The Horsepower War Is Heating Up With OEMs And Mustang Tuners

There’s a horsepower war brewing on multiple fronts these days. The traditional, domestic Big Three automakers have been pushing the limits for nearly a decade now, starting with the introduction of the S197 Mustang for the 2005 model year. As much as it pains us to say it, currently Mopar is winning the horsepower war with their fat kitty, Hellcat Challenger. We know the upcoming GT350 is going to be a bad track machine, and wouldn’t be surprised to see it make 550 hp in naturally aspirated trim, but for the moment, Ford has lost its horsepower bragging rights. Ford has said there’s no GT500 on the horizon, but we’re still a bit skeptical of that, especially given the now rumored 700-plus horsepower in the upcoming GT supercar.

GM is also rearming themselves, with a 460 horsepower 2016 Camaro. This new Camaro is not only making more power than the Mustang, it’s also going to shed pounds and drop to around Mustang weight. We can speculate Ford’s ready for that, but we’re not sure if that will come as another horsepower bump for the Mustang GT, or as some revised engine for the car.

Meanwhile the Mustang tuning/aftermarket/builder world is in a horsepower war of its own. Last fall Roush showed off the RS3, announcing an unofficial horsepower rating of 625 hp, which we recently found out is actually producing 670 hp. Over the winter, Shelby American debuted and showed off its own high output Shelby GT, with a similar power rating. Then this spring, after what has appeared to be a very quiet few years for Saleen aside from the super limited S351 last year, Steve Saleen pulled the wraps off the Black Label Saleen, producing a claimed 730 hp which the company’s founder said makes this car “The most powerful production Mustang”.

Image credit: Roush Performance

While Saleen, Roush and Shelby are the big 3 of the Mustang tuning/building market, there’s a few other tuners we shouldn’t leave out of this as well. Hennessy has been making headlines since last fall when it announced the HPE700. That car puts out 717 hp, and Hennessey has a more powerful version, the HPE750, putting out 774 hp. Then there’s Vaughn Gittin Jr, and the Mustang RTR. That car in Spec 2 trim should also be a 725 hp horsepower player.

Image credit: Shelby American

There can be little doubt that in this tuner Mustang war, Roush and Saleen will continue to fire high powered volleys at one another. With the previous generation Mustang, Roush offered Phase 2 and 3 upgrades. Those upgrades could take the Coyote engine in a Stage 3 Mustang (or a Mustang equipped with a Roushcharger) into stratospheric horsepower areas. Roush has already put down 747 hp to the rear wheels testing parts that we believe will be the Phase 2 kit. Phase 3, which previously included upgrading to an Aluminator long block, could potentially put down over 850 hp, or more, with flywheel horsepower heading to the 1,000 range. Could we see limited production Roush 800R or something along those lines make it to the streets?

Image Credit: HPE. Hennessey is making big waves with the fastest S500 to date.

While the Shelby GT is the most expensive car of the latest crop of tuner Mustangs, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Shelby pull a few more cars out. With the absence of a GT500 in the current Ford lineup, a new KR, or even a Shelby American branded GT500 could be in the works. There’s also room for a Super Snake, or Shelby 10000 in this batch as well. No word yet on if any of those are in the works.

Image credit: RTR

We doubt that Saleen will sit still either. In the past Saleen offered through their Speedlab brand, plenty of upgrades for their cars, or for enthusiasts. There’s also the possibility of a super limited SA car coming up for a limited run, or something beyond the Black Label perhaps?

Pricing has yet to be released on some of these cars. We do know that the RS3 will carry a starting price under $60,000, depending on what options you add to a Mustang GT, or through Roush. Saleen is just over $70k.

Saleen and Roush appear to be going head to head as two of the oldest names in the Mustang game.

While in theory, you could build your own variation of any of these cars, making as much or more power, each also puts you into an exclusive club. There’s the Roush, which as far as we know is the only pre-title car, that’s considered manufactured by Roush (as far as we’re aware all others are post-title packages). Buying a car from an authorized dealer for Roush, Saleen, RTR, or Shelby also nets owners warranty backing and a higher resale value should you decided to trade up in the future.

So what happens now? Who fires the next shot? Does Ford bring out a higher powered Mustang GT, or a new GT500 to play in the hight output field? Could Roush, Saleen, or Shelby have another trick up their sleeves? Regardless of what happens next, it’s a good time to be a Mustang fan.

About the author

Don Creason

Don Creason is an automotive journalist with passions that lie from everything classic, all the way to modern muscle. Experienced tech writer, and all around car aficionado, Don's love for both cars and writing makes him the perfect addition to the Power Automedia team of experts.
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