How does the 2016 Ford Mustang GT Drive on Australian Roads?
Unless you’ve been living under several large rocks you would have noticed the arrival of the the first Mustang to be sold on the world stage. Now the hype and expectations have settled, it’s still clear that there are a range of emotions associated with the latest Prancing Pony which has received everything from admiration, praise and criticism from the Automotive Elite. So we had to burn some rubber and see what the fuss was about.
Available in 4 cylinder and v8 guise, the common view in these parts is that a 2.3 Mustang just seems. Well. Utter Nonsense.
Yes, people will cite fuel economy and surprising performance from ‘only a 2.3’ but that seems to be missing the point by a country mile. Needless to say we arranged a jaunt in the V8.
The day started with a blurry eyed 5am Trip to Perth Airport to land in the Sunshine State. The touchdown in Brisbane airport was bumpy, sharp and after the kid in the seat in front spilled his cookies, frankly, a mess. I hoped this wasn’t an omen of things to come. To the airport to meet Gorges who hands me a simple, black key fob and goes on his merry way, my car park search is brief, helped by the fact that the thing is brighter than a pack of vegemite. I blip the key bearing the Pony emblem, and the accompanying post-it note “Ford Mustang GT – Enjoy!” And what a presence it has. It sits, almost taking up two bays, muscular and with a sort of stance that suggests its up to no good, picture the dodgy looking gym junkie wearing a gold chain that you see in the corner of a club on a dingy Saturday night.
First impressions? Relief. I was looking forwards to the trip but couldn’t shake the feeling that the Mustang would be very reminiscent of the last 2004 ‘Stang that I drove on a jaunt to Vegas a few years ago which had an interior derived from recycled wheelie bins. It feels very ford inside, a big Sat Nav display takes centre stage and a steering wheel littered with buttons hovers in front of you. At first it was a little of a visual assault but the longer I would drive the more the layout would seem well thought out.
The seats remind me of a reclining armchair I have at home. Surprisingly supportive but actually very comfortable, more so due to the in chair air conditioning. Keyless remote lost somewhere in my backpack, pushing the stop/start button gives a satisfying but subtle growl as she springs to life. Idle is thick without being earth
shattering. The interior is an interesting one. The Mustang is renowned for being ‘accessible’ as far as prices are concerned, I believe the theory was that every 12 seconds a mustang was being sold (in circa 2006); To maintain that, there obviously has to be compromises. But it’s balanced with some nice touches. Red LEDs add accents to the foot wells and door handles. The fighter-pilot style switches have been criticised as being a little cheap but I quite like them. They’re clunky, easy to operate and pleasing enough to the touch although maybe a sturdier, metal construction would have added to this effect. The leather is far from the plush Nappa that you’d be used to in your BMW; it feels more ‘leatherette’, quite thin and with a slightly plasticy sheen. The soft touch dash top feels a little on the hard side, and the brushed metal-effect plastic facia feels sturdy but perhaps a little hollow.
The switches overall feel typically ford, which don’t get me wrong is no bad thing. And that sums up my point as far as the interior is concerned. You have to remember what you’re sitting in. You’re not in an M3, or something coming from Audi, you’re in a Ford with a big dirty V8. It’s a muscle car, so the refinements you do get are more than ample enough to set it apart from a run-of-the-mill Blue Oval sedan.
The SatNav is delightfully easy to use, aided by the massive screen size. Menus are very well thought out, voice control picks up my Anglo-cum-Aussie accent which is more than I can say for a lot of the solutions out there. Apple Car play annoyingly cuts out, honestly, you don’t need it here and I found the factory system less frustrating to use. The in-car screens display a plethora of stats and gauges which will keep the most avid petrol head playing for a while. Speaking of cost savings, the dash is a ‘mirrored’ design which allows a single dash piece to serve for left and right hand models. Nothing new, nothing bespoke, but an example of how ford have blended cost savings and performance with a global approach. The vents that tuck up into the corners of the cowls in this dash are flimsy, I suspect something to do with the construction of the duel purpose dash. I hope it doesn’t sound like I have more negatives than positives as far as the interior goes, as frankly it is a very comfortable place to be for a cruise or weekend jaunt. The only thing that annoyed me in reality, was that if you flip the chair forwards to allow the back seat passenger out, it doesn’t retain its position much like the infamous civic type R seats. Not a deal breaker, chances are you won’t be taking too many passengers (especially if you are wary of the NCAP 2 rating.)
Gear in D, foot off the brake and she rolls out of the car park. You immediately start to get a feel for the girth of the car but it doesn’t feel unmanageable. The muscular bonnet’s bulges remain in full view through the windscreen, which I can’t lie, I absolutely love. A constant visual reminder that you have every right to blip the throttle and get a snarl from what lies beneath. Flick the gearstick into S and you get a manual mode relying on input via the pseudo-paddles for gear changes. The auto-box is surprisingly very smooth and controllable once you get a feel for it’s behaviour as far as kick down points, shift conditions and so on go; once you know what the gearbox will do in reaction to your position on the pedals, it becomes a very relaxing affair if you want it to be. But who wants to relax? The first red light and the 17 year old inside me whispers in my ear, giggling. Green light, foot down onto the freeway on-ramp, flicking up through the gears, traction control having a panic attack. The sound is terrific albeit a little muted at idle and low revs. On full-chat it gives out a pleasing roar which has you grinning ear to ear as the 0-100 in 4.3 seconds claim is put to the test. You’ll be forgiven for thinking it is a stereotypical muscle car for use only in the straights, but not necessarily correct. The steering toggle in the line up of fighter-pilot style switches, changes the steering response from Comfort, to Normal and Sport. Comfort dulls the cars reactions, making it ideal for gliding over bumpy roads, but not much more. It will depend on preference, but I prefer the direct, sharp response provided by the sports mode for cruising and when things get a little more active.
Considering it is a 500bhp rwd tank weighing in at over 1.7 tonnes, the Mustang’s mannerisms are surprisingly polite when it comes to being thrown about. Body roll is tolerable given its size and setup. It will never be as composed as something Mercedes with similar states, but we’re back to remembering what we’re in, what it costs and ultimately what it is about. If you’ve been brave enough to flick it into race mode, taking off the traction control and dulling the ABS, a dollop of gas will see the rear wheels rip that smile on your face open another couple of inches. It’s such a hoot.
The national speed limit comes up in no time at all, as does a lengthy driving ban if you’re not careful. I jump on the costal roads heading down to North New South Wales with a surprising amount of traffic, so I elected to leave it in normal driving mode for the time being. The cruise control is easy to operate which sounds a simple thing but can be fiddly to say the least on many cars. One cluster of buttons on the wheel controls the in-dash display, if you want to check oil/intake/gearbox temperatures on the fly, reset trip computers, see your fuel economy (top tip: don’t bother!) and so on. The right hand side are all the controls you will need to navigate your music collection with ease.
As I pull up for a break and photo-op I realise it’s the little things that really cement the Mustang into quite a unique bracket. LED red background lights stay on in the footwells and door handles and illuminate the mustang logo on the door sills. Little Mustangs are projected onto the ground from within the door mirrors. The Speedometer is labelled ‘Ground Speed’ just in case you forget that you’re not actually flying. The whole car doesn’t take itself too seriously, whilst somehow avoiding being too cheesy. The Kicker audio system does just that with a great range of base and highs coming at you from all directions and a single occupancy mode which adjusts levels accordingly. I probably got in and out of the car 18 times over the weekend and each time felt like a new adventure. I know I go on about sense of occasion a lot, but this has it in spades.
The Brembo brake kit up front has been reported as suffering from fade during police trials which adds to the woes faced by ford trying to get a government uptake on the mustang, but on the road they are plentiful. Initial bite is sharp and the brakes give you confidence that the two tonne lump will pull up in time in an emergency. Several power stops and constant fettling through some twistier chicanes didn’t see a hint of a performance dip on my run so maybe it is a problem more experienced in the most vigorous workouts. For an automatic they add to a responsive package.
It is clear that ford are not aiming the autobox at road racers and instead are targeting those who want a cruise with some hustle when needed. Think Bullitt rather than Fast and the Furious. Responsive enough to give you a bit of neck trauma, but smooth enough not to wake your girl in the passenger seat when you want it to be. The spirited drivers may be more at home in the manual. This is further proved by the fact that the paddles are tiny and wheel mounted as opposed to fixed to the column, meaning that you have to think if you were trying to downshift whilst negotiating some bends.
Light show: the illuminated sills add to the visual drama.I’m under no illusion that the Mustang has its flaws. The yellow paint, eye catching as it is, lacks a deep factory shine; instead of a bathroom mirror image you get a slightly pixelated reflection. A few bits of trim may not withstand the test of time with some cheap feeling mountings in places. It weighs a lot and can be a bit of a tank around town when negotiating smaller, busy streets but it never feels unwieldy or cumbersome. But as a package none of that seems to matter as you ride a rumble of torque into the distance. They say if you don’t look back at your car as you walk away you’ve brought the wrong one and it’s safe to say that as you join the bystanders in staring back at your beast after parking up – there’s not much risk of that. If you’re aware of the sort of experience you’re signing up to, the chances are that you’ll enjoy cruising around in a Mustang; and in typical fashion the routes for customisation and modification will end up unparalleled if you’re willing to import.
Ford has been sure to remind you that you’re buying a Mustang and not a ford. Just try to find a Ford badge on the car. All livery replaced with that famous prancing pony and for good reason. People buy a Mustang for the Same reason that many buy a Harley Davidson. They may not go as fast in certain conditions, they may not be quite as well built together as their German counterparts. But the drama, the noise, and the presence are something that they bring to the table that just aren’t measured in numbers
Iconic. The Mustang plaquard sits proudly on the passenger side of the dash.