First Drive: Exploring the mighty Mustang

09 May 2018
POSTED BY Y Magazine



 

Aggressive as ever but more sharp and snazzy, the beast turns heads on the street. Y Magazine revs it hard and loud to enjoy the noise and test the ponies under the hood

Ah! The Ford Mustang. There’s no other way to put it in words: The Mustang is – and has been – the muscle car of choice around the world for over 50 years. In short, every muscle car wants to be the pony, or – at the very least – beat the pony.

But there’s much more to the Mustang than just that; its successes run deeper than its will to keep on fighting its competition and its long-running cameos in Hollywood movies.

As a matter of fact, the Mustang may very well be the reason muscle cars continue to share driving (or shall I say living) space with other environment-friendly cars of this age – and for that very reason, it marks an important place in the much-acclaimed “American Dream” that people have been bellowing about for decades.

History lesson aside, however, the current generation Mustang – the one we tested a few weeks earlier – has actually been around for a good three years or so. And, while its sleek and proportioned design had received stick earlier during its existence, the seas have now calmed, leaving behind what may very well be considered one of the prettiest Mustangs that has ever graced the roads.

I mean, just take a look at it: The sharp and almost dagger-like headlamps are nothing short of menacing, while the iconic ‘Galloping Pony’ sits boldly on the large grille. The fascia is further accentuated by the large hood, which has its own character lines for good effect. Let me put it this way: There’s no way you’d mistake the Mustang for any other car if you’re being tailed by one.

Meanwhile, the side profile is what gives the Mustang its characteristic pony car look. The almost fastback-esque roofline sits well with the proportions of the car, while the rear stays true to its three-line tail lamps to capture the essence of the infamous ’69 Mustang (you know, the one that was made famous in movies like Bullitt, Goldfinger, Gone in 60 Seconds, and so on).

Granted, the posterior has been restyled, and an ostentatiously large diffuser has been added to complement the twin exhaust pipes. I did find the former to aid stability during high-speed driving.

Where things really take shape, though, is inside the cabin, which has been completely redesigned and reworked for the sixth generation. Hands down, this is the best interior that has been fitted to a Mustang: Soft-touch and padded leatherette surfaces finished with contrasting stitching flank top portions of the dashboard and door inserts. But, lower portions of the cabin are still crafted in plastic.

The overall aura of the Mustangs from previous eras is captured with retro design elements throughout the interior. This is seen on the dashboard, which houses a thick metal piece and a plaque commemorating 50 years of the Mustang; the unique fonts on the speedometer and rev counter on the gauge cluster; and the chunky stereo, a/c and vehicle control buttons.

Not so retro is the quick-witted and easy-to-use 8-inch multimedia touchscreen running SYNC3.The capacitive response of the screen is easily the best I’ve seen in recent years and the user interface is welcoming. Depending on trim levels, you’ll also be treated with features such as blind-spot monitoring, power-adjustable leatherette seats with cooling and heating functions, a great dual-zone auto a/c and adaptive cruise control.

The cabin is spacious – very spacious, to be honest – upfront, and even the head room is remarkable. However, things can become sketchy if you’re sitting in the rear. There are two seats in the back but it’s best to reserve those for children or… well… friends you’re not fond of. Albeit, I must point out that I was able to travel 300-odd kilometres in the car with a 6-foot tall photographer perched in the back – and he made the trip just fine.

The current generation of the Mustang comes in different variants, with the iconic 5.0-litre V8 sitting as the cherry on the cake. Thankfully, that’s also the car I received this week. Conspicuous drivers can opt for a four-cylinder variant, if needed.

In any case, the naturally aspirated V8 pumps out 435 ponies and 542Nms of torque – and all of it is unleashed in the only manner the Mustang knows: with its trademark bellow that can rattle windows and undeniably upset bystanders. But to those of us who appreciate humble American engineering, it’s music to the ears.

Power is put down to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission (or a six-speed manual, if you want to take control of the shifts completely). My tester also came with paddle shifters, but the transmission – even in complete automatic mode – is aggressive. During my (hot) mid-April test, I was consistently able to hit 100kph in about 4.8 seconds.

For most parts, the engine responds and behaves like its predecessors; the flat-plane crank V8 throws torque to the rear wheels from as low as 2,000rpm before hitting its peak at 4,250rpm, while power kicks in at full blast at 6,500rpm (the engine is capped at 7,000rpm).

All of this translates to a lot of tyre-spinning action in lower gears. The acceleration is truly brutal and, more often than not, you’ll see your rear tyres begging for mercy as they waste themselves away leaving behind skid marks on the road and smoke that is thick enough to put military-spec smoke grenades to shame.

Nevertheless, thanks to the addition of a new independent suspension systems in place of traditional solid axles, the car remains stable during hard cornering. Handling is balanced under normal circumstances, but poke the throttle and you’ll evoke oversteer like you’ve never seen before.

While the latter is no way to drive on the street, the Mustang’s response to corners on a racetrack is phenomenal and almost awe-inspiring. Dare I say: The Mustang’s handling capabilities encroach towards European sports car territory.

The heavy engine upfront will require some getting used to initially, especially if you’re planning to push it to its limits. The grip from the staggered 255/40 tyres wrapped around the 19-inch alloys (in the front) is superb, but I did experience whiffs of understeer midway through fast corners.

The Brembo brakes in my tester were strong enough to evade brake fade even after hours of abuse on the roads. Braking force is distributed linearly and the pedal offers a great deal of feedback, as does the electric-assisted power steering system. The steering ratio feels marginally quicker than its predecessor, thereby making the Mustang quite nimble in city traffic. Albeit, you can control the weight of the steering wheel, with the simple toggle of a switch on the dashboard.

Ford’s rendition of the sixth-generation Mustang may come across as a tad controversial to some – but it has grown into an iconic muscle car; a modern-day classic of sorts. Sure, the 54-year-old car now possesses better driving dynamics than its predecessors and competitors, but I’ll tell you this: The Mustang is still as ‘Wild Wild West’ as it gets. It’s 435 horses on the rear wheels, and that’s America’s definition of fun. Didn’t you get the memo?

 

SPECIFICATIONS

 

  • Engine: 5.0-litre V8
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 435hp
  • Torque: 542Nm
  • Top Speed: 240kph (limited)
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • 8-inch touchscreen with SYNC3
  • Apple CarPlay enabled
  • 19-inch alloy wheels with staggered tyres
  • ABS, ESC, BA and EBD
  • Line Lock system
  • Adjustable steering modes
  • Auto a/c
  • Cruise control
  • Limited-slip differential

 

 


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