When Ford showed the sixth-generation Mustang in 2013 it went on to become a landmark iteration of the legendary pony car. It was to be the first global Mustang built for both left and right-hand-drive markets, and it would also get a pocket-friendly four-cylinder model.
The mid-life update to the Mustang, which is still available in fastback and convertible guises, is the living proof that Ford is taking its future very seriously indeed.
Because although it is now faster, louder, and sleeker, it also happens to be the most sophisticated and safest yet, and also the last version that former Ford executive and spiritual father to the Mustang, Lee Iacocca, would have seen before his death earlier in 2019.
After quite a delay to arrive on these shores I’ve had my first crack at the new car which, like its predecessor, is still an affordable and usable daily sports car.
It follows the Ford Ranger’s recent move to 10-speed automatic gearboxes. The updated Mustang also arrives with a new face, an improved digital dash display with more menus to flip through or tailor to individual tastes.
Significant change happens under the long bonnet where if you opt for the “more sensible” 2.3l turbo EcoBoost there is a negligible decrease in power output to 231kW from 233kW, but torque has been hiked to a richer 441Nm from 430Nm. Models powered by the 5.0l V8 now wield 331kW and 529Nm, from the previous 306kW and 530Nm.
A more upscale interior offers soft-touch materials and aluminium finishes, with blue backlighting for digital displays.
New driver assist technology — sensors that help to prevent collisions, pedestrian detection, and a new Ford SYNC Connect that enables owners to link to their Ford Mustang via smartphone and remotely unlock and open the car — can be had in the car.
Advanced driver assistance includes adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Lane-Keeping Aid and customisable 12-inch digital cluster.
It’s all tidy and sufficiently upmarket, but how does it all stack up once you thumb in the pulsating starter button?
Behind the wheel, and on the move, you inevitably feel the under-skin re-engineering enjoyed by this car above that of the model that arrived here in 2015.
The new 10-speed auto transmission, standard across the range except for the Bullitt version, works well to offer intuitive and unobtrusive up or downshifts for wafting along open roads or in town when the adrenaline has subsided.
For more spirited drives, the dullness initially found in the smaller engine model has been replaced with a more assured charge.
It shoots off the line quicker and the mid-range urge is strong enough to not allow easy bullying by the V8. The added poise when you push it hard is brought upon by new shock absorbers, cross-axis joint in the rear suspension and new stabiliser bars for a firmer performance in the bends.
The V8-powered GT models continue to use their new outputs to flatten the landscape. The car feels better connected to the road than before. There is less body roll and the ride quality is sumptuous. You’ll have more confidence to drive it without the traction nannies because it’s more planted.
You’d also want to fit the optional sports exhaust to have the loudness as an ominous feature to go with the appearance of quad exhaust pipes and the large “5.0” lettering on the front wings.
A Good Neighbour Mode can be programmed to automatically limit the exhaust’s noise at preprogrammed times of the day to avoid disturbing neighbours, for instance when starting the V8 car early in the morning.
The other Mustang you’d want, but sadly can’t have, is the V8-powered Bullitt. Only 50 of this top-of the-pile model have been brought into SA and all units are already spoken for.
The car celebrates the epic car chase scene where a green 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback driven by actor Steve McQueen duels with villains in a 1968 Dodge Charger 440 Magnum through San Francisco in the 1968 American action film Bullitt.
The Bullitt is physically differentiated from the regular Mustang V8 GT through the deletion of the pony mascot on the grille and a “Bullitt” rifle crosshairs badge at the rear, and it’s available in a choice of two colours: Dark Highland Green or Shadow Black. Special 19-inch wheels mimic the Bullitt car wheels and there are chrome surrounds on the grille.
Inside there are leather clad Recaro bucket seats that feature green contrast stitching with a green instrument binnacle background and footwell lighting.
However, these details will occupy your mind less. Instead you will obsess with the white cue-ball six-speed manual gearlever and the delicious throttle blips when down-shifting to a stop. It also spits the loudest engine malevolence in the range and produces 338kW and 529Nm while the standard Brembo brake calipers are painted red.
New MagneRide active damping technology that automatically polishes ride and handling characteristics is also introduced in the Mustang Bullitt.
The 0-100km/h sprint is covered in a claimed 4.8 seconds in the 5.0 GT models, with the top speed electronically limited to 250km/h (262km/h for the Mustang Bullitt). The 2.3 EcoBoost reaches 100km/h from standstill in a claimed 5.8 seconds, and tops out at 233km/h.
All in, the renewed Ford Mustang is a very capable car with heightened enhancements and performance that is still being sold at an accessible price.
Ford Mustang 2.3 Fastback — R768,000
Ford Mustang 2.3 Convertible — R831,000
Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback — R915,800
Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Convertible — R978,400
Ford Mustang Bullitt 5.0 V8 GT Fastback — R995,400
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