Motoring » Road Tests
There is always something bittersweet about road testing a Ford Mustang. It is such an iconic car that pulls hard at your heart strings and yet at the same time it is mechanically flawed in a world that has gone completely soft.
You have first world people whining about global warming while flying around the planet in ozone killing commercial jets and addressing rich kids that are all wearing sneakers and clothes made in not so eco-friendly factories in China. Maybe these eco warriors should practice some Naked and Afraid reality type TV and first try living the lifestyle they protest so passionately about.
This said, I have never been that politically correct and neither are the two freshened up Ford Mustangs you see on test here. This is motoring, so let’s get to it. The first one is the traditional 5.0 GT Fastback and the second one is the rather cool limited edition Bullitt model based off the iconic Steve McQueen Bullitt movie of 1968.
Looking at them, you will notice, or not, that the styling changes are subtle with one of the big updates being the switch to LED lighting. Obviously on the Bullitt model, of which only 50 were made available to South Africa and have all been spoken for, the changes are in the Bullitt details you can see in the pictures attached.
On the inside, it is still a Mustang and this means you get real world quality and a level of functionality that allows you not to have a degree in Computer Science before you can turn on the radio or adjust the aircon.
There is a cool customisable, all-digital, 12-inch LCD instrument cluster, similar to what is found in the Ford GT, that changes as you change the Drive Mode with a host of changeable range of gauges in multiple colours on offer. Ford’s very competent SYNC 3 takes care of communications and entertainment by voice commands or by using pinch and swipe gestures on the central eight-inch touch screen that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
They are both two-door coupes, so don’t expect adult-type rear leg room. These cars are kitted out with sports seats and ready for you to drive and not just take the kids to school in. And surprisingly, for a Mustang (sorry Ford), talking about driving, the handling is much improved courtesy of recalibrated shock absorbers, thicker anti-roll bars and a stiffer suspension.
They are never going to carve up the Nurburgring and drill the Germans into submission, but I felt that they had plenty corner grip and were lots of fun to drive to fast because you always knew what the suspension was thinking. Something the Germans haven’t always got right.
Under the hood you won’t find any turbocharging, or a hint of any electrical assistance either, the units doing duty are big 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8s. Up from 309 kW, the refreshed Mustangs now make 331 kW in GT form and 338 kW in Bullitt form and an equal 530Nm of torque at 4 600rpm.
I put the GT through its paces first and was pleasantly surprised by the relaxed nature of the gearbox, but unfortunately this gear changing relaxation remained even when selecting Race or Drag mode. So, with no launch control, the GT was not the fastest off the line at 5.57 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, but from there the high revving V8 did start to haul and hit the 1 km mark at a not bad at all 229 km/h.
Roll on acceleration was also acceptable and the top speed was electronically limited to just over 250km/h. Sure, not too many executives at BMW’s M division are going to be losing any sleep over these numbers. But does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. This is a Ford Mustang, and if you understand the car’s heritage, then you know exactly what you are buying.
What did surprise me, was the limited edition Bullitt that attracted so much attention and promised so much in performance terms, just didn’t do the job of going fast in a straight-line.
It is slightly more powerful and a little lighter than the auto GT, but the six-speed manual gearbox just didn’t like being slapped around at speed near the rev limiter. To makes matters worse, the launch control would activate perfectly and then bog the car down as you dropped the clutch. And this killed the sprint times.
So, I switched off all the traction aids and regulated the throttle and wheelspin as much as possible and I had a good a few runs at it before I hit a best 6.24 second 0 to 100 km/h time. From there the gear changes went no better and this manual version remained behind the auto all the way to the end. The 1 km speed came in at 218 km/h and the top speed was also limited, but to 252 km/h this time.
Something worth bearing in mind, these engines lose as much as 60 kW as a result of the oxygen deprived air we have up on the Reef. And both models have extra-long gearing and would get to about 500 km/h if they could run out in top gear. This combination does blunt the true performance potential of the two cars.
It’s not all old-school though, these new Mustangs are offered with a comprehensive range of driver assistance technologies to keep you safe and not be part of another meme showing a Mustang ploughing into a crowd on the side of the road. It includes Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control and Distance Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Aid.
It might be the 21st century, but the Ford Mustang still remains mostly an enthusiast’s choice, that is driven by nostalgia and I am okay with that.
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