What is it?
The sixth-generation Ford Mustang GT. The new ‘global’ Mustang will go on sale in 120 countries, including right-hand-drive markets such as Australia.
Globally, three engines are offered, but Ford Australia has opted to take only two of these: the naturally aspirated 4951cc V8 driven here and a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder for the Mustang Ecoboost. The atmo 3.7-litre V6 has been left on the bench (probably rightly). The dohc Coyote V8 makes 325kW at 6500rpm and 542Nm at a high-sounding 4250rpm. In truth, the engine is torquey and tractable throughout its rev range. Both engines are available with six-speed manuals or the option of a six-speed auto.
The big news for this new-gen Mustang is the adoption of an independent rear suspension – previous generations used live rear axles. There’s also launch control on the manual and a line-lock burnout function.
What’s it like to drive?
Put aside any snobbery, because here is an American car that goes, stops, handles and entertains like a good European sports coupe. Around town the ride is a bit busy, but once you up the pace on a challenging road, the suspension comes into its own. Much of the drive programme was conducted on twisty and lumpen canyon roads east of Los Angeles. These roads challenged the Mustang as well as any you’ll find in Australia and didn’t offer it any places to hide. Thankfully, the GT was up to the task with direct and linear steering connected (without a great deal of feel) to a keen and stable front end. In fact, a couple of colleagues likened the eager front end to that of a well-sorted BMW coupe and they’d get no argument from me.
The rear was also stable and for the most part and got the power to the ground (via a mechanical LSD) with little trouble. Occasionally, however, if you cracked the throttle too wide with the rear suspension fully loaded, there’d be a small hop from the back and the beginnings of a small and controllable slide. The customisable stability control was relatively unobtrusive even in its most aggressive setting. With the safety net switched off, the Mustang slides and recovers naturally and honestly.
With the stability control on but in the more permissive Sport Plus mode, you could float the Mustang down the lumpy tarmac and dive into corners hard on the brakes. The brakes also deserve special mention for their feel, progression and stamina. After a fast canyon run (where average fuel economy ballooned to 19.4L/100km), the brakes got smelly and smoky but the pedal never went long and stopping power remained true. Given the sustained speeds and big stops, I’ve little doubt that the GT would cope well with the average track day.
The Coyote V8 is so smooth and linear that I ran into its 7000rpm soft-limiter the first time I wound it out – it felt like there was another 500-800rpm left in it. With that in mind, the canyon was run in third and fourth gears of the six-speed manual, as second would run out of revs in all but the tightest corners. For muscle car fans, the engine could be more vocal, but it still provided a suitable backbeat to a fast drive.
How does it compare?
Ford is being very tight-lipped about pricing for the Mustang, which goes on sale in Australia around April next year. Best guesses at this stage are sub-$50,000 for the Ecoboost model and sub-$70,000 for the V8 GT. Ford is also keeping schtum on volume expectations, but after this first drive, there’s plenty for non-Ford or non-muscle-car fans to like. It will be interesting to watch how it sells beside the performance variants of the last-ever Falcon.
Anything else I need to know?
It won’t be to all tastes, but you shouldn’t dismiss the new Mustang because of its sometimes-lacklustre past. As a relatively affordable, entertaining rear-drive coupe it is a compelling offering. Add the drama of the looks and the aura of the badge, and the new Mustang is an exciting new addition to Australian roads.
– Jesse Taylor, Editor, evo Australia