The stuff of legend and the dreams of many a petrol head came true when the top brass at Ford decided to introduce its iconic pony car in right-hand-drive (RHD) markets for the first time as per its ‘One Ford Plan’ last year.
While South Africa’s reported allocation of 900 units a year would still see the Mustang being a rarity on our roads compared to other RHD markets such as Australia and the United Kingdom, it still rates as one of the most eye-catching vehicles when spotted on local roads. To this end, there was really no chance of being conspicuous when the keys of a striking Mustang GT automatic landed in my hands recently.
Viewed in profile, the Mustang arguably rates as one of the best looking since the original. Whereas its retro themed predecessor was often the target of much criticism, the characteristic long bonnet, imposing headlight cluster, black honeycomb grille and those positively evil-looking black 20-inch Pirelli PZero-shod alloy wheels, provides a distinctive macho and muscular appearance many would struggle to match.
Where the Mustang plays is biggest aesthetic erm… trump card however, is when you look at it from the rear. Incorporating nearly every detail of the classic Fastback shape, the bulging wheel arches, steeply raked window line, clear lens three bar lights on either side of the black centre boot panelling and black diffuser, is enough to make anyone quiver with excitement.
If these details still fail to tingle your senses, the Mustang has a further party piece when the sun goes down, in that the mirror mounted puddle lamps display the famous stallion badge at your feet each time the doors are opened or the headlights left on.
The exterior hype sadly fails to continue inside where you are quickly reminded of where the Mustang originates from. Made up of hard and cheap feeling plastics, especially on the dashboard, around the infotainment screen and the glove box lid, the level of finish is a step below from many European sourced Fords, with the buttons for the climate control and toggle switches to adjust the steering and suspension feeling low rent.
On the flip side, no rattles or squeaks were detected throughout the Mustang’s stay despite our tester having covered nearly 20 000 km, with comfort in the front drawing no complaints thanks to the six-way electric seats and rake / reach multi-function steering wheel.
As to be expected, space in the back is best described as snug with limited head room due to the sloping roof, and almost no legroom to speak of. Boot, or should I say trunk space, is more commendable with Ford claiming a total capacity of 408-litres.
Although its level of fit-and-finish might leave a lot to be desired, the Mustang certainly does not lack for any mod-cons with features including heated and cooled seats, eight-inch touchscreen display incorporating Ford’s SYNC 2 system with Voice Recognition, six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth, Aux and USB, cruise control, traction control, dual-zone climate control, auto on/off lights, rain sense wipers, rear parking sensors with reverse camera, six airbags, Dynamic Stability Control and keyless entry/go.
The shortcomings of the interior are likely to be of minor significance to many enthusiasts though, with the main drawing card being the monster residing underneath that long bonnet.
Push the starter button, the five-litre V8 awakens with a typical bent-eight bark before settling down to a pulsating rubble. While the 306 kW it produces cannot match the smaller capacity turbo options from Germany, the 530 Nm of torque and almost metallic-sounding engine note in a way makes up for this for this, despite not always feeling as fast as the 263 km/h top speed and 0-100 km/h sprint of 5.3 secs suggests.
Some of the blame can be attributed to the leisurely shifting nature of the six-speed automatic gearbox, which blunts the experience by taking its time to swap cogs when you really tend to press on. Slotting the gear lever into S and using the steering wheel mounted paddles offers better response and slicker shifts, yet I still feel that the standard six-speed manual would be the better choice.
As part of the Performance Pack fitted across the range, drivers can also choose from four driving modes by flicking the Mode switch underneath the ventilation controls, namely Normal, Sport+, Track and Snow/Ice. While the latter was seldom called upon, selecting Sport+ did showcase some Mustang magic with quicker throttle response and sharper steering.
This being the first Mustang to also feature an independent rear suspension and limited slip diff, handling was praiseworthy while the ride, admittedly, tended to be on the hard side thanks to those 255/40 section wheels and a firm suspension setup. As for fuel consumption, well the best observed was 14.8 litres/100 km though this would be of a little interest to many Mustang buyers.
It is by no means the most sophisticated nor does it have the level of quality as some its rivals, but what the Ford Mustang has in its defence, is character and a presence hard to match. Factor in that normally aspirated V8 upfront, you have package some will consider as unbeatable.
|ENGINE LAYOUT||DOHC 32v V8|
|MAX POWER||306 kW @6500 rpm|
|MAX TORQUE||530 N.m @4250 rpm|
|DRIVE LAYOUT||Front engine; Rear-wheel drive|
|ACCELERATION (0-100 km/h)||5.3 secs|
|TOP SPEED||263 km/h|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION||14.8 L/100 km*|
*As claimed during test period