MIGHTY MUSTANG SOUNDS GREAT, GOES HARD

Ford_Mustang_frontUntil now Aussies have had to bring in secondhand Mustangs from the US of A, or perhaps some other intermediate country. While there were some imports by Ford Australia back in the mid 60s then again in 2001, these were overpriced and the local conversion to right-hand driver should have been visually better, though mechanically they were fine.

The Ford Mustang finally reached Australia in full factory format in 2015 and has been a huge sales success. Order one now and your chances of getting it this year are slim.

We couldn’t believe our luck when we scored a road test of a Mustang V8 GT for the two-week Christmas/New Year period. Normally we only get cars for one week, so this was a real bonus. Even better it was coloured in a brilliant red. (Thanks also to whoever crashed the one we should have been road testing for a single week a few months back…)

Mustang comes as a coupe (called Fastback by Ford) and convertible, ours had the hardtop, maybe we can score an open-top one next time. Ideally in winter when the weather is more suited to topdown motoring in our home area on the Gold Coast.

Prices start at a ridiculously low $45,990 for the Mustang EcoBoost coupe with a manual gearbox. Ours was an auto V8, at just $59,990.

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STYLING
Long bonnet, short tail, styling geniuses at Ford came up with this stunning theme way back in 1964. There were some shockers in the 1970s and ‘80s before a return to normality in the mid ‘90s. The current model, released in 2014 takes us right back to the styling genius stage.

Inside there’s a neat and simple design for instruments and controls that works beautifully.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Mustang is powered by either a 5.0-litre, twin-cam, four-valve V8 or a 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine. The V8 has had many upgrades in recent years, with lessons learnt in developing the special-edition 2012 Mustang Boss 302. These let it breathe better, especially at higher revs. The result is power of 306 kW and 530 Nm of torque.

The 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol engine reaches 233 kW and 432 Nm and isn’t to be sneezed at. So far we’ve only tested it at the Ford Proving Ground and it’s both quick and nimble.

A six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters can be specified. Ours had the auto, to be honest this is probably the pick of the pair for real-life driving. Though we can understand the purists who prefer a do-it-yourself gearbox.

INFOTAINMENT
There’s a nine-speaker radio in there somewhere, can’t say we spent much time listening to it. The big Mustang was far more entertaining from an audio perspective.

The 2017 Mustang has Ford’s Sync 3 system with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Ford Applink 3.0. It offers increased functionality and responsiveness compared to the system in the first MY2016 Sync 2 Mustang imports to Australia.

The high-resolution 8.0-inch colour touchscreen is clear and easy to read but it’s rather low on the central dash and may cause driver inattention for longer periods than we are comfortable with.

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SAFETY
Huge tyres, big powerful Brembo brakes, well-sorted suspension and a very responsive V8 engine provide not only great driving pleasure, but also plenty of ability to stay out of trouble.

Should you, or someone else, make a big mistake then you will be pleased to know Ford Mustang has received a five-star ANCAP rating.

DRIVING
The V8 sounds and feels exactly the way a sporty V8 should. It’s lumpy at idle, produces a nice snarl even when you accelerate gently in traffic conditions – and roars when you get onto the open road and give it a bit of stick.

Is this the most enjoyable V8 I’ve ever sat behind? Almost certainly yes, okay Maseratis may sound even better than this Ford, but have a look at their price tag.

Snick the shifter down into Sport and the Mustang isn’t happy at very low speeds, surging and carrying on and a real hassle to drive in a carpark. Which is exactly the way it should be – you want sport, you get it.

Throttle response from the non-turbo engine is virtually instantaneous and the engine is happy to rev to the top of the scale, the latter a major improvement on V8s of old.

This is a big car, but it doesn’t feel like it on the road, being quick in the steering, providing reasonable feedback through the electric steering assistance and happy to hold the road at big cornering speeds.

There are really only two seats worth talking about as Mustang is a 2+2 not a full four-seater if there’s anyone other than kids in the back.

Seat support is good without being full-on sports units. They are adjustable for height, which will probably please those who are vertically challenged and intimidated by a very long bonnet.

Boot space is good and the folding rear seatbacks, while they don’t line up particularly well when folded, do give you plenty of luggage room for a long week’s holiday.

The well-sorted suspension ironed out some pretty ropey roads out of town, while the Brembo brakes were equal to the task of slowing the 1600 kg-plus coupe on coming up behind slower road users. Steering was weighted according to the pre-selected driving mode.

SUMMING UP
Ford Mustang is ultra stylish, has great performance and is dirt cheap. It’s not exactly aimed at the shy and retiring types, but anyone who enjoys driving will love it.

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