Pony tale

In its next chap­ter, the iconic Ford Mus­tang will hit Aus­tralian roads

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

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.

PONY POWER

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.

V8 STA­BLE­MATE

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.

VER­DICT

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

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