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I went on a few more test drives recently. Last friday, my goal was to test drive a ZL1 and/or a 2013 GT500, but it was impossible to locate one nearby with a dealer that was willing to allow a test drive. I spent most of the morning on the phone and internet searching, but in the end found nothing. I couldn't even find a 2012 GT500 nearby, and finally late Friday morning I settled on testing a 2013 Roush Stage 3 Mustang at a local dealer. The Roush Mustang was a big disappointment. There is absolutely no way I could drive it around on a daily basis. My first complaint is the exhaust. It sounds good at idle and even at very light thottle, but at medium or full throttle, it is really, really loud, and the drone is annoying too. At one point during the test drive I had to accelerate to get in front of someone, and I felt a bit foolish with all the noise I made doing it. The exhaust doesn't have the tradional round outlets and instead they are a weird organic semi-circle shape that doesn't look good. I don't like much of anything about the Roush styling treatment, including the window louvers and fake, non-functional hood scoop, Probably the biggest disappoitment was the shifter. The 2-3 and 4-5 shifts were difficult to pull off quickly because of the imprecise, spongy/notchy shifter. The shifter in the Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 (more on this later) were fantastic in comparison to the one in the Roush. I don't know if this was a Ford quality control issue or if the GT500 and Boss just get a better shifter. I do know that the Roush is a modified Mustang 5.0, so perhaps it is an entirely different shifter, the one that goes into the base Mustang 5.0. The one thing I did like about the Roush was the acceleration, but the entire Roush package was far worse than expected, and the ride-quality was poor too. I can't see how any dealer will ever sell one of these cars with a Boss 302 or Shelby sitting next to it.

After my disappointing test drive last Friday in the Roush, I spent more time all week long trying to locate a dealer that had the cars I was interested in taking out for a spin. I came across a place in Owings Mills, Maryland that had a 2011 C63 AMG, 2012 Shelby GT500, several CTS-Vs, and tons of other cars I dream about. I even noticed after I got there that they had a 2012 Camaro ZL1 that had not been added to their online database yet. This place specializes in high-performance cars and exotics. They had a GT-R, Porsches, Lambos, Ferraris, and just about everything else you could imagine. I like this place because it's like a one stop shop for evaluating different cars.

The sales guy who came with me on the test drives was really cool, and he allowed me to test each car on a special 25 minute route he takes all his "car enthusiast" customers on that includes some city driving and lots of curvy country roads with long straghtaways and not much traffic. When I arrived, he just made a copy of my drivers licence and less than 5 minutes later handed me the keys to the 2012 GT500. To sum it up, the GT500 is very nice! The shifter was precise and unlike the lousy one in the Roush, I could power shift the Shelby. The clutch let-up did take a little getting used to and I preferred that aspect of the Boss 302 better. I had to release the clutch a lot further before it would start to grab in the Shelby. What I preferred about the GT500 over the Boss was the interior (leather Recaros vs cloth in the Boss) and navigation with sync (not an option in the Boss). I also prefer the exterior styling of the Shelby. The placeholder for the fog lights on the Boss look kind of strange. The Shelby sounded much better and more refined than the Roush and I really loved the supercharger whine during hard acceleration. The loud Roush exhaust drowned out a lot of the supercharger sound. The Shelby felt very composed on the curvy roads, cornered flat, had very good steering feel, and the brakes worked very well. The one area where the Shelby differed from the Boss was raw power. (There was no noticeable difference in power feel between the Shelby and Roush). The Boss was simply easier to go flat out in and feel comfortable doing it. The Shelby has a lot more power than the Boss and I found it a bit difficult to harness all of it (just as I did in the Roush). This isn't really a bad thing. It's just something that even an experienced driver needs to be thinking about at all times while driving this car. There were some bumpy areas including rail road track crossings on the route and these areas gave me a real good feel for the cars ride quality. I would say that the Shelby had similar ride quality to my SRT8. It really wasn't that much different. The Roush felt stiffer and tended to crash over the bigger bumps. There was a little more interior noise at highway speeds in the Shelby compared to my SRT8.

Next up was the C63 AMG. The C63 is an amazing car, and obviously not in the same category as the Shelby. As a matter of fact, the sales guy said he's never had a customer interested in both of these cars. He said the Mustang guys just come in and buy the Shelby and the luxury-performance car buyers who look at the Mercedes may cross shop the CTS-V or M3 but don't even consider the Shelby. One thing that surprised me about the C63 was it's deep, mellow exhaust sound at idle and light revs. It was quieter than I expected in that regard. Once the revs start to approach the redline, it gets louder and really sounds incredible. The steering feel and everything about it felt very nice. I could definitely tell I was driving something special. This car is easy to drive fast and the transmission programming is very aggressive. I put it into sport mode and it would hold gears for extended periods of time after letting off the throttle, more than my SRT8. The shifts were firm and quick, but not as firm as my Predator-tuned SRT8. I could not get the C63 to bark the tires going into 2nd gear, but it may have been spinning a little bit on those tries. The C63 and Shelby had suspensions that I could comfortably have for a daily driver. It's really hard to say which car "felt" faster. Both had amazing acceleration, handling, and braking and both were comfortable enough to drive on a daily basis. The Shelby was a bit of a handful in the power department, and all that power made it more challenging, and in some ways more entertaining to drive. The C63 was more of a tool for speed, and easier to manage, and I'm pretty sure I could drive it faster with a lot less practice than in the Shelby. The C63 obviously had a lot more comfort features and the power seats (included in the AMG seating package) in the C63 were infinitely adjustable and comfortable. The seats in the Shelby were not power, but they were very nice and I had no trouble getting them adjusted into a comfortable position. The seats in the Shelby were not heated either (only the standard, non-Recaro seats are heated in the Shelby). I prefer the Recaros over the standard seats. I noticed that some of the chrome paint was peeling on the trim around the wood inlays. I could see it around the whole trim area on both doors. This is not something you would expect to find in a car in this price range. Other than that, the interior of the C63 was perfect.

It's really difficult to pick a favorite here because I liked the Shelby and C63 for different reasons. On one side we have the challenging and entertaining experience of driving a high-horspower 6-speed manual and on the other we have the thrill of a high-tech 7-speed automatic luxury/performance car. We have the cool, modern muscle-car look of the Shelby and the refined and somewhat subdued look of the C63 that kind of blends in with everything else on the street. I would even consider the C63 to be a sleeper, somewhat like my SRT8. The GT500 and C63 have completely different personalities and street presence. There is of course also a big difference in price on these cars. I prefer lightly used or new, and a lightly used C63 is considerably more expensive than a lightly used 2012 Shelby.

I would have had more time to test drive some of the other cars, but we ran out of gas during the C63 test drive! I didn't even notice the fuel gauge when we left the parking lot and we were about half way through the test drive when the car started to hesitate. That's when I looked at the gauges and noticed the fuel light and gauge. I have never run out of fuel in my life! I also don't think it should be my responsibility to make sure the car has enough fuel, but I still feel partly responsible because I should have noticed. We had to wait stranded on the side of a country road for one of the technicians to bring us gas, which took about 30 minutes, and then it took another 15 minutes to pour the gas into the tank. It wasn't that bad though because he showed me some other aspects of the car and we talked about cars while we waited.

By the way, for anyone interested, here is another thread I started regarding test drives:

http://www.300cforums.com/forums/ot...test-drives-cts-v-boss-302-review-inside.html
 

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Nice report.... have you had a drive in the new csrt8??? I am in the aftermarket dark side LOL. Having fun with my sts twins WE have made alot of progress with the tune and although I am on the ragged edge it is fun as its my first experience. I hope I don't have bad luck as you did, I guess we all need to go down that road. LOL I look forward to your saga of test drives best of luck.

Brian
 

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Yes, I will be test driving at least one of the new SRT8s soon too. I'll keep you posted on what I test next. The last time my car was in for service the tech said I should come in and take the new 300 SRT8 for a test drive. They had a silver one available.
 
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