“Let’s go for it,” I said with complete confidence, turning the truck toward the pit. “This truck can do anything.”
It Better Be Good For $91,000
Best known for its hot-rodded Mustangs, Roush Performance has been around since 1995 and sells tuned Mustangs, F-150 pickups, parts, and an expansive line of crate engines, which have become popular with hot-rodders and car builders.
Roush offers five amped-up versions of Ford’s F-150, including a Raptor with a performance exhaust system and some choice cosmetic tweaks. At the top of the range, and the most expensive, is the 5.0-liter V8 powered Roush F-150 SC, which is the only supercharged model offered. And it doesn’t come cheap.
Above the price of the supplied F-150, the Roush Supercharged Package – which includes suspension mods, exterior upgrades, and the blower – costs $24,900. Our test truck was based on a sufficiently loaded $63,945 2018 F-150 Supercrew Lariat, and came equipped with a few extra Roush options including Ebony leather upholstery and Raptor-esque splash graphics on its bedsides. Total price was a mouth watering $91,204. Gulp. That’s $33,769 more than factory-fresh crew cab Raptor.
Increasing the 5.0-liter’s performance is essentially the same 2.65-liter TVS positive displacement supercharger Roush uses on its Stage 3 Mustang, plus new fuel rails, injectors, an air-to-water intercooler and a bigger throttle body. The blower is emissions legal in all 50 states and makes 12 psi of boost using a Roush-designed intake manifold and Eaton’s new R2650 rotating assembly with rotors featuring 170 degrees of twist (up from 160 degrees) for better sealing. The new design is also more durable with larger bearings and thicker timing gears.
From the factory Ford rates the 5.0-liter at 395 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, and Roush says the blower increases those numbers by an incredible 255 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. Final ratings for the Roush are 650 hp at 6300 rpm and 610 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. Gulp. That’s 200 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque more than the Raptor’s twin-turbo V6.
Roush leaves the F-150’s 10-speed automatic alone, as well as the rest of its drivetrain. Even the V8’s start/stop system remains active, which we thought was pretty cool, and its smooth enough, even with the blower, that we used it extensively. Still, we only averaged 12.2 mpg.
Refined and Fast On The Street
Before heading for Hungry Valley, we drove the 2019 Roush F-150 SC for a few days around L.A., using it essentially like a family sedan. In the day-to-day the Roush is refined and extremely civilized. The company, which is based in Plymouth Township, Michigan, has managed to increase the truck’s performance without sacrificing its daily livability.
The engine is brawny, but surprisingly quiet. There isn’t any noticeable blower whine, which honestly was a little disappointing. There is a nice subdued rumble from the cat-back Roush Performance Exhaust System, but it isn’t much louder than stock.
For buyers looking to disturb the peace Roush offers an optional active system, which is programmable with the Roush Active Exhaust Mobile App. According to Roush the kit is adjustable with a dial on the console, allowing you to choose between three modes, Touring, Sport and Custom. With the app, owners can control the action of a valve in the system, creating their own custom exhaust note based on rpm, vehicle speed, and accelerator position. You can even play with app as you drive.
Roush has been supercharging Ford V8s for over two decades and its engineers have it pretty well figured out. Throttle response is sharp and the 5.0’s power delivery is clean and linear. There’s more power everywhere on the tach and there isn’t any part -throttle funny business, or issues when you snap off the pedal.
And it’s fast. Significantly faster than stock. Floor the throttle and the Roush keeps you pinned to the seat as the tightly spaced gears of its 10-speed click off at 6,000 rpm. Ford nailed it with this transmission, which offers a Sport mode. Its response and hard firm shifts are right on.
Is the Roush faster than a Raptor? It should be with those power ratings, but it just doesn’t feel like it is and we don’t have any explanation for it. It doesn’t ride as well as a Raptor either. Roush refused to share the spring and damping rates of its suspension system, but they’re definitely more aggressive than you’ll find under a Raptor. Roush also bolts on 20-inch wheels and tires from Mickey Thompson, which have a much shorter sidewall than the 17-inch rubber on a Raptor. The result is a busier ride, although the Roush isn’t uncomfortable over most road surfaces.
When we asked Roush why it doesn’t use a smaller wheel and a larger sidewall tire combination a company representative answered, “Aesthetics, our customers were looking for a capable wheel/tire set that also looks sporty and aggressive. That said, we haven’t axed the idea of a smaller wheel …”
Very Capable Off-Road
Out of the gate, our expectations for the Roush’s off-road capability were low. The short sidewall of its tires gave us pause and we thought its front airdam was going to be torn off by the first obstacle. Roush also doesn’t add any body protection or skidplates to the chassis.
Roush replaces the F-150’s springs with 2-inch taller units and its shocks with 2-inch diameter aluminum pieces from Fox Racing, the same company that supplies the Raptor’s dampers. Roush says the new parts raise the truck 2-inches all around and increase its wheel travel the same amount.
We measured 12.75-inches beneath the truck’s stock front rubber airdam, 13.5-inches of clearance under its small aluminum skidplate protecting its front axle disconnect and 9.5-inches under its rear differential. Which proved to be enough. Ground clearance was never a problem, and the Ford’s front airdam remained on the truck.
With its substantial power, locking rear differential, deep 4WD Low Range gearing and knobby Mickey Thompson Baja ATX P3 tires (305/55R20), the Roush handled everything we could throw at it. It doesn’t have the ground clearance or the wheel travel of a Raptor, but its has enough of each to handle most terrain.
After the pickup easily clawed it way up a particularly rutted slope that maxed out its wheel travel multiple times our co-driver said, “You know, this truck is really impressive off-road. With a set of rock sliders and a beefy bunch of skidplates it would be pretty unstoppable.”
And then I decided to drive through the mud pit.
The warning light came on as soon as the brown water splashed up over the hood and windshield, “Charging System Malfunction”. The truck was running fine, however, and we were nearly 100 miles from home. And it was fine, all the way back to Los Angeles, but just a few miles from our exit, on a packed San Diego Freeway, the radio stopped. According to the readout on the truck’s touchscreen it had shut itself off to “conserve power”. Uh oh.
It turned out the muddy water had fried the truck’s alternator – no fault of Roush, or Ford for that matter. We pulled over and we waited for a tow truck. A little while later, a man named Manny climbed from his big white wrecker with an even bigger grin. “That’s a sweet looking truck,” he said. “Is it a Raptor?”
It’s an easy mistake to make. A mistake Roush doesn’t shy away from considering the pickup’s Raptor-like grille, front bumper cover, splash graphics and small yellow running lights. Roush also adds sizable black wheelwell flares, matte black stripes to the hood and tailgate and an almost comical amount of Roush badges. The name appears on the truck’s exterior 14 times and there are seven more inside and under the hood.
It’s a cool looking truck. We couldn’t help but admire its design as it drove off hooked to the back of Manny’s tow truck. And next time we’ll listen to our codriver.