Ride your wild Mustang horses
In the automotive landscape, there is nothing more “Murica” as the pony car. And nothing represents the segment better than Ford’s iconic Mustang.
Launched in April 17 of 1964, the Mustang is the blue oval’s most popular car that has remained in constant production for over five decades, and this popularity doesn’t seem like it will be waning anytime soon.
The Mustang has, through the years, grown in size, power and weight, the last bit being most unfortunate.
But through the years, the Mustang has enjoyed widespread popularity in car culture: from tuning, racing both at the grassroots and professional level, and a good number of Hollywood front acts, most notable in Steve McQueen’s movie “Bullitt” which inspired a generation of enthusiasts.
For someone like me, the “Moooooostang” 5.0 V8 GT (as I like to call it) should be a match made in heaven: the powerful V8 engine makes macho-sounding V8 gurgling under load, plus of course torque surfing on the highway at high speed with absolute ease.
Yet, when I drove the previous generation Mustang a few years earlier, I was, quite honestly, disappointed by it that I couldn’t find anything worth writing lest I make enemies of legions of Ford fans—and Ford Motor Philippines.
Thankfully, I can say that after driving the latest model, I’m left very happy with it, even finding reason to drive up and down Tagaytay three times in one weekend just so I could enjoy the gravity-stopping torque that the Mustang’s Coyote V8 engine provides, and the surprisingly great handling the huge pony car has.
So what is the big difference?
We can all credit the newly redesigned independent rear suspension of the sixth-generation Mustang, providing far more compliance, stability and confidence-inspiring feel and feedback both on the highway and winding roads.
The Mustang GT variant I tested was factory fresh, having only 178 kilometers on the odometer when I got it, but by the time I returned it (begging for a two-day extension from Ford), it left me with close to 600 km on the odometer.
I guess you can say I really, really did love it! The 5.0 liter Coyote V8 engine produces 435 hp, and crucially, 542 Newton meters of wall-climbing torque available almost instantly from idle.
In other markets, you can pair it with a slick-shifting Getrag-Ford 6-speed manual, but locally, a 6-speed automatic from ZF is the sole transmission available for now.
You might think that a stick shift would have been more enjoyable, but the truth is, the 6-speed slush box suits the Mustang’s long-distance touring capabilities far better.
You can reserve that 6-speed manual for the GT350, GT350R and upcoming GT500 high-performance variants which are at home on the race track and drag-strip.
Ah yes, drag racing. Burn-out in particular is something the Mustang is practically infamous for, and something I didn’t want to try, as I might end up as a statistic to add to those Mustang burnout memes.
The fact that the new Mustang comes with an electronic line-lock function for enhanced launches (the line-lock locks the front brakes exclusively so you can start burning out the rear tires to warm them up prior to a drag launch) on drag strips also means burnout results can be far more dramatic—and dangerous in crowded areas.
But the Mustang isn’t just a straight-line specialist, even if that’s what it is probably most known for in motorsport circles.
Believe it or not, the Mustang has a very successful career in sportscar racing, having competed in various IMSA and SCCA road racing events, and was also a Nascar participant in its heyday, and most recently, in European GT3 and GT4 sportscar racing events.
On the road, the Mustang is fast, fabulous, and barrels full of fun.
The V8 soundtrack is loud enough, yet not intrusive on long drives.
The standard Brembo brakes have that firmness, consistency, and feel that are normally associated with exotics costing many times more.
The brakes provide fade-free operation even on a spirited downhill drive, and the suspension has the perfect balance of suppleness and compliance matched with excellent body control to rear in what could be a most painful and expensive prang on a winding road.
Yes, the Mustang is finally worthy of being called a proper sports car that offers fun and excitement for the average Joe (or Juan) with a price tag that won’t merit a second mortgage, or canceling the kid’s college fund, or selling off some organs.
Living with it on the most regular and mundane driving conditions does require a good bit of commitment.
For a start, the interior is slightly cramped. For such a huge car, you can barely fit anything useful inside.
The back seats are very much a notion to some form of practicality, because I can’t imagine anyone, except perhaps the youngest of children, fitting in the back seats.
The trunk is wide, but quite low in deck height. Your cargo will be limited despite it boasting an even deeper trunk than before.
And the heat from that V8 engine is immense: you can feel it seeping into the cabin from the transmission tunnel and the firewall on a hot day while idling away in traffic.
And lastly, everybody on the road—from a jeepney driver, to a taxi driver, to a boy-racer, a truck driver, and exotic sportscar owner will try to want to race you, as if to prove a point that their car is faster than your yank-tank.
It gets pretty boring and annoying really quick. So who won? Secret!
Thankfully, Ford’s Sync2 mutimedia infotainment system, with its 8-inch touchscreen LCD display, makes traffic bearable, keeping you occupied and amused while playing excellent music and allowing you to sync your mobile media device or phone for easy hands-free telephony.
Sync2 also provides voice-activated controls for using the air conditioning and playing music as well.
The rear-facing reverse camera also makes parking such a huge vehicle a breeze.
Keyless start/stop button, traction/stability control, plus ABS-EBD brakes round out the other safety and convenience features of the Mustang.
Globally, the Mustang is the world’s 2016 top-selling sports car, delivering over 150,000 units to garages worldwide, with China and Germany in particular being strong export markets outside of the United States.
In the Philippines, 2016 saw 319 units delivered to local clients, and this number is set to grow further this year.
Since production began, 395,000 units of the sixth-generation Mustang have already been produced. That’s a very impressive figure indeed.
Long-distance driving is the Mustang’s forte. The V8, matched with the 6-speed automatic, gives it very long legs: I eked out a decent 7 km/liter on a very new and tight engine on the highway.
Going up the Santa Rosa-Tagaytay Highway, the Mustang likes to flow through the corners.
It requires a far wider berth to perform, which to the uninitiated might make the ‘stang seem unruly and rambunctious. But that’s down to it’s size and weight.
It lacks the absolute precision of, say, a Nissan R35 GTR, or the polish of a Porsche 911, but the Mustang delivers its own driving charm in spades.
Plus, the ‘stang is far cheaper than the Nissan and rides smoother yet matches the Porsche for having its own unique character.
It’s interesting that the gestation period of both the 911 and the Mustang happened at the same period, both launched just months apart.
The air and water must have been different during the early ‘60s!
If you can hold your breath and pray that the revised excise tax system doesn’t get implemented soon, the upcoming 2018 Mustang will have Magneride magneto-rheological dampers (same as the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Audi R8 suspensions), a revised 10-speed automatic, the Sync3 multimedia-infotainment system with a larger 12-inch screen, and an active valve exhaust system for more of that V8 burble goodness.
I hope to try that one out when it comes to our shores.
Regardless of that, the 2017 Mustang is impressive. It’s an icon, and can be a keeper if you’re a huge Mustang fan, comfortable enough to use everyday, not too expensive, is fast enough to land you in jail, and has extensive aftermarket support if you want to customize it.
I can see mine already: a firmer, lower suspension, wider wheels and tires, an open V8 exhaust and cold-air intake, a refreshed ECU, and some body tweaks.
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