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Wild horses

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Ford has sold more than nine million Mustangs globally since the nameplate’s launch in 1964 – making it one of the most successful vehicles in sports car history. And the model’s appeal doesn’t appear to have been diminished by time. Wynter Murdoch reports

For over five decades, Ford has successfully reinvented its iconic Mustang. The latest iteration – the first to be manufactured as a right-hand-drive model and available in Fastback or Convertible guise – sees the introduction of a turbocharged, four-cylinder, Ecoboost engine to complement the line-up’s accustomed V8.

Though styling retains enough classic cues to make each derivative in the range instantly recognisable as a Mustang – long bonnet, low roof, wide stance and short rear deck, highlighted by signature trapezoidal grille, shark-bite front fascia and tri-bar tail lamps – the interpretation is sleekly modern.

For the first time, underpinnings include independent rear suspension in place of a solid axle, while a sub-frame has been added at the front with a view to strengthening chassis integrity and improving nose-end dynamics. Interiors are comfortable with a premium class, retro feel and an attractive array of enticing, high-tech features.

Whichever engine powers the car, drive is to the rear wheels via a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearboxes. While the 2,3-litre Ecoboost plant lacks the V8’s distinctive growl – not to mention slam-in-the-back punch – it remains a promising performer, producing an impressive 233kW for a power to weight ratio of about 141kW/ton. Translated to the road, that equates to a 0 to 100km/h time of 5,8 seconds – just a second off the V8 GT’s benchmark.

 

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Not surprisingly, the force-fed unit is far more fuel efficient than its bigger, normally-aspirated counterpart. According to Ford’s figures, the engine is capable of achieving 8,0 litres/100km in the combined cycle compared with the GT’s 13,5 litres/100km. Also, because the plant is relatively light, models to which it is fitted tend to feel nimbler on the road than their more powerful – but heavier – equivalents, helping to off-set some perceived performance drawbacks.

 

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On the subject of weight, convertibles – which preserve the nameplate’s trademark cloth top – find themselves hefting an extra 70kg or so thanks to modifications designed to reinforce the cabin’s structure as well as to accommodate the electrically powered mechanism that raises or lowers the roof.

In this respect, boot volume of topless versions is smaller than that of hardtops by 60 litres. That said, even in truncated form the luggage area remains large by most sports car standards – it offers 322 litres of space – and, according to Ford’s spokesmen, is capable of swallowing two sets of golf clubs.

Equally, the cabin – ostensibly designed for four passengers – is spacious at the front but less so at the rear, with headroom in Fastback versions compromised by the pronounced sweep towards the tail of the already low superstructure. Also, with a long-legged driver behind the steering wheel, foot room at the back is in short supply.

Still, the cabin’s high quality ambiance is enticing. Plush leather sheathes heated and cooled sports seats – which can be power adjusted every which way – wraps the steering wheel and embellishes the top and bottom of the gear selector.

Paying homage to previous generation Mustangs, switchgear on the centre fascia is underlined by a row of metal-look toggle switches and, while instrumentation is state of the art, it is housed in a dual-cowl panel ahead of the driver – another nod to the past.

Features include a TFT colour screen that incorporates a trip computer; an infotainment centre based on Ford’s Synch2 communications system which includes a touchscreen, Bluetooth and voice control; a Track Apps system which feeds back information relevant to race track applications – such as accelerometer, acceleration timer and brake performance indicator – a nine-speaker audio system; facilities for an auxiliary input, an SD card and two USB ports; a rear-view camera; smart keyless entry; and illuminated Mustang badged scuff plates on the door sills.

 

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Safety features include dual front driver and passenger airbags, side airbags and, in hard-top versions, curtain airbags; Ford’s MyKey system; anti-lock brakes; an electronic stability programme (ESP) with traction control; hill launch assist; a Thatcham alarm and engine immobiliser; daytime running lights and ISOFIX child seat anchors.

On the road, the Mustang in any form reveals itself to be well-behaved. Tyre and wind noise are modest, making for a serene cabin at cruising speeds. On the downside, the ride can get slightly harsh on bumpy tarmac thanks to firm suspension settings. Using selectable drive modes, however, drivers are able to adjust throttle response, automatic gear-shift patterns and steering to match normal, sport+, track or wet settings.

 

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In keeping with the Mustang’s sports car heritage, Ford has included many lightweight materials in the car’s design, including aluminium for the bonnet, front wings, suspension, transmission and brakes. Also, specially developed aluminium rear knuckles help to reduce unsprung mass. High-strength steels, laser welding and hydro-forming techniques contribute to a stiffer body, though the convertible still suffers a little from scuttle shake.

All models sold in South Africa incorporate what Ford describes as a Performance Pack – an option in markets such as North America – that include 19-inch wheels and a high-performance brake package that, on GT versions, incorporate six-piston Brembo calipers.

Additionally, the Performance Pack features a K-brace under the bonnet to secure the suspension strut towers to the bulkhead for improved stability, a larger radiator, upsized sway bar on the Fastback, plus heavy-duty front springs.

A feature worthy of note on V8 powered models is Line Lock – and electronic system that applies the front brakes when the vehicle is stationary, enabling drivers to warm the rear tyres while, say, on a starting grid during a track day.

Similarly, Launch Control – incorporated only in V8 powered manual transmission versions – is designed to hold the engine at an optimum number of revs on a start line until the clutch is released, with torque delivery controlled for maximum acceleration.

In her address to journalists at the recent launch of the Mustang in Cape Town, Tracey Delate, Ford’s marketing manager for the company’s Sub-Saharan region, described the car as “the one we’ve all been waiting for!”

“We’re delighted to finally be able to offer the new Mustang to local buyers who flooded Ford dealers with queries and orders when we announced that it would be coming to South Africa. It’s been a long wait, but it has certainly been worth it!” she said.

To my mind, the model deserves plenty of sales success on our shores… It’s a convivial, fulsome and enormously welcoming car to drive.

MUSTANG PRICES
2,3 EcoBoost Fastback Manual R699 900
2,3 EcoBoost Fastback Auto R719 900
2,3 EcoBoost Convertible Auto R779 900
5,0 GT Fastback Manual R819 900
5,0 GT Fastback Auto R839 900
5,0 GT Convertible Auto R899 900

All models are sold with a four-year/120 000km warranty, five-year/100 000km service plan, three-year/unlimited kilometre roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited kilometre corrosion warranty. Service intervals are every 20 000km

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