Here, and in the US, and everywhere the new Ford Mustang is sold, the Blue Oval has a monster on its hands. And every word in this review is irrelevant, unless there are things you absolutely need to know about a car you likely won’t get your hands on.
Because every single one of the 4000 allocation to Australia has been sold. So, you, and me, and your mates who were a bit slow or couldn’t convince the treasurer indoors of the wisdom of the purchase, well, we’ve missed out. And that’s a shame.
God this new Mustang looks good. It is singularly the ‘most noticed’ and most ‘pointed at’ car I’ve driven in years. Maybe it was helped by being in the brightest yellow, then the brightest red, but what a head-turner.
Thing is, after putting it over city streets, on country roads and highways, and on the track, it drives as well as it looks. On the things that matter, price, performance, style and desirability, Ford’s new Mustang simply sweeps all aside.
Vehicle style: Two-door large performance coupe and convertible
Price: $45,990 - $66,490
Engine/Transmissions: 2.3 litre Ecoboost Turbo; 5.0 litre ‘Coyote’ V8/6-spd manual or 6-spd sports automatic
Power/torque: 2.3T – 233kW/432Nm; 5.0 litre V8 – 306kW/530Nm
Fuel consumption: 2.3T auto claimed: 9.3 l/100km, 2.3T tested: 8.1 l/100km (highway driving only), 5.0l V8 manual claimed: 13.1 l/100km, 5.0l tested 12.2 l/100km (highway driving only)
It arrives here with just a two model and two variant range: Fastback and Convertible, with either a 2.3 litre Ecoboost twin-scroll turbo four, or 5.0 litre all-alloy V8 in the GT. And six-speed manual or six-speed auto for each engine (except the Convertible, which is auto only).
The price of the entry model, up by around two grand on the original announced pricing, sets the scene at a very enticing $45,990. Add auto to that and it rises by $2500 to $48,490.
The V8, which is where the purists will begin, starts at $57,490 for the manual GT Coupe, $59,990 for the auto. The convertible, 2.3T and 5.0 litre adds $6500 to the price of auto variants.
For the amount of car sitting behind those prices – those delectable lines and the superb balance and performance – this is an unparalleled cracking buy. The interior is a bit behind the times for look and feel, and some of the switchgear has a cheap feel, but you’ll forgive this car anything.
- Standard equipment: Dual zone climate control, heated/cooled power front seats, leather upholstery, cruise control, power windows, illuminated sill plates, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, rear parking sensors, reversing camera.
- Infotainment: Nine-speaker audio with 8-inch high-resolution colour touchscreen, satellite navigation, SYNC2 voice controls, performance datalogging
- Luggage capacity: 383 litres for Mustang Fastback, 324 litres for Mustang Convertible
The seats are generous and comfortable, and nicely trimmed with quality leather facings (with a ‘whole hide’ feel). Getting in and out of the back is a bit tight, but headroom there isn’t too bad thanks to the very deep shaping to the seats.
The driving position is spot-on; the seat bolstering grips in the right places, there is good support under the thighs and the sports steering wheel sits square-on. Get settled, grip the leather-trimmed wheel, and there is a nice racecar feel in here.
That racecar feel is enhanced the moment you lift your gaze across the long, long bonnet and have the view ahead framed by two raised creases, like gunsights, running its length.
The instruments are clear and things ergonomically, except for the handbrake on the wrong side of the centre console, are good. The Sync2 communication is easily and intuitively navigated, and is easily among the best technology platforms out there for function and ease of use.
The faux stitched binnacles to the left and right of the dash look pretty good, so too the brushed aluminium garnish running its width. All models come with keyless entry and push-button start.
The switchgear, with jetfighter-style toggle switches, also looks fine, but not so good is the cheap feel to the rotary dials and to the plastics in the console and centre-stack.
In fact, when you start looking closely at the tactile surfaces and trim around the cabin, some of the gloss is knocked off the new Mustang.
It simply isn’t to the standard we’ve now come to expect from cars in this price bracket with obvious joins in the plastics (on the steering column, and lower on the console), and the feel to the surfaces generally is behind the better ones from Europe and Japan (and Korea).
This is no Audi interior. It works well, the Sync2 technologies are at world’s best, but it betrays more than a little cost-cutting inside the doors.
But, if you can’t look past some trim shortcomings in this car, well, it isn’t for you. The new Mustang is about ‘the drive’, and ‘the style’. And in that it delivers in spades.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/Transmissions: 2.3 litre Ecoboost Turbo; 5.0 litre ‘Coyote’ V8/6-spd manual or 6-spd sports automatic
- Power/torque: 2.3T – 233kW/432Nm; 5.0 litre V8 – 306kW/530Nm
- Suspension: (front) double ball-joint independent MacPherson strut; (rear) integral-link independent, coil springs, solid stabiliser bar, and twintube dampers (2.3-litre EcoBoost) or mono-tube dampers (V8)
- Steering: electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion gear
- Brakes: 2.3T (front) 352mm x 32mm vented discs, four-piston callipers; (rear) 330mm x 25mm vented discs | 5.0 V8 (front) 380mm x 34mm vented discs, Brembo six-piston callipers; (rear) 330mm x 25mm vented discs
For both the 5.0 litre V8 and 2.3 litre EcoBoost four, this is a very good drive, let me tell you.
The Ecoboost twin-scroll turbo is through-and-through ‘the sleeper’. It is so much vastly better, quicker, more liquid on road and more engaging than anyone expected.
A stroked version of the 2.0 litre Ecoboost (found in the EcoBoost Falcon), it pumps out a very respectable 233kW of power and 432Nm of very accessible torque.
Ford claims a sub-6.0 seconds for the 0 – 100km/h dash and a 13 seconds quarter mile. (Anywhere near those claimed figures is not half-bad.)
Certainly, at the wheel it performs with an eagerness that belies the 1725kg weight (auto) it is pushing off the line.
The thing is, however, that the Mustang story is not about the 2.3 litre, it is all about the 5.0 litre V8. Because that car is what owning a ‘Stang is all about – that American V8 rumble, that immense torque-laden urge, and the whipping performance.
It hammers its power to the road, lifts that long nose with a glorious induction roar and bolts exactly as you would expect of 306kWs and 530Nm being nailed to the tarmac. It cleans up the 0-100km/h dash in 4.8 seconds.
But there is no surprise in the way that all-alloy Ford V8 performs. The great surprise is how ‘right’ is the handling, the sophistication of the double ball-joint front suspension, how flat that nose sits and how eagerly it points in when being given the beans on a winding road, or through the esses on track.
This ‘Stang handles like no ‘Stang before it.
Beautifully balanced and ‘nailed down’, whatever mode is chosen, but with passenger-friendly compliance and comfort. Its handling comes without sacrifice to the kidneys. On even rougher secondary roads, with lots of dips and small amplitude ripples, there is a composure and lack of nervousness to the ride – the chassis engineers have got this one very right.
On these secondary Australian roads, the Mustang feels quite a bit like the way the VF II SS V manages ‘the double’, that balance between sports handling and ride comfort.
Besides a very rigid chassis, the operation of the Mustang’s double ball-joint front end is responsible for the sublime steering and ride control.
Its unique geometry separates handling from ride (with one lower arm for lateral forces, and another for load control); a benefit you can feel when pushing hard.
Even the convertible, which is ‘looser’ than the Fastback (with a little scuttle shake on big dips when cornering), is very reluctant to be shaken off its line.
On track, we operated in ‘Track mode’ (natch), which turns traction control off, and sharpens up responses. The other modes, of Snow/Wet, Normal, and Sport+ can be accessed via a toggle at the gearshift.
Track mode is fun, but Sport+ isn’t half bad if you want to keep the ‘hand of God’ in the background to catch you should things turn unexpectedly pear-shaped.
The modes adjust steering effort, engine and transmission response and electronic stability control settings. The suspension however, is ‘passive’, and unchanged whichever mode is selected.
We love the feel of the six-speed Getrag manual in the V8; it’s firm, but not too heavy, and with a clutch balanced just right for fast (or relaxed) easy get-aways.
The auto comes with paddle shifters, and a rapid-shifting sport mode if you want to leave things to the car. On downshifts, there is the expected but very satisfying quick ‘blip’ (which adds to the fun around a winding road).
Brakes too have the right progressive feel for a performance car. The Brembos under the rims of the V8 performed faultlessly on track.
They’re not too grabby, and can be squeezed gently when hauling down from high speeds to smoothly set up for a corner, and, despite quite a lot of laps in different hands, lost little feel and performance.
The biggest ‘disappointment’ with the 2.3T models is the bleaty, kind of non-existent, engine sound. There is some electronic jiggery-pokery to enhance its sound, piping extra noise into the cabin, but surely some of the whip-crack of an A45 AMG four or the howl of the Audi RS3 might not have been too hard to achieve.
The visceral bellow of the V8 on song, and the tingling satisfaction it provides at the wheel, makes the 2.3T seem pale and anaemic by comparison. And it’s a better car than that comparison would suggest.
Wait till the turbo ‘tuning houses’ get to this car, then we’ll see some sparks.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Is there a rival? Perhaps, for performance and price, it is Holden’s Commodore SS V Redline at $54,490, maybe too Ford’s own Falcon XR8 ($53,490) which shares that Coyote 5.0 litre under the bonnet (albeit supercharged), but is less nimble, less resolved and not nearly as appealing as the Mustang.
Is it Nissan’s 370Z? Would it be cross-shopped with the Mustang? Doubtful, I’d think, though close on price at $56,930 (manual). Perhaps the Lexus RC 200t at $64,000. It has two doors, a 2.0 litre turbo, blitzes the Mustang for interior fit and finish, but is no Mustang.
And forget about the Audi S5 or BMW M4, unless you’re thinking twice the price (and more) can possibly be a competitor.
VERDICT | OVERALL
I have never before reviewed a car that had its entire allocation for the year ahead sold. Where, no matter what you might do in the dealership – lie on the floor, wail, pound your fists into the tiles, offer to bribe – you won’t get one, because they’re all sold.
They’re all sold.
And I don’t think I have reviewed a car before that was so convincing at launch, that had so many of the hardened carbuncles of the press saying, “Damn, why didn’t we order one of these when we had the chance?”
Its interior is not the best you will find, but it is not short on features, not at all, and the way it looks, and the way it drives... especially that 5.0 litre V8... well, you would forgive the new Mustang anything. It is, quite simply, a gob-smacking revelation.
It is ‘back to the future’ for Ford – this ‘Pony’ will capture imaginations exactly as did the first Mustang. And, fast-forward five decades, is proving as compelling for buyers. Such is its success in the US and Europe, Ford has the plant running six days a week, 22 hours a day.
If you think you might want one, you absolutely do, but prepare for a long, long wait. (And if this car is the sign of ‘the new Ford’, then bring on that Focus RS.)
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