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2018 Roush JackHammer performance review

By David Morley | Photos: Cristian Brunelli, 07 Oct 2018 Reviews

2018 Roush JackHammer performance review

Roush has given the JackHammer treatment to the 2018 mustang, creating a 530kW supercharged v8 animal

Every now and then, somebody comes up with a fair-dinkum ripper name for a new car.

AMG Hammer works for me and so does Dodge Hellcat, but oddly, HSV’s new SportsCat does not. Plymouth’s ’60s Road Runner whacked it out of the park, but more recently, Lambo’s Gallardo (if you pronounce it properly) and Subaru’s Levorg (it’s ‘grovel’ backwards) have both sounded the fail buzzer.

For some reason, middle-aged women didn’t want to buy a car called a Kuga, either. But then along comes this car, the JackHammer, and we’re all smiles again.

The JackHammer is a one-year, 200-example deal engineered by none other than Roush (Jack Roush; JackHammer, geddit?) in the US and based on the MY18 Mustang. Predictably, the home market will easily absorb that sort of volume, but as a nod to the time and effort invested in the Mustang franchise by Melbourne-based Mustang Motorsport (MM), Roush has issued the Ferntree Gully locals with 10 kits and 10 build plates and sufficient blessings to produce 10 right-hand drive JackHammers. And we managed to grab one.

So what’s JackHammer, then? Well, the guts of it is the Roush blower kit which bolts a twin-screw pump with 2.65-litre lungs and a new rotor design to the new-for-MY18 5.0-litre Coyote V8. The larger capacity is a nod to the new engine’s direct-injection revability and its new 7500rpm redline, and it means that boost pressures of about 10psi can be maintained right through to that point.

The six-speed manual gearbox and new twin-plate clutch remain unchanged, as do the brakes. Oh, and there’s a 10-speed automatic version in the works, so stand by for that. Meanwhile, call this mutha 530kW (710 neddies for the Yankophiles out there) and you can see where this is going.

Visually, the JackHammer stands apart with a body kit that incorporates spoilers with actual functionality as well as stuff like the stripes, badging and those 20-inch rims with an extra 10mm of rubber at either end.

There’s also a slew of Roush-reminders like the sill-plates, engine-bay badge, floor mats, windscreen banner and various black-outs. But don’t go thinking you’ll mock up yer own J-Hammer, because the grille, garnishes and badges cannot be bought separately. You either get them with your JackHammer or you don’t get them. Simples.

This car also had a few Roush options including the three-way adjustable coilovers (height-adjustables are standard) and a louder exhaust. If you can spare the change, you can also opt for billet pedals, window scoops, Roush-branded leather chairs (or Recaros) Cup 2 tyres and even a bespoke Roush toolkit.

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The thing to remember here is that, as an OE supplier to Ford Global, all the Roush gear is manufactured, tested and backed to the same standard. All the Aussie JackHammers will have a Mustang Motorsport secondary-manufacturer compliance plate so there won’t be any tears when Constable Unstable hauls you up for a chat. The deal includes a three-year/60,000km driveline warranty, too.

The flip side is that if it’s a JackHammer you want, you can’t go fussing with the specs. Yes, you can buy the driveline package including the blower for $18,000 and have MM bolt that on, but if that’s all you want, you won’t be getting the JackHammer badges and Roush build-plate. Seems fair to us.

Additionally, you can order your Roush JackHammer through a participating Ford dealer and pick it up from there, or you can truck a brand-spankers MY18 Mustang to Ferntree Gully and do it that way. Just don’t turn up with a 20,000km example and expect the full JackHammer treatment. ’Cos Jack’s Hammer is far from an aftermarket car, see.

So it ain’t an aftermarket kit, but it aint slow, either. So, how not slow? Well, consider that recently, we ran the stocko MY18 ’Stang manual down the strip. Thanks to that l-o-n-g first gear, the sometimes tricky clutch action and the usual obstacles high-power rear-drivers throw up at a dragstrip, we coaxed a 0-100km/h time of 5.1sec and a 400m time of 13.2sec out of it.

But here’s where it gets a bit tangly. See, when we took the JackHammer up to Heathcote for a zoom down the hotmix, the ambient was about nine degrees, it was drizzling on and off and there were damp patches in both lanes. And I got attacked by a goddam plover. But even then, old Jay-Ham smashed the stocker for six with a 0-100km/h time of 4.5sec and a 12.3sec for the quarter. Throw in the terminal speed of 195.1km/h and that’s going some. With the auto ’box, it would be a lazy 11-second rig.

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In fact, even with a warmer day, the manual should be capable of 11-something, but as it was, the conditions just seemed to show up that tall first gear all the more. And you can forget the factory launch control; it’s hopeless (as many are these days) and you’re better off turning off the traction control, loading dragstrip mode and paying attention.

Even then, the throttle calibration (more of which later) seems to let the engine bog down as you step off the clutch. Either that, or you dial up way more revs than you need and sit there as it goes up in smoke, tramping its heavy-duty driveshafts like a bad-tempered kid in aisle seven. I even aired the rears down to 22psi, but it didn’t seem to do much at all.

So the 60-foot time blows. But once it gets rolling, man does this thing pour on the coals. Fact is, I haven’t driven too many cars at all with a top-end buzz like this one. You get the feeling that there’s a pretty sophisticated boost curve in there, too, because the engine never feels huffy or overtly boosted. Instead, it just swells up as revs rise, almost as if the engine is growing bigger pistons as it revs up.

By the time you’ve got 3500rpm showing, the 5.0-litre feels like a 6.0-litre and by 5000 or so, you’d swear there was an atmo 7.0-litre lurking under the lid. This will serve it well at a track where its greater predictability will give it an edge. Doesn’t hurt on back roads either. Ahem.

Like any other Mustang Motorsports car we’ve driven, the open-road driveability hasn’t been ditched in the name of a big horsepower number. Fact is, the way the boost builds progressively, the car will only ever go as fast as you tell it to. It remains an undaunting prospect despite that enormous top-end.

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The caveat here, however, is that the part-throttle, low-engine-speed mapping feels a bit all over the place to me. The tip-in can almost feel two-stage and even when you squeeze the gas on carefully, if there’s less than about 1700rpm on the tacho, you’ll often get a kind of messy, grunting, shunting response that wouldn’t cut it in a 15-grand hatchback.

But Mustang Motorsport assures us this tune was only ever designed to get the thing homologated and that there’s a revised set of maps in the works. Drive it like a lunatic and you’ll never notice it. But bimble around in traffic and it’ll soon be driving you nuts.

The rest of the deal is better. The adjustable coilovers offer up a pretty firm ride, but the ’Stang is saved from the crashing into holes by the sheer brilliance of the damping rates. Okay, the whole thing still feels like a very long, kind of narrow car, and in faster corners on bumpy stuff, even the Pilot Sport 4Ss will allow a little sideways fidget.

It never develops into anything nasty, but it’s not helped by the fast steering ratio and you can’t help but think the whole game might be soothed a bit with a slightly slower rack. Brakes? Loads of feel and plenty of initial bite and they seem to work spot on with the tyres.

It sounds brilliant, especially with the active exhaust locked open. Inside, it’s even a bit sophisticated with the refined and high-stepping feel of the 5.0-litre reminding you more of a Euro V8 than a Stateside one. From outside it’s a different story, and to passers-by the bugger must sound like somebody strangling Barry White through a 10,000 Watt PA.

The new twin-plate clutch felt okay to me and I didn’t sense a lack of feel or precision in the take-up point. The clutch refused to be overcome in the heat of battle at the drag-strip, too, so it looks like Ford has got that right.

The gearshift is a belter, as well. The shifts are short, but the action is quiet and slick and never fails to slot home the cog you were looking for. Actually, this shift is among the best in the biz, suggesting once again that maybe, just maybe, car makers haven’t given up on the manual ’box just yet.

The new interior is a big step up and the digital readouts that you can tailor really do take things to a whole new level in the world of Mustangs. That said, the plastic fit and finish still isn’t perfect and the bit of the door panel that surrounds the interior handle still manages to remind me – somehow – of a mid-’80s F150 truck.

The single-action toggle switches remain to annoy me and what’s with the heated and cooled front chairs that still feature a manual backrest tilt? So, yeah, it’s better, but it’s still not how Audi would do it.

Of course, neither Roush, Ford nor Mustang Motorsport set out to out-Audi Audi, did they? Nope, the mission statement was always all about offering up a value-for-money package that would line up against everything from a supercar down and skin it alive. And trust me, when you first feel that bent-eight hit about 4500rpm with the wire tight, the last thing you’ll be thinking about will be the door trims. 

Test and rated on MOTOR reviews

FAST FACTS 
2018 Roush JackHammer

BODY: 2-door, 4-seat coupe
DRIVE: rear-drive

ENGINE: 5038cc V8, dohc, 32v, supercharger
POWER: 530kW 
TORQUE: 827Nm
WEIGHT: 1732kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 306kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual 
SUSPENSION: MacPherson struts, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-link, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
STEERING: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
BRAKES: 380mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 330mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 20 x 9.5-inch (f); 20 x 10.0-inch (r)
TYRES: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S, 265/35R20 (f); 285/35R20 (r)
PRICE: $104,790 (including price of Mustang GT)

PROS: That’s horsepower, right there
CONS: Low-speed tune a bit sketchy. For now
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

The Strip

Roush JackHammer
0-10km/h 0.49sec
0-20km/h 0.93sec
0-30km/h 1.42sec
0-40km/h 1.81sec
0-50km/h 2.18sec
0-60km/h 2.55sec
0-70km/h 2.92sec
0-80km/h 3.70sec
0-90km/h 4.10sec
0-100km/h 4.54sec
0-110km/h 5.03sec
0-120km/h 5.56sec
0-130km/h 6.41sec
0-140km/h 7.15sec
0-150km/h 7.83sec
0-160km/h 8.54sec
0-170km/h 9.34sec
0-180km/h 10.33sec
0-190km/h 11.75sec
0-200km/h 12.95sec
0-400m 12.34sec @ 195.11km/h
80-120km/h 1.8sec
Speed in gears
1st 86km/h @ 7400rpm
2nd 132km/h @ 7400rpm
3rd 196km/h @ 7400rpm
4th 250km/h @ 6650rpm*
5th 250km/h @ 5400rpm*
6th 250km/h @ 4130rpm*

Heathcote Dragway, 9˚C, dry. Driver: David Morley *Manufacturer’s claim

Cost of Admission

So, let’s start with a brand-spanker Mustang GT Fastback; that’s $62,990 to you, sir/madam, plus whatever kick in the balls your home State or Territory decides to tack on in the name of on-road costs.

Okay, so that’s not bad value when you think about it, but when you add up the numbers on this particular Roush JackHammer, the extras contribute a further $41,800, most of which is the blower kit at a neat $18K. That, then, takes the as-tested price to $104,790.Now that’s a fair chunk over the stocker, but when you consider the steam this thing can generate and compare it with other cars that are roughly as fast, the JackHammer starts to generate a tinge of ‘bargain’ around itself.

Throw in the three-year driveline warranty and the fact that the package is seven-States legal, and it only looks better.If you’re the careful type, you might just want to specify the blower kit, which you can, but you can forget about the Roush build-plate and anything else that goes with the JackHammer package. There’s also an auto coming with the new 10-speed ’box. And if that’s not a dead-set weapon, we’ll give this game away and cook hamburgers or deliver flowers for a living.