2003 Roush 380R Ford Mustang
You know, limited edition Mustangs have become a huge cottage industry. Names like Saleen, Kenny Brown, Steeda, and of course SVT, have stampeded the pony car market. With so many tuners for just one car, we on the MotorWeek staff have begun to wonder, is there room in the corral for yet another high performance Mustang? With the Roush 380R, we’d have to say yes. When the name is Jack Roush, automotive engineering legend and Ford racing guru, that alone means quite a lot.
Roush Industries is one of the world’s largest automotive design and development companies. Combine that with the world’s most successful pony car and you have a package that’s worth a closer look.
The Roush 380R is an update of the 360R. Refinement of the Roush-engineered supercharged 4.6-Liter V8 now results in 379 horsepower, which is rounded up to 380 for the name. In the front the 380R wears an unmistakable fascia and hood borrowed from the Roush Stage 3 Mustang, while the Stage 3 style wing out back sets the 380R off from its factory GT cousin.
All in all, except for its modest badging and optional ‘‘nostalgia stripe’’ the 380R is surprisingly understated. It isn’t until one goes under the hood that the old Roush magic becomes apparent. Ford’s single overhead cam 4.6 liter V8 is dismantled to the bare block and every component brought up to Roush specifications. The addition of the Roots-type supercharger, air- to-water intercooler, Roush intake and air flow sensor as well as free flowing exhaust result in 379 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, withthe latter at only 3,000 rpm. That makes this pony car extremely potent at launch, yet still very drivable at cruise.
It’s mated to a five speed manual with a Roush shifter. Some of our staff liked the super short, precise throws, while others felt it was notchier than the Stage 3’s gearbox we tested two years ago. But match the RPM’s and road speed just right, and the transmission seems to suck the shifter into the next gear. All that power is planted through the Mustang GT’s solid rear-axle and optional 18 inch Roush wheels with beefy 295/35 BF Goodrich rear tires and 265/35s in the front. The 380R engine propels Jack’s potent pony to 60 in 5.3 seconds. The quarter mile takes just 13.9 seconds at 106 miles per hour, about four tenths slower than the last SVT Cobra we tested. But the power band of the 380R is very broad, making it easier to drive than the high- revving four-valve Cobra.
We expected the 380R to be ‘‘one quick pony’’ but we were surprised by the handling. We highly recommend adding the Roush Stage-3 suspension package to the 380R, since it delivers some of the flattest and most predictable handling that we’ve ever experienced in a Mustang. Even with a solid rear-axle, the 380R easily attacked the slalom with almost no body roll and a neutral response, no noticeable under steer or oversteer. This is one pony that’s very agile on its hoofs. That easily controlled handling is also appreciated at higher speeds, where the 380R exhibits the same neutral behavior. While steering feedback is immediate, our crew still wanted more.
Race-spec Alcon brakes are also on our 380R’s option list. With 4-piston calipers and 14- inch discs up front, plus 13-inch rotors in the back, the 380R stops from 60 in a short 120 feet. As in any car with a race heritage, the hotter the brakes got the better they stopped. Of course the $5,400 price of the brake and wheel package almost stopped our hearts as well.
Ride quality is as you would expect, quite firm, and the Stage 3 suspension does let you feel every crack in the road. Yet our 380R is more comfortable than most ‘‘tuner’’ Mustangs we’ve tested. But if you’re not a strident enthusiast, the standard 380R suspension is a better ride and handling compromise.
Interior-wise, the 380R is stock Mustang GT with a hint of Roush. The instrument panel has white faced gauges, and the pedals are billet aluminum.
The Mustang has always been known as a lot of ‘‘bang for the buck.’‘ Does the Roush engineered 380R carry on that tradition? Well, with a base price of $41,215, the 380R is hardly inexpensive. Add in our test vehicle’s optional brakes, wheels, shifter, suspension and exhaust and you add another $8,314. That brings the total sticker to $49,529. While more than a fully loaded SVT Cobra, we’ve seen tuner Mustangs for more than twice that price.
But remember that Roush Performance Vehicles are available exclusively through only 145 select Ford dealers, so it is unlikely that you’ll ever see another Roush Mustang on your block.
With so many choices available in the Mustang market, is the Roush 380R really a unique horse in the Mustang corral? Well, with an engineering legend like Jack Roush holding the design reins, you can bet that buyers of the 380R will most certainly find themselves riding a horse of a different color.
- Engine: 4.6-Liter Supercharged & Intercooled V8
- Horsepower: 379
- Torque: 380 Lb Feet
- 0-60 MPH: 5.3 Seconds
- 1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 106 MPH
- 60-0 MPH: 120 Feet