Taking Steedaâ€™s 2015 Mustang test bed for a quick spin around Valdosta
By Steve Turner
One of the best parts about covering the world of Ford performance is experiencing the wide array of performance automobiles in the real world. When we are following along with the installation of parts, itâ€™s not always the case that we get to drive the cars involved. However, the crew at Steeda has always been good about throwing us the keys to its vehicles.
From Mustangs to Foci, your author has driven a few Steeda vehicles in his day. Moreover, many of the project cars in my driveway have ridden on Steeda suspension parts. Itâ€™s the companyâ€™s ability to sharpen a vehicleâ€™s handling without degrading its drivability that often made the companyâ€™s gear the right fit for those street-performance rides.
â€œOur goal is to take it to the next level of performance, without sacrificing ride quality and NVH,â€ Dario Orlando, president of Steeda, explained. â€œWe started with the IRS because that is the weak link when you add performance. We knew we had to add additional control and adjustability to the rear alignment.â€
Knowing the companyâ€™s strengths, I was definitely excited to get behind the wheel of its 2015 Mustang. We know that the latest Mustangs have taken another giant leap in refinement and handling from the factory. Sharpening that handling without losing too much of the carâ€™s smooth demeanor is a definite challenge, so after Jamie Bell installed the performance parts for our camera and drove it for our action shots, he handed over the keys and offered a drive.
Our first move was to do a few laps around the Cul-de-sac that served as our photo location. We didnâ€™t quite use it as a full-on skid pad, but a few quick circles showed that the Steeda Mustang stayed pretty flat and was easily controlled in a tight-radius turn. Rolling out of that, we came to a stop and banged quickly through First, Second, and Third gears. The car spun a bit, but smoothly transitioned into traction as it leapt forward.
Steeda technician Jamie Bell sat calmly in the passenger seat as my chaperone.
â€œDid you notice anything?â€ he asked.
I hesitated. I was having such a good time enjoying the acceleration offered by a new-school Coyote with modest modifications, that it took me a minute to figure out what I was missing. It really is amazing how these modern engines still respond to the same tried-and-true hot-rodding techniques. However, what I overlooked is something I would never truly missâ€¦
â€œNo wheelhop,â€ he said flatly.
Thatâ€™s right, laying into the Steeda Mustang produced none of the ill-effects you might associate with a rear-drive car with an independent rear suspension. However, itâ€™s one thing to tame the suspension, itâ€™s another thing to have the car still ride nicely. As we rolled onto the streets on the outskirts of Valdosta, Georgia, I followed the same loop that Jamie took me on. The car was clearly tighter than a stock Mustang but it was completely livable and quiet. Only the burble of the exhaust and a bit of communication from the shifter would penetrate the cabin.
â€œFord did an outstanding job isolating NVH. With our experience we know what will and will not introduce NVH,â€ Dario said. â€œWe are constantly learning and fine-tuning this aspect in our development programs.â€
Whipping it around the streets, it was clear that the Steeda ethos of adding performance but making it livable was in full effect on the companyâ€™s 2015 Mustang. However, the final test came as we returned to the companyâ€™s manufacturing facility. As we approached the railroad crossing I maintained a steady speed. The car glided over the tracks with no clunking or vibrations.
Keep in mind this car is not a fully realized Steeda Mustang just yet. It has served as a test bed for the companyâ€™s ongoing product development, having worn numerous bushings, sway bars, and springs as the companyâ€™s engineers have dialed in the performance-to-NVH ratio. In the future, the company is turning its attention to the front of the car, the dampers, and maybe even some power-adder options.
For now, however, we can say the company is definitely on the right track with its S550 product development, and we look forward to see where the company takes the latest Mustang platform from here.
â€œEventually this car will be used to develop our more hardcore line of parts for the people who will be pushing their vehicles on various road courses and drag strips around the world,â€ Dario teased.
The Mod List
Block: Stock Coyote 5.0-liter aluminum
Crankshaft: Stock, forged steel
Rods: Stock, sinter-forged connecting rods
Pistons: Stock hypereutectic
Cylinder Heads: Stock
Intake: Stock w/ Steeda Pro Flow cold-air intake
Fuel System: Electronic returnless
Exhaust: Stock w/ Steeda after-cat
Transmission: Stock Getrag MT-82 with Steeda urethane shifter and transmission mount bushings
Rearend: Stock IRS Super 8.8
Engine Management: Tricor PCM w/ Steeda calibration
Springs: Steeda Sport
Sway Bar: Steeda
Wheels: Steeda ST-R, 20×9.5-inch
Tires: Nitto Invo, 275/35R-20
Springs: Steeda Sport
Control Arms: Stock w/ Steeda adjustable toe link and billet vertical link
Sway Bar: Steeda
Wheels: Steeda ST-R, 20×11-inch
Tires: Nitto NT-555R, 315/35R-20