ENGINE 4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v / POWER 306kW @ 6500rpm / TORQUE 530Nm @ 4250rpm / WEIGHT 1739kg / 0-100KM/H 4.9sec / PRICE $57,490 (manual) I HAVE been to the launch of a few pretty hyped cars over the years.
Anxiety was high when Porsche switched to water-cooling for the 996 model back in í96. Fordís supercharged version of the Coyote V8 a handful of years back was eagerly anticipated, too. More recently, the last of the Commodore SSs Ė the VF Series II Ė had us all holding our breath, and a few years before that I travelled to Japan for the factory tour launch of the R35 GT-R.
All landmark cars, all hyped months (and sometimes years) prior to their actual launch dates. But when it comes to that pre-release buzz, I reckon this car, the new Ford Mustang, might just be a cake-taker. Iíve had folks asking me about the new pony car for the last couple of years. And it hasnít been idle interest, either Ė most of them have expressed an interest in owning one.
Surprises are thin on the ground I when youíve already had so much exposure to the product via teasers, leaks and pre-release look-sees.
But the details that jump out about the new íStang are the clever extra vertical link on the rear end aimed at stopping axle wind-up, and the steel used in the roof panel that strengthens when itís baked in the paint-curing process. Clever stuff, all of it.
But, like 13 million other Australians, the big question is: how does it drive? So letís start with the EcoBoost turbo four-banger version. Like the V8 GT model, you can have it with a six-speed auto, a six-speed manual, and either hardtop or convertible bodies. Frankly, the convertible is the also-ran, since itís heavier, can only be had with a slushbox, and loses that fabulous Mustang profile.
Regardless of what you think about a four-cylinder Mustang, you canít deny the 2.3-litre EcoBoost is a good thing. It is smooth, flexible and quiet.
But stuck between the front rails of a Mustang, it just leaves me, um, cold.
You know when David Beckham opens his gob to speak and out comes a jockeyís voice? Yeah, that.
Thereís so little theatre to it that you really have to watch the tacho to make sure youíre not using more revs than you need to.
The EcoBoost concept was great in the Falcon and Mondeo, and brilliant in the Focus ST. In the Mustang, Iím calling it Ďgoodí.
But the V8? Ah-ha, thatís another thing altogether. Suddenly it sounds like Beckhamís agates have finally dropped. It feels just right, too, with a lovely sophisticated vibe to what is still clearly a bent-eight. Okay, itís more GT than supercar, but only an American (and probably a Texan at that) would ever argue that a Mustang was a sportscar in the first place.
And Iím pleased to report that thanks to a lovely, accurate, snickety-snick shifter, the manual is the one to buy.
Street cred; feel and sound of V8; horn looks
Nondescript four-cylinder; mad-womanís breakfast interior
The ride is surprisingly good and the handling is about spot-on for the intended audience. Iíll make the prediction that on a racetrack, the Mustang will be a natural understeerer. At road speeds, however, itís quite neutral and very well-planted. The steering feels nice and meaty, but itís a fraction dead at the straight-ahead. And as for the three steering modes, Iím damned if I could feel a single thing that altered when I flicked the toggle.
The brake pedal seemed a bit inconsistent car-to-car, too, as if maybe production tolerances are still at work at Ford. One V8 I drove had a particularly wooden pedal, yet the next car was fine. Doubtless the Brembos on the GT will do the job and then some. The four driving mode settings take some fathoming, too, and I found that the auto íbox was too prone to hunting in some settings and the throttle pedal was too sensitive in others. Mix and match, kids, and, again, itís those toggle switches youíll need to dance on.
Oh yeah, speaking of those chromefinish togglesÖ they blow. You canít read them in normal ambient light, they only toggle one way and they seem at odds with previous pony car interiors. In fact, itís the interior thatís the real let-down. The door trims are hard, black plastic, and the gauge layout looks a bit haphazard and untidy. And beyond the twinbinnacle dash-top, thereís nothing that reminds me of Mustangs of yore despite the overtly retro exterior.
Ford admits it wanted to recreate an aeroplane-cockpit feel for the interior, but even so, the ďGround SpeedĒ decal on the speedo face is a log-flog too far. Hell, itís even missing the 25-litre cup-holders found in every other American car.
So, the Mustang will survive and prosper on the basis of its tough-guy looks and its wise-guy dynamics. It ainít perfect, but it sure as hell does what it says on the box. Itís an easy car to like and will make you feel special for a lot less money than anything with the same ego-stroking potential that comes out of Europe.
Which, if you break it down, is the same list of reasons the original Mustang back in 1964 was such a leg-rooter. A classic case of work out what you do well and keep doing it.
Even if it is for the next 52 years. M