2020 Ford Mustang R-Spec Review
CARS ARE ALL about numbers, especially those exotic machines built specifically for driving enthusiasts. The bigger the number, the faster it is. The more desirable it is. And usually the more expensive it is.
So, what happens when a car is missing one of those crucial figures? Well, in the case of the locally-developed, supercharged Ford Mustang R-Spec, it becomes an instant smash-hit success.
Y’see, despite the fact Ford won’t officially confirm exactly how much power the blown pony produces, there has been a stampede of buyers lasso the limited run of 500 Aussie-exclusive machines already. Just like Nicolas Cage’s Eleanor Mustang Fastback, they were gone in 60 seconds.
And if you’re still keen, you can buy one of Herrod’s supercharged Mustang, which we’ve tested.
And as I walk towards a bold Grabber Green example that stands idling in the pitlane at South Australia’s The Bend Motorsport Park, with the force-fed 5.0-litre V8’s deep-chested growl resonating off the concrete walls, it isn’t hard to comprehend why; it looks and sounds tough without even moving.
The reality is, this is exactly what a flock of stallions already look like on Aussie roads, as a high proportion of Mustang owners have saddled superchargers onto their Coyote engines, whipped-on lightweight wheels and stickier tyres and bridled stiffer, lowered suspension kits onto their rides. Modified Mustangs are a huge part of the local aftermarket industry at the moment, with Melbourne’s Herrod Performance playing a significant role in that segment.
It’s no surprise then that company founder Rob Herrod has his signature all over the Mustang R-Spec too, as the limited edition machine is a joint ‘second-stage manufacturing’ program between Ford Australia and Herrod Performance that has been created and produced exclusively for local customers.
How much more does it cost than a regular pony?
Costing $99,980 plus on-roads, the R-Spec commands a $33k premium over the standard Mustang GT Fastback on which it is based. But the extra coin brings with it a factory-installed Eaton 2650 roots-type supercharger that generates 12PSI of boost, as well as a water-to-air intercooler, larger fuel injectors and a stainless steel exhaust system that elevates power and torque from 339kW and 556Nm to somewhere around 522kW and 830Nm.
The Mustang R-Spec is available only with a six-speed manual transmission, but each of the 500 is also fitted with Ford Performance springs that are 20mm lower than standard, thicker front and rear anti-roll bars and revised magnetically-controlled dampers, plus a new set of lightweight alloy wheels that measure 19×9.5 on the front and 19×10 at the rear and wrapped in grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber.
Apart from the lowered stance, the R-Spec’s visual identity is further emphasised by a unique rear spoiler and R-SPEC badge on the back panel with a revised front bumper featuring a black pony badge, a larger intake in the lower valance and black surrounds for the LED running lights. And, of course, there are the obligatory over-the-top racing stripes.
More than the nuts and bolts, the R-Spec comes with a level of security that aftermarket modifiers cannot match, including a full five-year warranty, service loan-car program, a year’s free membership to your state’s motoring club with roadside assistance and $299 capped price servicing for up two years or 40,000km.
What’s the engine like?
The most appealing factor, however, is the way it drives. Dawdling out of The Bend’s billiard table-smooth pitlane, the R-Spec purrs like a pussy cat; the engine idles smoothly, the clutch action isn’t too heavy and, with so much low-down torque on offer, you barely need to tickle the throttle to get moving. It feels like it would be just as easy to live with in everyday conditions as a regular Mustang.
But The Bend’s 4.95km International Circuit layout – the same configuration Supercars use – isn’t everyday conditions. And once I’ve cleared the pitlane and bury the throttle on the front straight, it is clear the R-Spec isn’t an everyday Mustang either. It generates momentum with ferocious velocity, almost as if the supercharger is sucking the horizon into the intake manifold. It is seriously quick, yet the power delivery is linear and relatively smooth – we did experience a consistent mid-range cough under heavy acceleration during our drive of a pre-production prototype vehicle.
It sounds brilliant too; with a bellowing V8 soundtrack that is subtly supported by a faint blower whine from under the bonnet, like a bassoon and a flute were playing in harmony.
What’s it like to drive?
As if its fury wasn’t addictive enough, the way the entire symphony of parts has been conducted is even more impressive because the R-Spec surprisingly never actually feels as though it is being dynamically overpowered. The front-end is sharp and precise with excellent initial turn-in. Carry too much mid-corner speed or trail-brake into the apex though and it does tend to gently scrub the front tyres across the apex.
But, with the stability control relaxed a little when in the Mustang’s Race drive mode, a judicial jolt on the accelerator will shift the weight off the nose awaken the rear enough to help to rotate the car nicely through a tight turn. Find its limits and the R-Spec is a car that dances with the driver, adjusting its tempo with every step of confidence you gain and never feels clumsy or heavy-footed despite being a little big-boned and tipping the scales at close to 1800kg.
At the end of it all, the fact the Mustang R-Spec doesn’t have an official power figure is a completely moot point. It might be missing a number, but those lucky 500 owners will be gaining more than a modern classic in their driveway; they’ll have a smile on their dial every time they look at it. Then a bigger one when they start it up. And, most importantly, a never-ending one each time they get behind the wheel.
Ford Mustang R-Spec Pricing and Spec
Price $98,900 (plus on-roads) Warranty 5 years/unlimited km Safety 3 Stars Engine 5.0-litre supercharged V8 Power 522kW (estimated) Torque 830Nm (estimated) Transmission Six-speed manual, RWD Body 4784mm (l); 1916mm (excl. mirrors); 2080mm (incl. mirrors); 1381mm (h) Turning Circle 12.2m Kerb weight 1739kg Seats 4 Fuel tank 60 litres Fuel use 14L/100km
Missed out on the Mustang R-Spec? Check out the Herrod Mustang supercharger kit review: