No smok­ing: Philip King test drives the new Mus­tang.

The nanny state has put burnout-free brakes on Ford’s new Aussie steed

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & DRINK - PHILIP KING Mo­tor­ing editor

If you search for “Mus­tang burnout” on YouTube you’ll find a lot of smokin’ videos and at least one with a cou­ple of nerdy-look­ing Ford en­gi­neers ex­plain­ing a spe­cial fea­ture of the new Mus­tang. It’s Line Lock, which al­lows the driver to hold the car on the front brakes while floor­ing the throt­tle. The re­sult in­cludes rear wheels spin­ning madly, plenty of noise and clouds of va­por­is­ing rubber.

Of course, you don’t ac­tu­ally need some­thing like Line Lock to achieve a burnout but the Ford guys ex­plain they had track days in mind and think it’s per­fect for the car.

“I’m con­vinced peo­ple are go­ing to love this fea­ture,” drawls one. “We had a lot of fun of do­ing this and it matches well to the cus­tomer and the ve­hi­cle.”

You can prob­a­bly guess where this is go­ing. For the first time in its 50-year his­tory, Mus­tangs are be­ing built in right-hand drive and com­ing straight from the US fac­tory to Ford deal­er­ships in Aus­tralia.

And ev­ery sin­gle one will have the Line Lock fea­ture dis­abled. The Aussie Mus­tang doesn’t smoke.

Ford Aus­tralia chief Graeme Whick­man said he made the de­ci­sion be­cause of the cli­mate around cars.

“In Aus­tralia there are con­cerns about anti-hoon ac­tions and we felt it was some­thing we needed to steer away from,” he said at the me­dia drive event in the NSW Hunter Val­ley last week. “It’s a very spe­cific at­tribute de­signed for a very spe­cific out­come and it doesn’t play well in this mar­ket.”

There are laws against break­ing trac­tion in sev­eral states but there are laws against a lot of things to do with cars and it’s up to driv­ers to com­ply.

So Aussie Mus­tang own­ers will have to make do with other ways of break­ing the law.

As with most (non-au­ton­o­mous) cars th­ese days, break­ing the speed limit is a cinch. Ford doesn’t quote zero to 100km/h times but the 2.3-litre can do it in around 6 sec­onds. It’s the en­try point for the model at $46k and the en­gine is a larger ca­pac­ity ver­sion of an Eco­boost unit widely em­ployed by Ford.

In the Mus­tang it seems bur­dened by lag — the de­lay in throt­tle re­sponse typ­i­cal of turbo units. Once it gets go­ing there’s lot of low-rev torque, mak­ing it driv­able, but too much ar­ti­fi­cial noise. And with around 1.7 tonnes to move, more sound than fury. It’s bet­ter with the man­ual than the au­to­matic.

It’s the fu­ture for the model, though, when those who want Mus­tang looks rather than Mus­tang per­for­mance sign up af­ter the en­thu­si­ast or­ders have died away.

Most of the 4000 or so Aussies who have al­ready put down dol­lars over­whelm­ingly opted for the V8. It gets a hand­ful fewer kilo­watts than the US ver­sion due to a unique right-hand drive man­i­fold but with 306kW feels pur­pose­fully fast, if not ac­tu­ally fe­ro­cious. Throt­tle re­sponse flings you back in the seat and there’s a proper V8 sound­track. It sings to just above the 6500rpm red-line, when a lim­iter cuts in. If any­thing, it could be more rau­cous.

The V8 coupe, or Fast­back, starts at $57,490 with a man­ual trans­mis­sion. Gear­boxes and clutches can be heavy with pow­er­ful en­gines but the Mus­tang’s are pleas­ingly weighted and easy to use.

The V8 also makes more sense with the au­to­matic, which has pad­dle shifters be­hind the wheel.

Mus­cle car de­trac­tors of­ten de­cry the han­dling of “pony cars” and in this re­spect the pre­vi­ous Mus­tang was ex­hibit A, with an­te­dilu­vian sus­pen­sion. The first global Mus­tang fixes all that, with a strut set-up at the front and in­te­gral link in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion at the rear.

With the V8 un­der the bon­net, it’s a sweetly bal­anced com­bi­na­tion. The car rocks back a lit­tle un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, be­tray­ing the weight of en­gine at the front, but it turns into cor­ners quickly and as­sur-

edly. Cut-up Aus­tralian coun­try roads fail to un­set­tle it and the car’s body move­ments are kept on a tight rein.

Other dy­namic cre­den­tials in­spire con­fi­dence too, with good bump ab­sorp­tion for a per­for­mance car and ac­cept­able lev­els of tyre noise.

The driv­ing po­si­tion is fine, with rea­son­able vis­i­bil­ity thanks to ju­di­cious ap­pli­ca­tion of pre­mium steels where strength is re­quired with­out bulk, such as the A-pil­lars.

Con­trol weights are well judged, ped­als nicely ar­ranged and the steer­ing feels about as con­nected as elec­tri­cally as­sisted steer­ing ever does. You can ad­just its “weight” through dif­fer­ent set­tings but it’s an un­nec­es­sary gim­mick, along with driv­ing modes that change throt­tle re­sponse and shift points in the au­to­matic. None of th­ese af­fect the sus­pen­sion, and they don’t need to.

The brakes feel up to the task, with 380mm disks at the front of the V8, gripped by six Brembo pis­tons.

If the Mus­tang be­trays its Amer­i­can back­ground it’s in­side, where there’s all the am­bi­ence of a lowrent mo­tel. The seats, wheel and di­als are OK, but lack the de­sign or ma­te­rial qual­ity of an equiv­a­lently priced Euro­pean car.

It’s slightly retro in tone, with a lit­tle cel­e­bra­tory plaque in front of the pas­sen­ger, round vents and shiny metal­lic high­lights. But the real alu­minium trim is un­con­vinc­ing and the leather could have been har­vested from sun-dried road­kill.

At least it’s bet­ter than the faux hide, which over­whelms the real stuff. The ap­pallingly hard and cheap plas­tics reach a sort of cli­max in the moulded dash­top, with its ut­terly un­con­vinc­ing stitch pat­tern.

Taste aside, real mis­steps here are few. It could do with a dig­i­tal speed read­out be­tween the di­als and the seat back­rest an­gle ad­juster is dread­ful. The worst of­fence con­sists of plas­tic trim that must be fit­ted by hand in the con­vert­ible when the roof is low­ered — and stashed some­where when it’s up.

Prac­ti­cal com­pro­mises are to be ex­pected: the rear is a child zone, with no legroom or head­room to speak off and neg­li­gi­ble ameni­ties. The boot can be ex­tended by drop­ping the rear seat backs but the load aper­ture will make some cargo awk­ward to load.

The cabin short­com­ings prob­a­bly won’t de­ter Mus­tang en­thu­si­asts, who are more likely to re­joice in its au­then­tic­ity. They are un­likely to be­moan the loss of a few kilo­watts in the con­ver­sion ei­ther. It’s a small price to pay. How­ever, be­ing treated like chil­dren by dis­abling the burnout soft­ware — that should be a le­git­i­mate cause for dis­may.

Per­haps Ford’s move is un­der­stand­able, given the hu­mour­less state of our road reg­u­la­tions. But what a sad com­men­tary it makes on how far from our lar­rikin self-im­age we have strayed.

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