In its next chapter, the iconic Ford Mustang will hit Australian roads
PUSHING the “start” button on the new Ford Mustang, I expect the rumble of a V8.
Instead I get eerie silence. I’ve grabbed the keys to a fourcylinder Mustang. And I can barely hear it idle.
Ford has added a fourcylinder to broaden the Mustang’s customer appeal and to meet strict fuel economy targets in Europe.
Four-cylinder and the V8 Mustangs are due in local showrooms in the latter half of next year, even though Australians have had an aversion to large cars with fourcylinder engines since the asthmatic ’80s Commodore.
But the four-cylinder in the latest, sixth-generation Mustang (Ford also built fourcylinder Mustangs in the US between 1978 and 1993) has new turbo technology and almost as much power as the previous V8.
BMW and other German makers are also now getting epic performance from turbo fours — but this is a Mustang. A four-cylinder is near-sacrilege in an American icon.
In stop-start Los Angeles traffic the four-cylinder sounds like a small French van, not as a Mustang should. Perhaps even more disturbing, it turns out Ford tried to disguise the sound by piping fake engine noise through the stereo speakers.
A savvy US journalist exposed it when he pulled the fuse and tweeted his find. Ford needs to get the mufflers to do more of the work, not the audio.
The bland standard seats are designed more for broad behinds than comfort and support. And you can forget the back seats; they just might squeeze in some kids.
The sports suspension on the four-cylinder Mustang tested is too firm and busy over modest bumps at suburban speeds. On the bigger bumps it almost makes me carsick. Ford says changes are under way on the production line, based on early feedback.
The traffic eventually clears and we find the winding, hilly roads behind Hollywood. Only then does the four-cylinder Mustang start to shine. Rev the engine above 4500rpm and the small French van sound starts to develop into a subtle growl.
All is quickly forgiven, however, after the first series of twists and turns. The fourcylinder version steers beautifully, with poise to match a BMW coupe. I‘ll go out on a limb: it feels as if a BMW has been squeezed under a bulging Mustang body.
As the four is lighter than the V8, there is less weight over the nose and better overall balance (near-perfect 52:48 as opposed to 55:45 for the nose-heavy V8).
The suspension that was too firm around town is just right on the open road.
Power delivery across the rev range is the other surprise. The power is there and ready, whenever you need it.
Ford does not publish 0-100km/h times, arguing that results vary too much between drivers, techniques and road conditions, but the four is said to be only slightly slower than the V8. It certainly feels quick enough for most tastes.
This may be Ford’s most recognised model globally but it doesn’t have a Ford badge on it anywhere
With less weight to bring to a stop (compared to the V8) the brakes feel sharp, responsive and reassuring. The Pirelli tyres on the “Performance Pack” model tested stick to the curves like chewing gum.
I’m grinning like a kid with a new toy. And I’ve forgotten what engine is under the bonnet.
To distinguish the V8, the grille has a pair of vertical blades, two bonnet vents and a GT badge on the rear. The fourcylinder gets a single piece grille, no bonnet vents, and a “pony” badge on its rump.
Both models get the supercool three-step LED rear indicators that light up from the inside out, one vertical bar at a time. Here’s hoping they make it on Australian models.
Another piece of trivia: this car may be Ford’s most
recognised model but it doesn’t have a Ford badge anywhere. There’s a tiny Ford logo in the shaded area of the windscreen.
Time to get behind the wheel of the V8. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, now that’s a Mustang.
I floor the V8 for the first time and ... suffice to stay, strong language warning. Repeatedly.
It’s a good thing Ford fits big brakes on the new Mustang because you use them a lot — to slow down just so you can floor it back up to the speed limit.
I have low expectations, initially, given the V8’s outputs. The current Ford and Holden bent eights in Australia eclipse its 325kW/540Nm.
But the Mustang is relatively light for a muscle car (at least 150kg less than a Falcon or a Commodore) and boy does this thing haul. Once the revs rise to 4000rpm, with its lungs full of air, the engine absolutely belts — and it gets better the more you keep your foot into it.
Customarily, V8s get wheezy at higher revs. Never mind the outputs, this 5.0-litre is a bit special. It feels as quick as a supercharged Falcon GT.
Admittedly, this is a seat-ofthe-pants feeling. We’ll run it against the stopwatch when it goes on sale here.
US testers have declared the V8’s cornering ability is a revelation as the Mustang finally has independent rear suspension. Given the extra mass, especially over the nose, I’ve got to work it harder to get around a bend — and after just five minutes of enthusiastic driving on winding roads I’m getting a sweat up.
To be fair, the four-cylinder tested has sport suspension and the V8 comfort suspension, yet it’s clear the former is the one to buy if you want to corner with confidence, and the V8 is the pick for straight-line power.
The four-cylinder is one of the surprise packets of the year but it will need a sharp price to entice buyers from the V8 — which diehards will buy, no matter what. The respective starting prices are tipped to be about $50,000 and $70,000.
Would I buy a four-cylinder Mustang? Absolutely. It uses a fraction of the V8’s fuel (don’t rev the engine while anyone else is around), it looks the business and it’s fun to drive.
Hollywood thrills: On the winding roads out of Los Angeles, each Mustang powerplant impresses in its own way