My definition of automotive fun is a car that can, at will, blow the tires off. Call me crazy, but there's nothing more fun than feeling a car's back end get out of step with the front end, especially from a roll. Any stick car can turn over the tires if you rev it up and dump the clutch, but to get a car out of shape from a roll; that's doing something. Since my '94 Cobra isn't that much fun, it's always enjoyable to drive something more powerful. The great thing is, I had this much fun in a brand-new Mustang . . . specifically, a 2010 Roush 540RH, known appropriately as the Hammer.
In these days of computer-controlled this, and microprocessor-regulated that, the fact that you can walk into a local Ford dealer and purchase a car that makes 500 hp at the wheels is a great thing. When we first received news of the Roush 540RH, we couldn't wait to get our hands on one. Fortunately, in mid-January the speed gods smiled down on us, and we got the keys to an arrest-me-and-throw-away-the-keys-red Roush 540RH.
Upon laying eyes on the 540RH, the first thing that strikes you is the car's unassuming exterior. If you're none the wiser, the 540RH could pass off as a stock '10 Mustang with Roush wheels.
The 540RH is definitely a wolf in sheep's clothing. Its graphics are subdued, and its badging is limited to a small Roush emblem on each fender and trunk lid, and a 540RH faux gas cap out back. If they're getting a quick glimpse of the gas cap, they'll already know this is not a "regular" '10 GT. By that time, it's way too late.
Roush [(800) 59-ROUSH; www.roushperformance.com
] designed the 540RH in this manner so owners would have a blank canvas for their own custom touches. If it were me, I'd probably take the side emblems off for an even more stealthy appearance.
Impressed by the Hammer's appearance, I slid into the driver seat. The upright seating position offered a commanding view of the road. Ignition greeted me with a beautiful, raucous exhaust tone, but I wasn't sold yet.
Letting out the clutch, I first had to exit our Tampa, Florida, office's parking lot. Once out on public roads, I eased it out in First gear; then gave it a little gas. The car responded quickly, accelerating briskly. I knew instantly that I was onto something with this car.
I shifted into Second and goosed it to about three-quarter throttle. I was greeted with the rear stepping out of place. Seriously, did this car just break the tires loose from a Second-gear roll? I had to try it again to see if I was imagining things. Sure enough, the second time produced the same result. "Turner's not getting the keys back now," I thought. At that moment, the Roush 540RH and I became one. Every time I drove the car I felt like a redneck saying, "Hey, ya'll, watch this!" It was as thrilling as riding a roller coaster.
Speaking of which, everyone I know is aware that I get to drive cool Mustangs from time to time. They never want to ride in my '94 Cobra, but they're all about a ride if I'm in any new Mustang. Such was the case for the 540RH. Everyone wanted a spin, and of course, who am I to turn down scaring the bejeezus out of friends and family members? It was an honor.
Most people don't get to experience the kind of acceleration the Roush 540RH is capable of dishing out. The passenger-side door panel is probably a little loose, and the foot well may have some dents in it from people hanging on for dear life and hitting the imaginary brakes. People tend to act that way when they're outside their automotive comfort range. There was plenty of that with this Roush.
Rated at 540 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, the 540RH packs a Three-Valve engine with forged bottom-end components and a boost-friendly, 8.6:1 compression ratio. The 540RH's engine is the same design that debuted in the '09 Roush P-51 Mustang. The supercharger sitting atop the Three-Valve is what Roush calls its Next-Generation R2300 Roushcharger. This supercharger's TVS technology utilizes four-lobe rotors with a high-flow inlet and outlet to enhance efficiency and broaden its power range. Simply put, the TVS helps the Roush get moving in a hurry without losing big steam at the top of the tach. To keep the monster fed, Roush upgraded the 540RH's fuel system, and added 52-lb/hr injectors and unique fuel rails.
Naturally, the 540RH receives Roush's own suspension, with front and rear springs; front and rear stabilizer bars; and jounce bumpers as standard. Our test car wore Roush's optional front strut and rear shock upgrade. Thankfully, its leaves Roush's headquarters with its anti-wheelhop kit, as well. As such, we never experienced wheelhop with the 540RH, and trust me, it had plenty of chances. The '10 Mustang is such a great platform to begin with, and Roush's suspension enhancements only add to the driving experience. We didn't have a chance to put it through its paces on a road course, but on the street, the 540RH is a royal blast to drive, and it doesn't beat you up.
So how much does all this excitement cost? Well, that's the 540RH's only sticky point. The sticker on our tester, which had several options, came in at $57,082. For a Mustang-any Mustang-that's pretty steep, but the base price minus the wheel, brake, and other options is around $46,000.
I was contemplating that very thing one day while driving the 540RH in traffic when I looked over at the owner of a new BMW. I can't remember the model, but it had to cost around the same as the 540RH. All I could think was, "That guy can't be having as much fun driving that car as I am the 540RH." I was the one enjoying the ultimate driving machine.
Waking The Demons
Roush's intention was to create a sleeper with the 540RH. Although I woke it up every time I drove the car, Editor Turner and I took the car up to Gainesville Raceway [(352) 377-0046; www.gainesvilleraceway.com
] to see what the car would officially run. I didn't know what the 540RH was good for, as I have never regularly driven and raced a car like it. I was just going to let her eat, and let the e.t.'s fall where they may.
We arrived at Gainesville in time to let the car cool, but Blow-By Racing's Chris Jones also clued us in that the Roush featured an intercooler pump function with key-on. After letting the car cool for more than an hour, I lined up the car in the burnout box. I performed a cover-worthy burnout, and pulled the 540RH up to the line. The track was freshly prepped, but with the power on hand I didn't really know how the car would react out of the hole. I "launched" the Roush just above idle and hammered down. Shockingly, the Roush only spun a tad on the 1-2 shift. Other than that, it was a drama-free run.
I was unable to look at the timeslip before pulling back around to the staging lanes where everyone was waiting. Someone yelled out, "12.7." I thought to myself that was a good start. Turns out, it was actually an 11.74 at 122 mph. My mood instantly improved. "Wow," is what I thought. I thought they were really pulling my leg until I actually saw the timeslip. The 60-foot time was a 1.92, and our eighth-mile time a 7.71 at 97 mph. Right off the bat we already had a solid run under our belt.
With such a solid baseline, Editor Turner and I took turns trying to beat that first run, but to no avail. The track was so good on that first run, and there were several other cars at the track that day so starting line grip was harder and harder to come by.
Luckily, we had a back-up plan, which included well-worn Mickey Thompson E/T Street Radials mounted on GT500 wheels. We got the radials from Jeffrey Schmell, and the Roush presented the perfect opportunity to try them out. We sat down, had a sandwich, and bolted on the drag radials. After a couple passes on the radials, we were finally able to get back to where we started. Our last run of the day with me at the wheel was our best time. I launched at 3,000 rpm, and let her eat. I passed the 60-foot marker in 1.794 seconds, the eighth-mile mark at 7.64 at 95 mph, and the quarter-mile mark at 11.71 at 121.66 mph.
Our first pass turned out to be an anomaly since we couldn't even come close to it on street tires, but on drag radials, our performance was much easier to duplicate. With a pair of fresh drag radials, I believe we could've reduced our times by a couple tenths, but we were ecstatic with the 11.70s. To march in a Ford dealership, buy a car, drive it to the track, and run 11.70s at more than 120 mph is amazing.
On the Dyno
After our day at the Gainesville Raceway, we were really curious to see what the Roush 540RH made at the tire. Yes, it carries the 540 designation for a reason, but that is its crank horsepower, not rear-wheel horsepower. We blasted over to Proven Power [(813) 988-DYNO; www.provenpowertampa.com], just a few miles from our Tampa, Florida, office. On the dyno, the Roush 540RH showed 506 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque at the wheels! For some reason when Editor Turner imported the dyno files into our Dynojet software it only showed 496, but left the torque number at 475 lb-ft, but either way we are confident in saying the 540RH is good for 500 at the tire. The interesting thing is the Roush's air/fuel ratio. As it turns out, the Roush software is still really safe-as in really, really safe. With just tuning, it would be possible to make 520-530 at the wheels, but we'll let the car's owners make that decision.
5.0 Tech Specs
2010 Roush 540RH
Engine and Drivetrain
Rotating Assembly Roush Performance forged crankshaft, forged H-Beam connecting rods, and forged aluminum pistons
Compression Ratio 8.6:1
Camshafts Roush Performance
Heads Roush Performance Three-Valve
Intake Roush Performance
Throttle Body Roush Performance dual 60mm
Mass Air Roush Performance with the company's cold air induction system
Power Adder Roush Performance R2300 ROUSHcharger (featuring TVS technology), intercooled
Fuel System Roush Performance upgrades, and featuring fuel rails, 52-lb/hr injectors
Transmission Stock five-speed
Clutch Roush-upgraded clutch, aluminum flywheel, and short-throw shifter
Rearend Stock 8.8 w/ 3.55 gears, limited-slip differential
Engine Management Stock computer, Roush calibration
Gauges Roush white face
Chassis and Suspension
Struts Roush Performance
Springs Roush Performance
Brakes Roush Big Brake upgrade
Wheels Roush Performance 18-inch chrome
Tires Cooper RS3
Shocks Roush Performance
Springs Roush Performance
Control Arms Roush Performance with anti-wheelhop kit
Brakes Roush Performance
Wheels Roush Performance 18-inch chrome
Tires Cooper RS3