- I’ve driven three different versions of the iconic Ford Mustang in the past 12 months.
- They have ranged rom the peppy FordMustang EcoBoost four-cylinder to the beastly Shelby GT350.
- In the end, I liked the least powerful Ford ‘Stang the best.
The mighty ‘Stang has been in continuous production ever since and has recently become the world’s best-selling sports car, as Ford has taken the bold two-door global.
Ford has been having some troubles of late. This week, CEO Jim Hackett announced that it would spend $US11 billion restructuring over the next three-to-five-years. It’s also looking for lower profits in the 2018. But nobody expects the Mustang to go anywhere. In fact, a gas-electric hybrid could be on the way.
Over the past 12 months or so, I’ve been able to sample three different flavours of Mustang: the entry-level turbo four-cylinder, the sweetspot GT with a 5.0-litre V8 – and the brutal Shelby GT350, with its 5.2-litre V8 engine, dubbed “Voodoo,” that can make 526 horsepower and, thanks to its flat-crank design, a sweetly aggressive exhaust note.
They’re all different, all fun, and all Mustang. So which did I like best? Read on to find out.
We’ll go in ascending order of displacement. First up, the Mustang turbo, which I sampled in convertible trim.
Mustangs have obviously come a long way since the ’60s, but the general idea remains the same: a sporty coupe.
Mustangs have always been sharp rides in hardtop or ragtop form, and the turbo is no exception.
The car looks especially cool with the top down.
But it also looks cool with the top up. The simple mechanism is automatic and can be lowered in about 10 seconds.
Our 2018 test car was priced at about $US33,000 and packed a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged motor, making 310 horsepower with 350 pound-feet of torque, piped through a 10-speed automatic to the rear wheels.
Fan of the old V6 Mustang will have to consult the history books, as Ford has discontinued that option.
But the EcoBoost ‘Stang can get it going: 0-60 mph is achieved in about 5 seconds.
The bottom line is that my race-red ‘Stang offers a stylish entry point to the iconic set of wheels.
Next, the heart of the lineup: the Mustang GT. I tasted the refreshed design of the 2018 car last year in Los Angeles.
Read the review.
In addition to the new-for-2018 GT, I got to try an upgraded higher-end version, outfitted with Ford’s Performance Pack Level 2. It’s ready for the race track.
The famous pony on the rear is swapped out for a GT badge. Also, there was a spoiler on my triple yellow tester.
The Performance Pack Level 2 adds about $US6,500 to the price tag, which for the GT I tested last year was around $US45,000.
The GT gets a 5.0-litre V8 that makes 460 horsepower with 420 pound-feet of torque. All that power is routed to the rear wheels through an exquisite six-speed manual, in my case, or a 10-speed automatic.
Put the hammer down (in the automatic) and the 0-60 mph dash passes in under 4 seconds, with the sweet sounds of combustion echoing in your ears.
With a small gas tank and only 200 miles of range, such performance comes at a price. Fuel economy is not good. You should be able to get about 20 mpg on the highway, but if you have any fun, you’re looking at 15 and frequent fill-ups. Such is the price of pleasure.
And last, but certainly not least — the beastly Mustang Shelby GT350, which brings a 526-horsepower, flat-crank V8 engine to the party. We have 429 pound-feet of torque, again piped to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual; the 10-speed automatic isn’t an option.
I sampled this sucker at Ford’s Performance Racing School in Utah.
The GT350 is a burlier ‘Stang — and the burliness is intensified when it’s dressed for racing.
Believe it or not, I actually got to drive the GT350 as a snowstorm swept through the area.
But the weather cleared and I got to see what the car could do on a dry track. It could do a lot.
There’s no question that the Shelby GT350 is one of the best deals on planet Earth for high-performance motoring. You could argue that it’s THE BEST value. And the Mustang GT is no slouch. Add the Performance Pack Level 2 and you’re getting close to what the GT350 can deliver.
But my favourite ‘Stang is the little EcoBoost turbo!
And that is because I am an ageing enthusiast who kind of just wants to drop the top and tool around town or take a spin on the weekends on some good driving roads with a view of a lake or an ocean and not be under “I wanna be a race car driver” pressure.
For this type of duty, the least potent Mustang is ideal. It’s plenty past enough, easy to handle thanks to the the automatic transmission, and almost tossable in the curves due the lightweight EcoBoost four up front in place if the heftier V8s. The exhaust note isn’t exactly sublime – for that, the “Voodoo” V8 in the GT350 is the way to go. But it still doesn’t sound like a boring mass-market sedan. There’s Mustang spirit in there.
In fact, that Mustang spirit traces its equestrian lineage back to the earliest pony cars. The first-generation Mustang only cranked out about 120 horsepower, so while it had pep, it didn’t exactly scream speed. The latest little ‘Stang is almost like a roadster, save for the back seat, compared to its more powerful big brothers.
And that was fine by me. At under $US35,000, I thought the car was tough to bet against. Sure. you’ll fight the stigma of driving the “rental car” Mustang. But who cares? Just because somebody can rent this car, that doesn’t mean its less fun. Or less great.
And it is great. The GT is for the Mustang purists, and the GT350 is for Mustang fans who don’t like to hold back on anything in life.
But the turbo four is for the rest of us. The people’s Mustang!
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