Mus­cle News

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

He’s waited a long, long time for some pony rides, but fi­nally Paul Gover, AMC’s news­man, has put the new range of Ford Aus­tralia-de­liv­ered Mus­tangs through its paces.

The new Mus­tang has me at hello. Well, in truth, I’m hit by a mus­cle car sucker punch even ear­lier than our for­mal in­tro­duc­tion. Two days be­fore the over­due Aus­tralian press pre­view of the first full fac­tory right-hand­drive Mus­tang in the car’s 50-year his­tory I spot one on the street. It’s rum­bling gen­tly down past my favourite fish-and-chips haunt in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast.

The black-over-black V8 Hard­top is even more of a stand­out than I ex­pected, and I just can­not help gawk­ing. I’m not the only one, ei­ther.

Two days later I’m slid­ing be­hind the wheel of a Mus­tang and I feel the same ex­cite­ment I re­mem­ber from my very first Ford press pre­view drive, with the XD Fal­con in Mel­bourne, way back in 1979.

“Clearly, it’s not just an­other car,” says the CEO of Ford Aus­tralia, Graeme Whick­man, read­ing my thoughts.

In less than two days I’m go­ing to get a full tech­ni­cal briefing and drive time with all of the Aus­tralian Mus­tang choices – 5-litre V8 and 2.3-litre Eco­boost four, six-speed man­ual and auto, Hard­top and Con­vert­ible bod­ies – in­clud­ing some closed-road sprint­ing time.

To cut to the chase, the car looks like a Mus­tang and sounds like a Mus­tang and drives like a Mus­tang. But it’s con­sid­er­ably bet­ter than any pre­vi­ous ’Stang and more af­ford­able for Aus­tralians, with an of­fi­cial start­ing price of $45,990 that’s pro­tected

He’s waited a long, long time for some pony rides, but fi­nally Paul Gover, chief reporter, Carsguide and AMC’s news­man has put the new range of Ford Aus­trali­ade­liv­ered Mus­tangs through its paces.

for all ex­ist­ing or­ders de­spite a re­cent price rise caused by a drop in the Aus­tralian dol­lar.

The car is ex­actly what I ex­pect, and a lit­tle more, which means it def­i­nitely gets The Tick from me. It’s way bet­ter than the Tick­ford Mus­tang im­ported in 2001, not as chal­leng­ing to drive as an HSV Holden, and a long way down the road from the fi­nal Fal­con.

Com­plaints? I’ve got a few, but there’s not too much to men­tion.

There is no dig­i­tal speedome­ter, many of the plas­tic cabin pieces look and feel cheap, and the leather wrap­ping on the wheel feels like it came from a Min­nesota steer that died from old age. Also, you can­not open or close the Con­vert­ible roof un­less you’re stopped.

It’s not a re­mote sur­prise that the car is a sell­out, with a wait­ing list that cur­rently runs all the way through 2016 and will soon stretch well into the first half of 2017.

Ford Aus­tralia is pre­dict­ing sales of be­tween 3000 and 4000 Mus­tangs this year – around dou­ble its orig­i­nal fore­cast – mean­ing it could ac­tu­ally top the 2016 to­tal for the Fal­con which ends its run in the first week of Oc­to­ber.

Whick­man is clearly en­joy­ing the Mus­tang’s ar­rival but is also us­ing the car to com­bat more than a year of bad news about Broad­mead­ows, Fal­con and Ter­ri­tory.

“It’s a com­bi­na­tion of his­tory and fu­ture. It says we’re here for a long time, but also that we can bring the best ve­hi­cles from around the world,” he says. “You don’t go through right-hand-drive ve­hi­cle pro­grams like this with­out pretty sig­nif­i­cant

com­mit­ment. It says we can do some good things here with the right type of prod­uct.

“But it’s not nec­es­sar­ily the saviour of Ford. I think it’s an iconic ve­hi­cle that sig­nals things, but I’m also proud of a lot of our ve­hi­cles.”

My pre­view drive be­gins just out­side Syd­ney air­port and my first sam­pler ’Stang is a yel­low V8 au­to­matic GT Con­vert­ible. But the sun is blaz­ing to­day and the mer­cury is up, so the roof stays the same way.

My first im­pres­sion is good. The Mus­tang looks great, there is a pleas­ant V8 rum­ble at idle, the body is taut and the cabin is quiet, and I get my first big smiles in­side a kilo­me­tre and a wave from a young­ster in­side 10.

A lit­tle later I can feel that there is some scut­tle shake on bro­ken bitumen, and some of the cabin pieces look cheap, but then I crack the throt­tle wide open in se­cond gear and that’s just back­ground buzz. The tail squats down, the nose rears up, and I’m away with all 306 kilo­Watts join­ing the cel­e­bra­tion.

The end of Day One is all about facts and fig­ures, his­tory and back­ground. So I learn that the bodyshell is com­pletely new, that this is the first Mus­tang with in­de­pen­dent rear-sus­pen­sion, that the V8 is just on 100 kilo­grams heav­ier than the equiv­a­lent Eco­Boost car, that the right-drive in­let man­i­fold sucks out six horse­power from the Amer­i­can out­put, that the V8 gets six-pis­ton front calipers and wider rear tyres than the four, that the Eco­Boost is a stroked 2.3-litre ver­sion of the en­gine in the Fal­con, and on and on.

“We wanted to cre­ate a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Mus­tang,” says Carl Wid­mann, chief en­gi­neer of the Mus­tang. But he’s more of a sales­man, since the car was cre­ated un­der the di­rec­tion of Dave Per­i­cak be­fore he was pro­moted to world head of Ford Rac­ing.

Wid­mann rat­tles through more de­tails, from the split-fold­ing back seat (that’s only suit­able for kids) to 324 litres of boot space and all about the twin-scroll turbo on the Eco­Boost car be­fore he hits pay­dirt.

“This isn’t a ve­hi­cle that wants to be kept in the garage and only out for the week­ends. It’s a daily driver. You can ex­pe­ri­ence it ev­ery day of the week with no sac­ri­fices.”

I know he is right the fol­low­ing morn­ing as I jump into an Eco­Boost auto coupe for a long thrash up some wind­ing back­roads. Only 12 per cent of buy­ers are cur­rently go­ing for the four­cylin­der, al­though Ford ex­pects this could even­tu­ally rise to one-third of Mus­tang sales, but it’s a sweet pack­age.

It’s quick enough to jus­tify its Mus­tang looks, has the same light steer­ing as the V8 with sus­pen­sion that soaks up bumps eas­ily, and the mid-range turbo shove with 432 New­ton-me­tres means it’s great for stop-start work and over­tak­ing. But it’s when I’m chas­ing a V8 man­ual, keep­ing up by shift­ing early and of­ten with the flappy pad­dles,

that I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the ba­sic strengths of the new-age Mus­tang. I’m sit­ting down in the car, re­laxed as I hus­tle, eas­ily keep­ing the car planted, with great front-end grip and that hun­kered-down rear-end drive, de­spite the pace.

If the Fal­con had lived, this is ex­actly what I would have ex­pected from the chas­sis pack­age. And, fi­nally, it’s a big Ford where you don’t feel like you’re perched up on a bar stool.

Yet the best is just ahead, as we turn into the closed-road course for some no-lim­its ad­ven­tures and back-to-back runs in all four driv­e­line com­bi­na­tions.

It’s also where I can clearly see the big­ger back tyres of the V8 – 275x19 on 9.5 rims – the six-pis­ton front brakes and their scoops from the front spoiler, as well as the slick six-speed man­ual shift. But there is no sign of a spare tyre, just a goop kit, al­though Wid­mann says one will be avail­able this year on the Eco­Boost mod­els.

The new Mus­tangs all sprint im­pres­sively – al­though the only non-of­fi­cial tim­ing pegs the car at 5.7 sec­onds to 100km/h when Ford says less than five, per­haps a prob­lem in 38-de­gree heat – and the steer­ing is just as com­mu­nica­tive as I’ve found on the road. With the top down, the sound from the V8 in the con­vert­ible has me laugh­ing.

The sus­pen­sion ap­proach, with soft-ish springs and firm dampers, al­lows just enough roll for con­fi­dence, as well as plenty of grip for cor­ner­ing and ex­its. Some driv­ers pun­ish the front tyres and com­plain about un­der­steer af­ter ar­riv­ing too quickly at cor­ners, but if you work with the car in­stead of fight­ing it, the re­sult is quick and en­joy­able.

It’s much as I’ve found al­ready on the road, but with no lim­its I can push harder to con­firm the car is good. It’s way more im­pres­sive than an XR8 in both the chas­sis and steer­ing, and I’ve never got the nasty fear in the back of my mind – as I some­times do in a highly-strung HSV car – that it might be about to bite me.

It’s def­i­nitely as fast as I want to go, the V8 sound­track is fan­tas­tic, and the Eco­boost en­gine gives more than enough push for peo­ple who are not go­ing to put their ’Stang on a track.

As I’m cool­ing down from the track ac­tion, with a long free­way run, I can ap­pre­ci­ate the quiet and com­fort of the car. There is no short­age of leg or head space, I can get ex­actly the driv­ing po­si­tion I want – some­thing that’s never hap­pened in a Fal­con – and I can ap­pre­ci­ate the value in pric­ing which re­flects the real cost of a Mus­tang car and not just a Mus­tang badge.

And I love that the three air-vents in the cen­tre of the dash pick up their in­spi­ra­tion from gauges in the six­ties cars.

In the fi­nal run­down I’m only dis­ap­pointed by the lack of a dig­i­tal dis­play, and I won­der how my six-year-old will fit in the back seat.

So, over less than two days, my ear­lier bench­mark set by the or­di­nary and over­priced Tick­ford ’Stang of 2001-2002 has been scrubbed, and I’m build­ing a fresh bank of mem­o­ries that’s filled with sat­is­fac­tion and smiles. This is a big dog – if you’ll ex­cuse the ca­nine anal­ogy for a pony­car – but it’s com­pletely house trained. this is a sports coupe that’s bet­ter than just a boule­vard cruiser.

My big re­main­ing ques­tion is how the Mus­tang will go in Aus­tralia once the’Stang trag­ics, many with an orig­i­nal in the garage, are sat­is­fied. Can it win peo­ple who might be shop­ping it against a Toy­ota 86, or per­haps even a Lexus RC coupe?

I’m think­ing that, pro­vided the price stays as af­ford­able as it looks, it will do very well. And I’m also think­ing again of the im­pact the car first made on me at home. And how it will drive on roads I know.

This car’s job is to be a Mus­tang and it does it very, very well.

So, bot­tom line, would I? Yes.

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