Y’all come back now, ya hear

Wheels (Australia) - - Our Garage - NATHAN PONCHARD

Ponch puts the chaps back in the closet as his pony car sets off into the sun­set FI­NESSE isn’t what you buy a Mus­tang for. In fact, fi­nesse isn’t some­thing you’d as­so­ciate with any gen­er­a­tion of Mus­tang, in­clud­ing this fifth-gen ex­am­ple. Yet Ford’s love­ably flawed, feel-good two-door some­how gets away with it. Call it de­ploy­ment of the char­ac­ter card, and a shopfront win­dow re­flec­tion to show just how damn ballin’ you look in a mus­cle car like this.

Eight months in, I still feel slightly warm and fuzzy clasp­ing the Mus­tang’s chunky door han­dle and low­er­ing my­self into its broad, heated-and-cooled per­fo­rated-leather seats. Long gone is the slight in­tim­i­da­tion I first felt star­ing over its dou­ble-humped dash­board and bulging bon­net, un­aware of its ex­trem­i­ties and wor­ried I was go­ing to kerb its multi-spoke black 19s. In­stead, a level of trust was quickly built, along with an un­wa­ver­ing ad­mi­ra­tion for the many things this now-departed Mus­tang V8 man­ual Fast­back coupe does well.

A meaty in­duc­tion growl, well-de­fined and mostly slick gearshift qual­ity, bril­liant air-con, re­li­able voice recog­ni­tion, an easy-to-mas­ter con­trol lay­out and the un­ex­pected ver­sa­til­ity of a big boot with a split-fold rear back­rest make for a grand coupe that doesn’t de­mand too many com­pro­mises for its fast roofline.

And it is quick, this 306kw/530nm Mus­tang GT, even though the Ford Per­for­mance ex­haust sys­tem that ar­rived not long be­fore Christ­mas failed to give the over­driven sixth gear any real back­bone, or in­deed any no­tice­able in­crease in oomph, let alone a re­duc­tion in its prodi­gious fuel thirst thrust­ing from one traf­fic light to the next. Merely the bassy rum­ble at low-to-mid revs a bent-eight like this de­serves.

What about the not-so-spe­cial parts of Mus­tang own­er­ship? Well, the fact the ‘built with pride in Flat Rock, Michi­gan’ sticker on the left rear win­dow al­ways looked slightly askew speaks vol­umes for the Mus­tang’s solid, if far from so­phis­ti­cated, con­struc­tion.

Both the front fogs and rear light lenses would fill with wa­ter vapour ev­ery time I washed it, and the money saved on car­pet meant it never reached far enough up the toe­board to com­pletely cover the blue sound dead­en­ing un­der­neath. But noth­ing fell off or failed to work, and even the Amer­i­can (read budget) cabin plas­tics failed to re­ally bother me after a while.

From day one, my main gripe was the Mus­tang’s steer­ing, though the full FR3-M8 Ford Per­for­mance sus­pen­sion fit­ted along­side the fat ex­haust did slightly im­prove its con­nec­tion while en­hanc­ing its re­sponse. Weirdly, it feels most crisp in Com­fort mode. Nor­mal is slightly muddy much of the time, while Sport can make your thumbs ache, as it did on my farewell fling over the Blue Moun­tains and through the Me­ga­long Val­ley.

For all its ham-fisted rep­u­ta­tion and meat­head con­no­ta­tions, this tweaked Mus­tang is any­thing but. With far su­pe­rior wheel con­trol and much less ver­ti­cal bounce through bumpy cor­ners than a stocker, this yel­low GT is now much eas­ier to pedal quickly. It sets it­self up beau­ti­fully when turn­ing in to cor­ners, point­ing its long nose at the apex while hun­ker­ing down in the rear.

There’s a re­ally nice bal­ance be­tween power, grip and han­dling poise that makes this bent-eight Mus­tang by far the best of its breed. You need to be sub­tle when ap­ply­ing op­po­site lock though, given there ain’t a heap of feed­back com­ing through its dished three-spoke wheel, and the widely spaced ped­als make it dif­fi­cult to heel-and-toe on down­shifts if you’re only a size 10.

Hav­ing seen the facelifted Mus­tang in the flesh, I al­ready know I’m gonna miss the su­per-tough front of this pedes­trian-bust­ing orig­i­nal. And it’ll be slightly weird not see­ing a bright-yel­low Fast­back look­ing su­per-tough out on the con­crete di­vide of my chal­leng­ing neigh­bour­hood streets. Hell, I didn’t even mind park­ing it, and if that doesn’t prove our re­la­tion­ship had pro­gressed to a more in­ti­mate level, then I don’t know what would.

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