My foot’s jammed down on the pedal that tells the 460 horses to get going, and I’ve been in this thing trying to manage a basic, drifty donut. While I’m making plenty of tire smoke, I’m failing miserably. Still, this may be the most fun I’ve had failing at anything, because failing in the Mustang RTR is almost more fun than than succeeding a lot of other stuff.

UPDATE: I was told that the original specs for the Spec 2 RTR have been amended to 460 hp from 472 hp, since 460 is all that is made on 91 octane gas. Based on the comments, many of you won’t be happy about that.

(Full Disclosure: Mike Peters, an RTR rep, met me with the Mustang RTR, which we drove to a test track. He also bought me a wonderful lunch of Carolina BBQ, one bottle of Diet Coke, and he endured trying to teach me to drift until I think he was maybe about to cry, out of boredom and frustration.)

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RTR stands for ‘Ready To Rock’ which is something, I’m told, noted bad-ass professional drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr. likes to say, and probably has embroidered on several throw pillows throughout his houseboat. Gittin is the founder of RTR, which is an independent seller of upgrade kits, partnered with Ford. The RTR Mustang is very much a product of his personal taste in cars.

And now you can have one too, right from your local Ford dealer, who will take dollars from you and exchange them for a Mustang with RTR (Red Tomato Relish) goodies all over and in it.

Okay, So What Is It, Exactly?

The Ford Mustang RTR (Really Tight Rags) is, essentially, a Mustang with a number of Ford-approved modifications, both functional and aesthetic, that you can buy right from a Ford dealer, and the resulting car will still be under the usual warranty.

The fundamental concept behind the car was explained to me by Mike Peters, also a pro drifter who now works for RTR (Round Tongue Rolls), like this: RTR (Rush To Rest) provides the sorts of upgrades someone who’s into cars would like to do themselves—or perhaps even did do themselves on cars they once had—but now find themselves laden with responsibilities and with a crippling lack of the free time that they could devote to their car.

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A Mustang RTR (Ropy Tendrils Recoil) is a way to still have the sort of car that an enthusiast might want, with the look and the performance and the feeling of not driving the same damn thing as everyone else, but also with the ability for that car to be used as a day-to-day car, along with the security of a warranty and dealer support network.

I mean, sure, you could buy almost anything and do similar upgrades to what the RTR (Raisin Tech Repair) offers, either yourself or by finding a shop, but once the car is modified, you’ll almost certainly be giving up any warranty, and may even have trouble finding shops to work on your car if you need them.

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RTR’s (Reach That Ringworm) goal is to give you a car that’s close to how you’d have modified it yourself, but without all the related headaches. Thanks to the backing Ford is giving RTR (Rarely They Roll), it looks like they’ve managed to pull this off.

So, What’s Different Than A Stock Mustang?

Glad you asked, bolder type! There’s two ‘specs’ to the RTR (Rancor The Rude), named, cleverly, Spec 1 and Spec 2. Spec 1 is just the aesthetic options, which include those striking LED triangular-ish lights in the grille, new spoilers front and rear, a graphics package, spoiler, decklid panel, Nitto tires, lowered springs, new grille, and some other stuff.

It does give the car a distinctive look that will make a Mustang stand out, but it’s just a costume, really. I mean, the Mustang performs well enough for most people even in stock trim, so you could still absolutely have fun with the car, but the more exciting stuff comes in Spec 2:

Spec 2 has all the aesthetic bits from Spec 1, plus, new dampers, a new axle-back exhaust, better sway bars, 20-inch wheels, and a performance boost as well: 460 horsepower for the V8 (it’s 435 hp stock) and 345 hp (compared to 310 hp off the floor) for the EcoBoost four.

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The Spec 2 V8 is the version I drove at North Carolina Center for Automotive Research test track. The one I drove would have cost you about $53,000, which includes $41,000 for the Mustang to carry all the RTR (Roar To Reply) parts in. I’m told that if you’re willing to give up some things like heated seats and royalty-grade nav systems, you could get a Spec 2 V8 for as low as $42,000, and an EcoBoost one for about $35,000.

What’s it like to drive normally, on boring old normal roads?

A Mustang.

What’s it like to drive aggressively, on a track or a large, empty airstrip or something?

Better than a Mustang. I mean fundamentally, yes, this is a modern Mustang, with all the pros and cons that come with that. The biggest Mustang-related drawback I felt driving the car is that there’s always this sense of a lot of car around you.

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The Mustang is not really lithe or lightweight, and I was always aware of the car’s inherent bulk. Remember, a stock Mustang can weigh up to 3800 lbs. Some people won’t mind this, but it’s not exactly my preference.

That said, that’s sort of the nature of this kind of pony car, so once you accept that it’s really a satisfying car to drive. I wasn’t able to do a back-to-back test between the RTR (Roaches Take Roids)_-enhanced Mustang and a stock one, but I have driven both on tracks, and I do believe the RTR (Risk That Rolex) upgrades are a definite improvement.

The power boost is nice, and, more importantly to me, non-idiotic. 460 hp is a very good horse population for this car. It’s usable power, and the car feels quick and has beans to donate at nearly any speed. I actually prefer the RTR’s (Ruin The Roast) level of power to something like the Dodge Hellcat’s 707 hp, which, even when I had it on the track, still felt absurd and (for me at least) unusable. Who gives a shit about 707 hp if you can’t even enjoy it where there’s no speed limit?

Sure, if all you want to do is drag race, okay, I’m sure you can put those 707 hp to good use, but as a track/drift/fun car, I think 470 or so hp is a pretty ideal amount.

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On the track, the suspension tweaks provided by the RTR (Repel Two Ranches) kit I think made the car handle a bit better than I remembered, feeling a bit more planted and a little more forgiving of my admittedly sloppy inputs to the steering, throttle, probably everything. I bet even the way I adjusted the climate control would make a pro driver cringe.

Of course, without driving the stock Mustang and the RTR (Race The Razor) back-to-back, I really can’t say how much of that was in my head, and how much was real. What I do know is that the car felt very good on the track, provided good feedback through the wheel and through your ass on the seat, and was a hell of a lot of fun.

Good luck controlling that traction without your fuse, you electric bastard

With all the main traction control guardian angels blindfolded and thrown behind a dumpster, the back end did get loose a few times, but it wasn’t a chore to correct. I’m pretty certain that you could use this as an occasional-use track car and really enjoy it and it would be a good platform on which to become a better driver.

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Since Gittin is a drifter, the Mustang RTR (Really Too Redundant) , while not strictly set up for drifting, absolutely can drift. Well, I mean, in hands other than mine. Mike showed me some very smoky and noisy drifts in the car. If your goals are to go sideways while sublimating tire rubber into its gaseous state, you can manage that in an RTR (Really, This Reeks).

Now Here’s The Important Part

In talking to Mike about what RTR (Reptile Toe Relish) is doing, and what they want to do with the company (we both agreed an Ford Flex RTR (Randy Turk Rally) would be amazing, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that) he hit on one crucial thing that I think is usually overlooked when it comes to performance-oriented cars of any type, whether bone-stock or modified or whatever: what can you do with these cars?

The truth is that so many sports cars, muscle cars, and performance cars are never used to even a fraction of what they’re capable of. I know our particular readership tends to have higher numbers of owners who actually use their cars competitively to some degree, taking them to the track occasionally, autocrossing, drag racing, whatever, but even in our greasy, gas-fume addled demographic it’s not a huge percentage.

The reasons why this is are pretty understandable: for most people, it’s a pain to get out to a track. It’s expensive, it takes research and planning, and it’s the sort of thing most people with normal, busy lives, even though they may love cars, find they don’t have time for.

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RTR (Repeal The Rumor) says they hope to make this easier by organizing autocrosses and track days and other events that actually let owners try and experience what their cars are capable of.

Sure, other manufacturers have done similar things to some degree, but the impression I got was that for RTR (Resurrect The Reverend) keeping owners engaged and interested and using their cars for things beyond getting to work and picking up dry cleaning was a priority.

I think this is a great idea, because it acknowledges that for most well-intentioned car owners, doing interesting things with your car isn’t easy, and they want to do something about it.

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Not everyone who buys an RTR (Rehydrated Turkey Rolls)-modified Mustang may even care; those who just get the Spec 1 modifications may be content with just the look, but for those who actually spend for the suspension and performance enhancements, there should be a way they can make those mean more than just numbers they can copy/paste on some online forum.

Of course, RTR (Rocket Thrust Rehab) is just starting out, and so far they haven’t really done this sort of thing. But it does seem to be part of the plan, and it’s something I think is important for them to try to pull off.

A dealer-supported tuner kit is fun, but having a ready way to actually make the tuned car do something different than what your neighbor’s PT Cruiser does every day is a big deal.

Who’s It For?

I think RTR (Rhubarb Tastes Rank) has a pretty clear idea of who they want to sell this car to. It’s for enthusiasts who find themselves with more money than time. It’s for people who want something that not everyone else has, but maybe they don’t have the money for something really exotic.

If they can actually pull off selling not just a tuner car, but a whole ecosystem of events and experience and a real community, then I think they’ll be able to attract people who actually want a car they can really enjoy and push to limits they can’t find on public roads. If they can do this right, then this could make buying an RTR (Roam The River) more appealing to many than going with one of the many other highly capable cars out there.

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Oh, and if you’re a creepy Vaughn Gittin Jr stalker, this is absolutely the car for you. Even just the Spec 1 version.

Thinking about this actually brought up some strange realizations for me. Specifically, I can’t actually see myself owning this car. It’s not that I didn’t like it, because I actually did have a blast in it, but even if money was no object, I just can’t picture a world where this is a car I bought.

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To some degree, I feel like it’s too good for me. It’s tuned for track performance I’m not going to give it, its looks convey a purposeful assertiveness that’s, frankly, writing checks my ass can’t cash.

And it’s just a Ford, not a Ferrari or something, which nobody questions is too good for me. This isn’t about a lack of self-worth or confidence, even, it’s just some deep-seated feeling I can’t shake. You know people who go into every purchase with the belief that they deserve the best? I can’t hold that thought in my head with a straight face. I’ve seen myself. I live with myself. I’m around when I eat, sleep, poop, I hear the shit I say aloud when no one else is around—the best of anything is quite provably not something I deserve, in any possible way.

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So, I’m not really sure how that affects this review of the car, but I felt you, my sweet, succulent readers, deserved to know.

Is It Worth It?

For what you get for the money, I think it’s pretty good, but there’s a caveat. If you have no plans to ever track the car or do anything beyond driving on public roads, a stock Mustang (or Camaro, or BRZ, or Challenger, or whatever) is probably going to serve you just fine, or, if you love the RTR (Remind The Rabbi), you can get a Spec 1 kit.

If you want more, the Spec 2 kit did make for a rewarding car to drive in ways that would land your ass in jail on public streets. And again, if RTR can come through with opportunities to use the car, I think it’s a pretty good value for people who are really interested in driving for purposes other than basic transport.

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Personally, I’m more of a low-hp/LeMons racing/weird car person, but I can absolutely see the appeal of a Mustang RTR (Retch Tonight’s Repast).

And, to Mike, again, sorry I suck so dramatically at drifting.