Has Ford finally got the Mustang right

RACV RoyalAuto Magazine

Few classic feel-good cars can match the original 1960s Ford Mustang. While early models were little more than Falcons with sexy two door bodies, the name and emotive imagery were embedded in motoring history, thanks to movie cameos and race victories.

Recapturing that critical DNA in later decades proved elusive for Ford, the styling department only now rediscovering its mojo, and chassis engineers achieving ride and handling to match European counterparts. This is also the first factory-built right-hand-drive Mustang.

MODERN ADAPTATION

Styling and presentation-wise, you get the feeling Ford parked the iconic 1968 Fastback alongside a new clay model and simply carved out a thoroughly modern adaptation. Everything from your seating position behind the dished, three-spoke steering wheel and two massive dials to the view down a long, square bonnet is an overwhelming reminder of Mustang’s heady days. But it has none of the dated mechanical nasties.

In Australia the range is the hard-top Fastback six speed manual as a four cylinder model ($45,990 plus on-road costs) and a V8 ($57,490). A six-speed auto adds $2500. The auto-only convertible is $54,990 and $66,490 respectively. The current waiting list is 12 months.

A BOOST WITH ECOBOOST

Notable in this incarnation is the 2.3L EcoBoost engine. While purists will cry sacrilege, this direct-injection four-cylinder turbo unit with variable cam timing produces more power and torque than any original naturally aspirated V8 Mustang. As our performance table shows, the six-speed auto EcoBoost beat the manual V8 to 80kmh, and even to 400m the V8 has less than half a second over the four. That said, shifting gears in the manual is a delight.

There’s an uncanny smoothness and a strong dynamic feel to this car. The lighter EcoBoost is better balanced and a little crisper in its handling than the V8, although both are surprisingly good. The EcoBoost has strong mid-range flexibility, which is particularly engaging on a cross-country run, but equally it has no unruly temperament around town and displays everyday practicality. Steering feel and cornering poise from the rear-wheel-drive chassis with its limited-slip diff are impressive. The ride is firm and well-controlled in the modern sense, meaning it’s not harsh or unsettling over broken surfaces.

PERSONALITY DISORDER

Yet these EcoBoost Mustangs have a personality disorder. There’s no power rumble on acceleration, no exhaust burble on over-run and absolutely no aural sense of occasion to match those brutish looks. For that you need the V8, but its high fuel consumption and limited range are sobering and you’ll pay an extra $11,500 up front. The only effective specification difference is the V8’s premium brakes and larger rear tyres.

PRESENTATION WORKS WELL

In the cabin, durable leather and excellent front-seat shaping provide long-term comfort, aided by electric lumbar adjustment. There’s an awkward handbrake that hasn’t moved with the right-hand build, but in all other respects the retro cabin presentation works well, with touch-screen navigation and Ford’s SYNC2 system providing audio, communication and emergency assistance.

Front occupants are notably snug and engaged. The two small bucket seats sculpted into the rear might be occasionally handy for children but will more likely carry a briefcase, and the lack of tilt/slide function on front seats makes access frustrating. The large boot will, however, take all you need for a long weekend including a golf bag. If you don’t request a space-saver spare wheel, you must settle for the inflation kit.

Mustang gets none of the new-wave camera or radar-based safety features such as autonomous emergency braking but it still has the fundamentals of a sound safety kit.

THE VERDICT

The new Mustang evokes more than its share of period emotion, yet there is nothing dated in the way it delivers on the road. It’s a modern classic.

UPDATE

The Ford Mustang, Australia’s most popular sports car, has been given a “shocking” two-star safety rating. Australia’s testing agency, Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), described the result as “simply shocking”.

CATEGORY RATINGS

Pricing ****
Features & equipment ****
Presentation ****
Seating comfort **** 1/2
Space ***
Noise ****
Performance ****
Economy ****
Handling & braking ****
Safety (ANCAP) not tested

FORD MUSTANG 2.3 FASTBACK

Price: $48,490 + $4713 (est) ORC. Model range $45,990-$66,490.
Safety: ESC. ABS. 8 airbags. Reversing camera. Rear parking sensors. Auto lights/wipers. ISOFIX fittings. Tyre pressure monitoring. Daytime running lights.
Connectivity: Sat-nav (8” touch screen). Real-time traffic information. iPod/USB ports.
Vehicle features: Dual-zone climate-control. Heated/cooled electric seats. Proximity key.
Driver features: Selectable drive/suspension modes.
Specifications: Drivetrain: 2261cc 4cyl turbo-petrol engine. 233kW@5600rpm, 432Nm@3000rpm. 6spd auto. RWD. 91-RON petrol. 59.8L tank. 8.9L/100km (RACV test figure); 9.3L/100km (govt figure).
Wheels: Alloy, 255/40 R19 tyres. Inflation kit or space-saver spare.
Acceleration (4cyl v V8): 0-60kmh, 2.9 secs/3.0 secs. 0-80, 4.3/4.5. 0-100, 6.1/5.8. 50-80, 3.1/3.3. 60-100, 4.5/3.8. 0-400m, 14.4/14.0.
Braking: 21.2m/20.3m from 80kmh.
Environment: 214g/km CO2.
Service/repairs: 12-month/15,000km services. 3yr/100,000km warranty.

OVERALL RACV RATING: ****

Dashboard view of a Mustang
Front view of a Mustang 2.3 Fastback
Rear view of a Mustang 2.3 Fastback
Written by Ernest Litera, Photos Cristian Brunelli
May 02, 2016