"Stomp the throttle and the...
"Stomp the throttle and the supercharged mill fries the tires in a satisfying onslaught of instant power."
This truck oozes confidence. Run down the main drag of any town and those bold LeMans stripes, 20-inch rims, and side-exit pipes scream for attention. Once all eyes are turned its way, get ready for a good show. Stab the throttle and the rear meats melt in a boisterous show of torque. This truck is The King of Burnouts.
What you're looking at is the '07 Roush Stage 3 Ford F-150, yet another creation from Jack Roush racing. Those who follow Craftsman Truck racing or NASCAR don't need to be introduced to Mr. Roush's industrial empire and the close ties it shares with FoMoCo. The two go back decades, and the relationship is now so close that selected Roush-edition cars and trucks are sold through Roush-authorized Ford dealers. As a bonus almost unheard of in the aftermarket, Roush-modified vehicles carry a full manufacturer's warranty, powertrain included.
Following on the heels of the hot new Stage 3 Mustang, Roush applied the same hop-up formula to the F-150. Essentially, the X + Y is to take a popular modern platform, then add proprietary style and speed parts to create something special.
The base for the truck-based Stage 3 comes from the high-end of the Ford line, the two-wheel-drive Super Cab in Lariat trim. In non-Roush form, this F-150 with an 8-foot bed features a competent 300hp 5.4L OHC V-8 hooked to a heavy-duty four-speed automatic. Things change a bit once the pit crew at Roush finishes adding an in-the-valley supercharger, a charge cooler, and other carefully engineered enhancements. Horsepower increases to 445 and torque hits an even 500, up from 365 lb-ft.
A bold hoodscoop visually tops off the powertrain but leads absolutely nowhere. Unlike the side exhaust, the scoop isn't functional.
To keep up with its new muscle, the Stage 3 ditches key suspension bits from Ford and replaces them with Roush-tuned units. The front coil and rear leaf springs are new, as well as the custom-valved Bilstein shocks and the front sway bar. The results are obvious before the truck turns a tire. The front ride height drops 2 inches, while the rear drops 3.
The extra inch of drop in the rear evens out the truck's ultra-long profile so the hood, roof, and box are all perfectly parallel with the pavement. This visually lengthens the Stage 3's look even beyond its considerable 18.6-foot length.
The under-the-metal modifications are broadcast by a boy-racer exterior and interior graced by 23 non-Ford logos. (23!) Beyond the obvious decals and badges, observant eyes will find the Roush name on each wheel rim, at the tips of the high-performance side exhaust, under the hood, and even under foot on the signature brake pedal.
Inside, the look carries through on the exterior's enthusiasm. The Stage 3 logos top the front buckets. Silver strips cross the seats and match the silver Roush trim package that dresses up the doors and center stack. Unfortunately, in the transition from stock Ford chairs to Roush chairs, the front buckets gained a convex firmness that makes average-size pilots tend to roll off to either side. This is an interior that drivers named Tiny and Bubba should find just about perfect.
Keeping with Roush's attention to detail, inset where a stock F-150's PRNDL would normally show on the instrument cluster, there is now a Roush logo. When the cluster lights are on, it reverses out in a wash of red light. Touches like this make owners know they're driving something different than the 750,000 F-Series trucks sold every year.
The Stage 3's look is spot on for what it is-a proud, American extrovert. Reactions from Michigan to Kentucky were universally positive, with frequent thumbs-up and numerous requests for stoplight burnouts. Like a happy dog ready to perform, the Stage 3 was always willing. Stomp the throttle and the supercharged mill fries the tires in a satisfying onslaught of instant power. The crowds went crazy.
When launched with even the slightest care for a quick getaway-as opposed to a grin-inducing burnout-the power flow is linear, and the 4R75E transmission executes firm shifts without ever missing a step. While Roush has not released performance figures, talk in the shop suggests that your grandma could run low 14-second quarter-miles.
Like the engine modifications, the suspension changes make themselves immediately known on the road. The high-performance 20-inch tires and rims track well. Cornering is much flatter than any pickup has a right to be. Remember, this truck tips the scales at 5,300 pounds. The package loves smooth roads like we found on the way to the Kentucky Speedway. The frost-heaved and pocked roads of Michigan were less loved, and Stage 3's performance in this theater reminded the author of a well-sorted musclecar from the late 1960s. Sharp bumps tended to cause a hint of axle hop, while large impacts caused minor shudders in the body structure. Given the massive amount of unsprung weight and its overall size-5 feet longer than a BMW Z4-the Stage 3 behaved itself.
All of this handling performance comes with a single caution: Roush-specified sticky rubber for the Stage 3, so sticky that axle-wrap can become a problem. Once that live axle gets bouncing, Roush engineers warn that the two-piece driveshaft can pull apart, which is not something you want to have happen as you're peeling out from the DQ showing off for the ladies. Tip: The quickest launches come with very little wheelspin.
Beyond any specific performance metrics, what the Roush Stage 3 F-150 delivers is simple fun. It's largely unmolested by insulting electronic driving aids that can't be turned off. The Stage 3 relies on the driver for making everything happen. Drive well, you go fast. Drive poorly, you go less fast. How refreshing. Mostly.
There was one electronic nanny we could not keep in the closet-the artificial top speed limiter. At your favorite drag strip or empty patch of interstate, drop the hammer and see what happens. Charging like a freight train down the mountain, the fun stops at 98 mph with a soft-hit speed limiter. The Roush PR team sheepishly admits that their company does not disable Ford's stock F-150 speed limiter for liability reasons. But, only 98 mph? A truck like this deserves better.
And a truck that costs this much deserves triple-digit bragging rights. As pictured, our test vehicle rings in at a suggested retail price of more than $55,000. The numbers add up like this: Ford F-150, around $33,000; base Roush Stage 3 package, $15,860; Roush options including side skirts, wheel flares, stripes, and rear wing total another $5,200. This is serious money-Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche Cayman money. But, the Stage 3 F-150 seats five, has an 8-foot bed, a 1,700-pound payload, and can tow your house-if you call a single-wide home.
'07 Roush Stage 3 Ford F-150
Base Price/As Tested:
Ford F-150 Lariat 4x2 approximately $33,000; Roush Stage 3 package and other Roush options at $21,000
Epa Fuel Economy:
Are you kidding? But, if you must know, 11 city/ 14 highway (2007 figures not yet available)
5.4L V-8, 445 hp / 500 lb-ft
Four-speed automatic, two-wheel drive
Approximately 5,300 lb
Front airbags, antilock brakes, available traction control
Major Standard Equipment:
Air conditioning with electronic temperature control, rear-window defroster, message center with trip computer, leather-wrapped steering wheel with duplicate controls, power driver seat, AM/FM/CD audio system
Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper, three years/36,000 miles on Roush-modified components, five years/60,000 miles on Ford powertrain components, five years/60,000 miles roadside assistance
The Final Word
However valid the math, value comparisons are not going to happen with this truck. At a Craftsman Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway this summer, three different individuals stopped to admire the truck parked in the garage area. Expectedly, each one knew the Roush name, but surprising the author, each also guessed the price within five percent. And not a one was put off by it. The team at Roush knows their customers as well as their trucks, and expects to sell approximately 1,500 units in 2007.
For authorized, local Roush dealers, visit www.roushperf.com. With 300 around the country, there should be one near you.