A 770hp Mustang is not for the faint of heart, but this Herrod-tuned Scott McLaughlin special edition is such a well conceived package, it’s not as mental as it sounds. We strap ourselves in for a shot of adrenaline.
We know what you’re thinking, not another supercharged Mustang feature. Aren’t these all the same? That’s what we thought too but the mouthful that is the Scott McLaughlin Limited Edition SM17 by Herrod Performance is possibly the best we’ve yet sampled. While the blower lifts the engine output to a level of madness rivalled only by anti-vaxxer protests, its 578kW seem almost sane compared with an unruly, unjabbed mob marching on parliament demanding freedom. Both are angry to be sure, but only one makes sense to us. And that’s the Mustang because the sum of its upgrades makes for a convincing argument, unlike an anti-vaxxer in free fall down the rabbit hole.
This McLaughlin car follows on from the limited run of Dick Johnson Mustangs that were also produced by Herrod. DJR and Herrod go way back to when Johnson partnered with the tuning firm to hone a limited run of go-fast BA Falcons in the early 2000s. Herrod also had its hand in the R Spec special-edition (Mustang, by the way, must have the most special editions ever, it’s hard to keep up). So Herrod knows its stuff when it comes to tuning pony cars.
It seems red and black is a winning colour combination for McLaughlin too, the rouge paint, gloss black appendages and satin stripes was the look Scott requested for his cars. But otherwise, the MC17’s styling follows the tuned Mustang rulebook. The lowered stance sees the 20-inch wheels rammed up under the guards, with barely enough space to poke a vaccine needle between the arch and the rubber. Aiding traction and cornering adhesion, the MC17 dons 9.5-inch wide front rims with 275/35 tyres. That’s what a regular Mustang uses on the rear, while this has 11-inch wide rims out back shod with 305/30 Pilot Sports. The extended front splitter and larger decklid spoiler add to the visuals.
What makes the SM17 that bit different is the blower design. It’s a 3.0-litre Whipple twin-screw supercharger fettled by Herrod, the internals working in such a way that they build boost, and therefore power, in a more linear, progressive fashion. Forced induction works better with cold intake air so an equal amount of attention has been paid to keeping the flow frigid before it gets screwed. There’s an XL air-to-water intercooler system with an enlarged core and extra water capacity to ensure more consistent inlet temperatures as the action heats up.
Apart from a retuning of the ECU, the only other significant modification is bigger Bosch fuel injectors, while the internals remain stock. It even works with the regular 80mm throttle body. Herrod has added an additional engine oil cooler while the automatic gets a separate cooler as well. Said auto has been treated to a custom calibration for ‘crisp changes’.
Supercharging an engine bulks up the torque delivery, a big surge washing in as the taps open and you get a torrent of it to spin the rear tyres. Yet this one is slightly different. This has a lot more torque lower in the rev range, but rather than a big dump of pull, it builds more progressively, almost like you’re driving a massive naturally aspirated V8. Crack it open for the first time, and even seasoned horsepower junkies will grin. The response is sharp and the power keen right the way through the rev range to just past 7000rpm.
Clicking into the Sport mode, we preferred to paddle the auto. Having the ultimate control of the gears is what you need with such force and fury. And yet two ratios about does it, with fourth and fifth seeing you right on the road. You might use third to really power out of slower curves but best to ease it in. Even in fourth and fifth the traction control light will blink. We didn’t get the chance to run the performance numbers, but it powers off the mark smartly, the traction control doing a marvelous job not to stifle the flow of newtons, yet keep this horse bolting. Get the chance to pin the gas and the MC17 sits back slightly and inhales the road ahead, the auto snatching gears while barely interrupting the flow of force. Finding somewhere to really run this out would be a challenge. But a dragstrip or racetrack would be a good start.
There’s a set of stainless steel, cat back pipes that utilise Ford’s active exhaust control so you can muffle the rumble with a few pushes of the steering wheel buttons. These are louder than the regular pipes, particularly at idle and on a constant cruise where there’s more exhaust noise. While it doesn’t drone, it’s boomier. But you’re left in no doubt you have a powerful V8 up front. At speed, it’s the supercharger whine filling your ears, the pipes drowned out by the rumble of rubber, an unfortunate side effect when extra-wide contact patches hit coarse chip roads.
While it sits low (watch those driveways people) it rides well, surprisingly so considering that stance. The MC17 utilises a lowered Magneride set up fettled by Ford Performance/Herrod with adjustable sway bars. The Herrod bit of the colab concerns a calibration change to the adaptive damper’s control module. You can’t underestimate the benefit of a properly decent damper and spring combination. The Mustang is thoroughly American, a beefcake at 1850kg in this trim, while the wider alloys add to the unsprung mass. So all up, it’s a lot to master but these Magneride dampers are up for it. Despite the minimal clearances, we suffered no touchdowns or big hits over the bumps taken at a decent clip. It’s controlled yet compliant. Mustangs turn sweetly, this with a dash more immediacy while the grip is immense thanks to the screeds of rubber. With the wider rears, it even manages to stick itself on the corner exits. An anti-vaxxer in full rant mode would be more dangerous than this on a corner exit.
The brakes are standard, and while the Brembos do a thoroughly decent job with a solid pedal feel and good initial bite, they are asked to work harder, hauling in heftier velocities and do get warm after a decent whipping.
While there are rear wheel spats for compliance purposes, the wider front tyres spray more muck down the flanks. Yet despite the big wheels, there’s no uncouth grinding of rubber on full lock. And in general, it’s a rather civil animal when operated at a regular, everyday pace. The auto shifts with more of a snap but the driveline is otherwise friendly. Fuel use you expect to be ravenous, and the long term average of the car was sitting at 18L/100km.
The interior is treated to retrimmed seating in ‘bespoke Italian leather’ with a few SM17 logos splashed about. Seats retain their heating and ventilated elements, although without the usual perforations in the coverings, the breeze doesn’t make its way to your bum the way it’s supposed to. The dash is adorned with a build plaque, this car numbered 004, a silver fern denoting its Kiwi heritage. Glad it was the fern and not a sheep the Aussies used.
Despite the massive increase in power, it does come with a warranty, Herrod standing by the mods for three years/60,000 km, with the rest of the car covered by the usual Ford warranty. There are a few caveats on these modified machines, so best read the fine print, especially if you have track use in mind.
The cost is more than some of the other powered-up Mustangs at $149,990, but it’s not unreasonable, all things considered. And despite the relative rarity of the car, this one is still for sale. So while McLaughlin may no longer be competing down this end of the world, you can still drive his car.