush Stage 3 is one of the few cars I have driven lately that allows even a novice to medium driver like me to precisely throttle steer the car around a sweeping curve like that guy on Top Gear. That is worth a good deal of the Stage 3’s price tag right there.

Power of course comes on strong from RPM one. The supercharger whine is ever present under full throttle combined with a deep bark from the Roush exhaust system. It is a song that is most unique to this car and one that most drivers at our drive event found quite intoxicating. Jack Roush Jr. of Grand Am racing fame was on hand to take me for a few hot laps in the Stage 3. The son of Jack Roush is as much the gentleman as his namesake and can drive like the devil. After 15 minutes of riding shotgun with him at speeds well above what I had accomplished on Michigan’s Gingerman raceway, the car had become that much more impressive.

Visually, the Stage 3 comes with all the Roush body accouterments including the fascia, skirts, rear exhaust panel, wing, emblems and more. It is a look that has almost become classic shall it be said. Interior quarters are upgraded with colorful two-tone leather seats, carbon fiber trims, and lots of ROUSH labeled goodies. Our car’s optional short throw shifter is a must for anyone who likes to drive.

With the 2010 Mustang getting all the headlines right now, we are happy to see that Roush is indeed looking ahead as well. The company is readying the next generation of Roush Mustangs as I write these words. It is expected the cars will be presented in early 2009 and will become available in the late spring. For now however, we suggest that the 2009 Roush Stage 3 Mustang will be a good place to sit in the meantime. It will see a very limited production quantity for the 2009 model year and will likely be a good car to make a deal on at a cash starved Ford dealership.

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Tuning To A Higher Level

How many Mustang "tuners" do you know who go to the trouble of developing a tire just for their cars?

Well that is exactly what Roush and Cooper have done with the new Cooper Zeon RS3 ultra high performance tire.

The goal was to meet or exceed the performance of the vaunted BF Goodrich T/A KD, arguably the gold standard.

Find out how they did. ►Full Story

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