Ford Mustangs have always blended into the grey for me. Even the really rare or crazy ones. Mach 1s, GT500s, EcoBoosts, or even the rental spec V6s; it doesn’t matter. As exotic as they try to be, they’re always part of the norm here in America. But that concept changed for me once I got to experience a new Ford Mustang RTR Series 1.
(Full disclosure: RTR lent us a Mustang RTR to tool around in for a week with a full tank of gas. )
If you’ve forgotten about the RTR, or maybe are just confused by the multitude of Mustang models available now, let me give you a refresher.
The Mustang RTR is the product of RTR, a tuning shop created by drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr., and Ford Performance. Their cars are done up with some, usually tasteful, body tweaks and performance upgrades. (Oh, and RTR stands for “Ready to Rock,” apparently.)
In a press release, RTR goes out of its way to clarify that though Gittin Jr. is a drifter, these are not drift cars, but rather sports cars capable of a “diverse driving experience.” The RTR Series 1 package is a $7,495 option on top of the Mustang’s cost from Ford.
The car we were loaned had RTR’s trademark grille with embedded lit-up triangles, some new aero bits including a splitter, side skirts, a bulbous rear diffuser, and a gurney flap that’s attached to the Ford Performance Pack’s rear spoiler. And lookswise, it all actually works.
As for performance, well, that pretty much depends on what options you choose from Ford for the base Mustang. For RTR’s Series 1 pack, the shop requires a car optioned with Ford Performance Pack 1 or 2. Beyond that, RTR offers to throw on the Ford Performance Supercharger, which brings the factory 5.0-liter Coyote V8's power from 460 HP to over 700, according to the tuner. The supercharger itself is a $7,699 option, according to the Ford Performance website.
Obviously, our test car was fitted with the Good Big Air Sucker™.
RTR also drops their Series 1 Mustangs onto lowering springs, unless the buyer opts for Ford’s MagneRide adjustable suspension setup.
Maybe it’s the RTR grille lights, or the brash exhaust noise in track mode, or the massive, stupid-but-loveable window banner on the press car loaned to us, but this Mustang just kept getting attention. And I didn’t even hit any crowds!
(Look, sorry. I had to get one of these in here).
Everyone loved this thing. That was especially obvious when I was driving it around Binghamton, a college town and shell of a former industrial city in upstate New York. Reactions were everything from “What is that?” to “Oh shit! Rev it!” from onlookers on the street.
Strangely enough, it even caught the attention of New York Police Department Commissioner James P. O’Neill at one point when I was driving around lower Manhattan. He was crossing in front of me and asked “What’s that? A GT?”
Not quite, Mr. Commissioner.
In fact, the only person who had anything negative to say about this thing, publicly at least, was a teen-looking kid on a bicycle who rode by and yelled “Ugly-ass Mustang” at me while I drove by. I thought that was rude.
So, societal impact and street presence aside, this Mustang absolutely goes.
My very first impressions of the car were in dense New York City traffic, where it’s basically impossible to get a proper feel for just how much power the RTR has. In fact, if you have to deal with any sort of traffic, consistent stop lights, or any sort of non-moving car time, it’s safe to say this car will not be fun. In fact, it’ll hate you.
You’ll be reminded of this every time you press your left foot down on its impressively heavy clutch pedal, or when your body lurches forward each time you dab the brakes. Though the throttle can be modulated pretty easily around the city, the car’s other controls are those of a true performance car.
In most normal, everyday driving, you’re actually hard-pressed to tell that this Mustang even has as much power as advertised. It kind of feels like a standard Mustang GT, only louder and with a stiffer ride.
In short, it’s not fun in traffic.
Once I was able to get it out of the city, I was finally able to see some of this Mustang’s true capabilities.
It’s fucking fast. And it’s not terrible at cornering, either.
When you roll the power on, which I recommend doing somewhere safe (ideally with a long, straight road), the RTR just launches. At first, it took me a while to get comfortable with the 700 HP that the Ford Performance supercharger and the car’s 5.0-liter Coyote V8 put out. But after I caught up with it and gained a bit more faith in the 3.73 Mustang Torsen limited-slip differential, I was totally hooked.
This car was also optioned with Ford’s active performance exhaust. When you toggled through the drive modes, found a loud-friendly setting, and went for it, this Mustang shouted like a train horn. Actually, its noise kind of reminded me of the Destroyer monster’s shriek from the first Thor movie. Though, maybe with a bit more V8.
Even from the cabin, the noise was somewhat frightening. But, you know. In a good way.
That being said, if you do find yourself digging into the 700 HP somewhat frequently, don’t be shocked if you also end up throwing your wallet at this car’s gas tank. According to the Mustang’s onboard computer, I averaged 15.3 miles per gallon. I’m amazed it was even that good. I filled up three times in 600 miles.
The RTR seemed capable of navigating the country backroads that I threw at it, but I could never shake the sense that it was just too damn big. The hood felt long, the car felt slightly top-heavy, and I didn’t love how the suspension handled itself— a little bouncy and twitchy—over the imperfect country roads I had it on. Though, as always, I was impressed by the grip of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires that were wrapped around its RTR wheels.
It wasn’t the most confidence-inspiring drive. But maybe, with a bit more time, I could’ve gotten a bit more comfortable with how it danced on my Catskill roads.
All in all, it’s a capable sports car, even with the extra 200 or so HP that the supercharger tosses at it. But, it’s not a car for the faint-hearted or poorly skilled. If you want to dig into this car’s power, you best know how to respect it, and drive within your own limits.
But, hell. I do like that lit grille.