It’s here. It’s finally here. And we took it for a spin.
There aren’t too many cars as iconic as the Ford Mustang. The big bulging bonnet, roaring V8 engine sitting under it and all of that power sent to the rear wheels. It just oozes character like nothing else.
Thankfully, we can say the first designed and built right-hand drive version since the 60s does the same thing.
Starting at $45,990 The Mustang comes in two engine variants and two body variants. You have 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost in either fastback or convertible, and from $57,490 there’s the 5.0-litre V8 in fastback, jumping up to $66,490 if you want a convertible.
Thankfully Ford has equipped every Australian Mustang with the performance pack, which adds fantastic Perelli P-Zero tyres, a body kit, bigger brakes and few other little things. As a result, you don’t have to option on any other features, leaving the only differences between the cars being under the bonnet and couple of badges.
Our day starts at a winery in NSW’s Hunter Valley. It’s stinking bloody hot, and the magnitude of flies buzzing around your face remind you that it’s not exactly the city anymore.
The cars are all lined up waiting for us, there’s 7 in total, with a mixture of V8s, Ecoboosts, different transmissions and body types. I’ve been given the most popular seller first, a manual V8 Fastback.
I was fortunate enough to drive one of these in the US last year, but still, I hadn’t been this excited to turn over an engine in a long time. Push the start button and it roars, it’s not quite as loud and hairy-chested as a proper muscle car should be, but there’s still enough noise to know you have more than a few ponies under the hood.
Ford says the interior is inspired by a cockpit, and you can certainly see the inspirations with its switches and the design of the dashboard. It feels just a little bit epic and sets the mood for the car, especially the classic steering wheel, but you just can’t help but wish Ford used higher quality materials in some areas. Sure, the seats, steering wheel and gear shifter are leather, but there’s elements of cheap, hard plastic used around the car, including the drive mode switches which are made to look like metal.
The interior features everything you want in a modern car – there’s a big 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, audio and the usual modes, heated and cooled seats and dual cup holders. Although Ford hasn’t bothered to swap the cup holders to the left hand side, so if you have drink bottle in one, prepare to make some very uncomfortable gear shifts.
Annoyingly there is also no digital speedo, despite the digital screen on the dash being able to show a multitude of different things. And while there are back seats, like most cars of this size, they’re not really fit for anyone with legs or a head.
But after I’ve been acquainted with the cabin and made sure the cooled seats are on, which are now a must have in my next car by the way, we pull out along some glorious country roads.
The big V8 can pull, and it pulls hard with lots of power in the mid-range. It packs 306kW of power and 542Nm of torque, which aren’t huge numbers, but when you’re smashing through the perfectly matched 6-speed gearbox it doesn’t leave you wanting more. It’s got a menacing edge to it that you expect from a muscle car, but the way the power is delivered so smoothly brings the best of the modern world to it too. There’s still nothing quite like going around a corner in second, revving it up till redline then doing the same in third and fourth in a big V8. It’s simply intoxicating.
What really surprised me driving through the bendy roads is how the Mustang handled. It was no Porsche, but you could turn in much sharper than any muscle car before it, despite weighing nearly 1700kgs. It even had a lively rear-end which you could steer using the throttle with ease. Also surprising was how nice the car’s ride was, which while firm, certainly wasn’t going to break your back over a long trip.
After spending some time eating country roads in the V8 model, I was left with a huge grin on my face, it was a pure enjoyment as a car enthusiast, which I naively thought could not be matched at all by the four-cylinder turbocharged Ecoboost version. But boy was I wrong.
Hoping out of the V8 and looking at it next to the Ecoboost you find yourself hard-pressed to know the difference. Only a true Mustang fan will notice the GT and 5.0 badges on the V8 model as well as a slightly different wheel design to differentiate it from the Ecoboost. Everything else is the same, inside and out.
Turning on the Ecoboost doesn’t have the same theater and noise as the V8 does, as can be expected. But power is another story.
Despite only having 223kW of power and 432Nm of torque compared to the V8’s 306kW and 542Nm, you’d be hard pressed to really feel the difference when driving normally. I certainly didn’t when I took off. Once the roads turned from country town to windy, fun roads again, I was able to put my foot down and feel how it compares. The first thing I noticed was the turbocharger whistling out of the engine, echoing through the trees, which while no V8 roar, it’s a unique sound on its own. Although, if I were to buy one, my first upgrade would definitely be a new exhaust system.
But as you keep pushing the engine, it just becomes more willing, and doesn’t feel that much slower than the V8 at all. But where the V8 handles more like a tourer, the Ecoboost has 45kgs less weight hanging over the front-axle, which completely changes how the car handles. It’s considerable sharper, turning in much easier than the V8 and actually feels like a genuine sports car. It’s fantastic.
As I head out of the country and towards Sydney on the highway, there’s people in cars driving past taking photo of the Mustang, while thumps ups are given in others. It’s truly a special car the Mustang, and while it isn’t perfect, if you’re willing to wait a ridiculous 12 months to get one, I would happily recommend putting down some cash. In fact, I’m looking at the colour options for an Ecoboost model right now.
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