THIS IS THE MUSTANG YOU WANT: 5.0 LITRE V8, SIX-SPEED MANUAL, A PONY BADGE ON THE SNOUT AND RAKING FASTBACK STYLE. This is the car for anyone who has dreamed of owning a new Mustang.
But you may have to be patient. Since Ford Australia opened the order books on this slice of automotive American pie, demand has outstripped supply - and will continue to do so for another 12-15 months at least.
Luckily, for this model at least, it's worth the wait.
And that happy picture you've been holding of a 'Pony' on the run, you at the wheel and a heavy-metal V8 under the bonnet, can become a reality. (You’ll have to delete the Route 66 part of that picture... maybe replace it with South Australia’s A66 or the B66 Riddoch Highway instead.)
Vehicle Style: Two-door coupe
Price: $57,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 306kW/530Nm 5.0 8cyl petrol | 6Sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 13.1 l/100km | Tested: 15.4 l/100km
Having had the Mustang through the TMR garage on a couple of previous occasions, we really wanted to fall in love with this car, man, how we wanted to... (Ed: Tim did).
But, the Mustang EcoBoost coupe and Mustang GT convertible, though both good cars, are not great cars. Decent value for money, sure, and offering plenty of power in each configuration, but not able to translate that into the pure, wholly engaging sports cars we expected.
With the Mustang GT Fastback, however, we have found the missing piece to the picture. Yes, there are some things we'd love to see improved - a $60k interior would be a start - but this is the car that gets closest to that nirvana at the wheel we've been looking for.
It has, in spades, driver engagement!
- Standard equipment: Leather seat trim, partial electric front seats with heating and cooling, dual-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start, cruise control, customisable LED ambient lighting, dusk-sensing HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, alloy pedals and sill plates, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch Sync 2 touchscreen with nine-speaker CD/AM/FM/DAB+ audio, USB input with iPod integration, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, satellite navigation, voice controls
- Cargo volume: 383 litres minimum expandable via 50:50 folding rear seat
At $57,490, before on-road costs, the Mustang GT coupe is a bit of a performance bargain. And, surprisingly, despite the price, Ford has not been stingey with equipment.
The entire Mustang range offers partial-electric front sports seats that include heating and cooling, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, keyless entry and start, configurable LED ambient lighting and gauges, leather trim, and more.
But, while equipment levels are high, the interior falls a bit short for quality and feel.
There’s just a touch too much cheap-feeling plastic in the interior, little premium touches aren’t there like padded door trims, the aluminium monolith that spans the dash almost looks like grey corflute on a bright sunny day, and the fake stitching atop the dual-cowl instrument cluster is, frankly, a bit naff.
Can’t complain about the way the driver fits in behind the wheel though. Comfortable yet huggy front seats offer good long-distance support, high levels of cornering grip, and, with contrasting stitching and deep side bolstering, aren’t too bad for feel and style.
The rear seat - well, uh - it has one. You can stuff two 'tin lids' back there before they hit mid-teens, then things will get a bit tight with regard to headroom.
For kicks, we put a 6’2” adult in the back behind a 6’4” adult - the result was like stuffing a live octopus into a string bag, with stray limbs and droopy faces all over the place.
The boot is good, though a bit shallow, and storage otherwise is also pretty good. Beneath the boot floor there's an inflator kit to get you home in lieu of a spare wheel.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 306kW/530Nm 5.0 litre naturally aspirated petrol V8
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
- Suspension: Double-wishbone front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: 380mm vented discs with Brembo six-piston calipers front, 330mm vented discs with sliding caliper rear
- Steering: Electrically assisted, 12.2m turning circle
Ford tells us that the automatic transmission is by far the most popular transmission in the Mustang range, but if you’re thinking of adding your name to the waiting list, think long and hard about how you like to enjoy your car.
If there’s even a dollop of enthusiast blood in your veins, go for the manual - here’s why.
The six-speed box is a proper muscle car transmission, slotting between gears with a firm shift. None of that rifle-bolt Japanese precision 'knife through butter' stuff, and more like a warning about the power you have at your beck-and-call.
Awkward to use then? Far from it, it’s enticing, it asks you to actually drive, not just steer - to become a part of the whole glorious process.
That’s because up front you have a snarling 5.0 litre naturally-aspirated V8 under that ridiculously long (but ever so sexy) bonnet. It grunts out 306kW at 6500rpm and 530Nm at 4250rpm.
And, as you should rightfully expect, it sounds glorious. Strangely, the soft-top V8 Stang doesn't make quite the same sound, maybe it's the missing roof that alters the 'sound shell' and the reverberation characteristics, and the EcoBoost just doesn’t make enough of the right kind of noise.
But the combination of coupe and V8 is just right.
Drop the hammer, and let the thick, creamy V8 torque multiply, and the Mustang taps into that thing that we all recognise as the character of 'The Pony Car'.
Extroverted, as American as a Bald Eagle, the Star Spangled Banner on a distorted electric guitar, but absolutely intoxicating.
It isn’t all noise though - the urge is like a hammer-mill, and thunderously quick. And, with Ford’s included track apps you can keep track of your own 0-100 km/h, 400m and lap times, right there in the instrument cluster.
Surprisingly, the extra weight over the front axle compared to the four-cylinder EcoBoost cars also helps give the Mustang GT a more planted feel at speed, without stripping the steering of responsiveness or feel.
There’s also a set of wider rear tyres on the GT, with 255/40 R19s up front and 275/40 R19s on the rear - just to help keep the extra urge of the big V8 pointing the right way on the tarmac.
Because bury the right foot at an inopportune moment, and the Mustang GT is more than happy to deliver howling oversteer.
Brakes too get an upsize; supplied by Brembo there are six-piston calipers clamping 380mm discs up front and single-piston calipers operating on 330mm discs at the rear, drilled and vented for added performance (cooler brakes work better).
When first you tap it, the brake pedal can feel over-assisted mulling about town. But dive onto the chocks at full noise as you come into your first hard bend at high speed, and you'll find the feel and the performance of those Brembos entirely confidence inspiring.
The only grudge we have is with the brake pedal itself - the wide pedal is too easy to catch with your left foot when operating the clutch, something a skinnier pedal would solve. It doesn’t sound like much, but keeping your clutch and brake inputs separate during a red-hot run is... well, you know.
Ford also equips Aussie-bound Mustangs with a performance pack as standard, offering heavy-duty front springs, a larger rear sway bar, unique chassis tune, front K-brace, and a 3.55 limited-slip rear differential that you’d have to shell out extra for in other markets.
Is the Mustang the hottest handler on the market?
Well, not quite, but it has a compelling naive charm and plenty of muscle - enough to remind you each time you drive that you’re behind the wheel to tame it, and that it won’t be going out of its way to flatter you.
ANCAP rating: The Ford Mustang has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: Eight airbags (dual front, dual knee, front side, and front curtain), ABS brakes, multi-mode stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, rear park sensors and a reversing camera are all part of the standard spec.
The Mustang also comes with MyKey, allowing the owner to set maximum speed and volume settings, should the car be borrowed by an enthusiastic mate, or shared by a less experienced driver.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
They’re all accounted for by now, but Ford’s farewell to the Falcon, the limited edition XR8 Sprint, is a genuinely brilliant farewell to the long-running nameplate, and enough to make you wonder if you really want a Mustang after all.
The Holden Commodore SS also delivers plenty of bang for your buck, brilliant handling nous, and a choice of sedan, wagon or ute - but no coupe. Just like the Falcon though, the Commodore’s days are numbered.
While it lacks a V8, the Nissan 370Z does offer sporty two-door style and impressive performance, but age is starting to weary it a little and a 370Z is never going to be as eye-catching as the adventurous Mustang.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
This is how the Mustang is supposed to be. While the automatic versions and the four-cylinder models lack that crucial 'Stangness', the Mustang GT with a thumping V8 and good old-fashioned heavy-lifting manual gearbox is Mustang through and through.
Heavy handed, muscular, short-tempered, and yet no worse for it. This is a muscle car that requires some actual muscle to drive. About bloody time.
There’s still a few build-quality gripes for Ford to sort out, patchy panel gaps and visible paint-quality glitches, but the car at the core is a very good one.
Drive this one, the GT V8 Coupe, and it will capture your imagination and you will forgive it those shortcomings. And, if you're thinking about that queue of buyers, it is absolutely worth the wait.
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