Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 2019 review
Ford won't sell you its hottest Mustang in Australia, but HSV's delivered the supercharged Camaro on a platter.
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A thirst for power is one of those things that is almost impossible to quench. Like with money, the more you have the more you want (or so I am reliably informed by people who actually do have money), and so you can never really be satisfied.
But if anything is going to come close, it’s the new Mustang R-Spec, which transforms Ford’s already-meaty muscle car into an entirely new beast.
The R-Spec is a collaboration between renowned tuner Herrod Performance and Ford Performance, which basically means you get the best of the aftermarket world (think a new supercharger, a lower ride height and a big rear spoiler), only without sacrificing your manufacturer warranty and capped price-servicing arrangements.
Perhaps most importantly, though, you get A LOT of extra grunt.
The R-Spec lobs at $99,980, plus on-road costs, and numbers are limited to 500 units. There seems to be some confusion as to whether this meatiest of Mustangs is already sold out, but Ford assures us that while all 500 cars have been allocated to dealers, not all have been sold to customers. Still, if you want one, we’d suggest you get a wriggle on.
What bang do you get for your bucks? Well, you start with a Mustang GT (leather seats, 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and DRLs, navigation, a 12-speaker stereo, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).
But wait, there’s more. Because the GT is then sent to finishing school at Herrod Performance, where its 5.0-litre V8 engine is fitted with a whopping Eaton supercharger, a new intercooler, bigger injectors and a 3.0-inch Herrod Performance exhaust.
Yes, you’re paying roughly $30,000 more than you would for a regular V8 GT manual. But what price fun?
You’ve head the term “sleeper”, I’m sure? You know, those cars that don’t attract much attention, but are hiding a surprise under their bonnets?
Well, if there is an exact opposite of that term, it should be “Mustang R-Spec”. It’s not going to fly under the radar, this thing.
Our car - numbered 001 of 500 - was painted in a Grabber Lime, but it can also be had in Twister Orange, Oxford White or Velocity Blue. But no matter the hue, you won’t be fading into the background in the R-Spec.
Each of the 500 vehicles on offer will be fitted with blacked out 19-inch alloys from Ford Performance, R-Spec badging (and cool puddle lights that illuminate the ground as you open the doors), as well as a black rear spoiler, black striping that starts on the bonne, black bonnet vents and black side stripes.
Inside, it’s largely business as usual, apart from the Ford Performance shifter for the gearbox and its R-Spec badging and numbering. Still, it remains a snug and sporty place to spend time.
No real change here. And the news still isn’t life-changing. Expect the existing GT’s two-door, four-door, fastback formula to continue apace.
That means two rear seats that are, well, less than realistic for adult-sized humans, two figure-hugging seats up front, and limited storage in cabin.
There is, however, a pair of cupholders that split the front seats, sizeable pockets in each of the doors, and even a decent-sized (408-litre) boot.
You still get the GT’s 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8, only now fettled by Ford specialists Herrod.
Job lot one was to fit an Eaton supercharger, which ups the outputs to a vaguely mysterious 522kW and 830Nm. We say mysterious because Ford hasn’t actually confirmed the numbers yet, and has instead taken to throwing the word “around” in front of them. But still, it’s a lot of grunt whichever way you shake it.
That power is sent through a six-speed manual gearbox, the only transmission available at this stage, and funnelled to the rear tyres via a limited-sllp differential.
Other Herrod goodies include a performance exhaust, new intercooler and bigger injectors.
First thing’s first. Ford has made a huge deal about this being an aftermarket upgrade that isn’t an aftermarket upgrade, hence the reason it is being sold as is through Ford dealerships, and covered by the same warranty and capped-price servicing arrangement as a regular V8 Mustang.
And when you sink into the driver’s seat of this supercharged ‘Stang, its deep-throated exhaust burbling away behind your head, you pretty quickly figure out why, because it doesn’t feel like an aftermarket upgrade, either.
The changes Herrod Performance has made to the Mustang feel largely natural, as though they were meant to be. And for a lot of owners - especially those watching sporty ‘Stangs like the Shelby GT350 and GT500 explode across America - these changes will be plenty welcome.
Our wheel time was limited to lapping the Bend Motorsport Park outside of Adelaide, and so while we can’t speak to road comfort when you’re tootling to the shops, we can assure you that this Mustang's extra grunt is enough to paint a bloody big smile on your face when you’re free of pesky real-world problems, like speed limits.
Plant your right foot and the R-Spec lunges forwards, collecting speed in a way that's part casual and part terrifying, all while the rumble of the exhast builds behind you and the whine of supercharger intensifies in front of you. Not only is it genuinely fun, it leaves you with the feeling that this is the way the Mustang was always meant to be.
It’s perhaps still not a born track weapon (you can feel the 1.7-tonne-plus weight following you around, for example), but the extra grunt helps shrink the distance between corners considerably, and compared to lesser-engined ‘Stangs, there’s a low-down balance to the R-Spec’s cornering abilities.
Complaints? Well, we didn't really get enough wheel time to make a total assessment, but we did notice a strange cough in the power delivery, like the power was cutting out and back in again, under full throttle.
All up, though, it's brash American grunt. As well it should be.
A mystery, I’m afraid. Because this isn’t an offical Ford vehicle, the company is yet to provide combine fuel use or C02 figures.
Suffice to say, though, they will both be higher than in the Mustang GT V8 manual, which claims 12.7L/100km on the combined cycle, and 290g/km of C02.
The R-Spec makes use of a 61-litre tank.
Eek. This is the hard bit. The official ANCAP safety rating for the V8 Mustang is… three stars. The result, which was recently increased from two stars, was partly due to now improved standard safety kit, and partly due to its actual crash performance.
Safety kit for the R-Spec includes eight airbags, AEB with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, rear parking sensors and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
The R-Spec gets Ford’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, while the supercharger itself is covered by Herrod Performance, also for five years.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000kms, with Ford’s capped price servicing also kicks in, keeping most services to between $300 and $450.
It's big, brash, American muscle. And isn't that exactly what you want from a Ford Mustang? Sure, it's a sizeable $30k jump from a regular GT. But how can you put a price on fun?
The only lingering questions are exactly what the R-Spec will be like to live with on a day-to-day basis? For that, we'll have to wait for a more comprehensive test.
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