Caveat: I only had three hours with the Ford Mustang, but at least I’m getting the ‘proper’ one with the 5.0-litre V8 motor under its long hood, albeit with a six-speed ‘slushbox’, as the Americans like to call it. But I’m not complaining as the Mustang joins the Federal Highway morning crawl. It is getting eyeballs almost immediately, can’t blame them, an American muscle car is a rare sight and the Mustang is the automotive equivalent of a Hollywood hunk. Ford knows a thing or two on how to churn out forward-looking modern classics.
Stuck in traffic with a big V8 barely ticking over sounds like an opportunity missed but I’m surprised how easy it is to settle into a proper driving position, I guess being a global Mustang (finally) means the basics had to be right from the start. Less good are the mediocre-feeling plastics and mismatched shapes on the dashboard. I know what you’re thinking, the Mustang deserves a get-out-of-jail card simply because it’s a Mustang, but when the asking price in Malaysia (circa RM600,000) is within striking distance of a Mercedes-AMG C63 – a luxury-branded coupe that’s also V8-powered – you don’t want to be reminded too much that it’s a Ford.
Is it a surprise that the Mustang is the best-selling sports car in the world today? Let’s make this perfectly clear; the modern pony car is no longer dominated by its infamous V8 motor, nor is it a wild bucking horse so many ‘ultimate fail’ videos seem to suggest. Yes, the V8 titillate the senses; tuneful at part throttle and ferocious at full pelt, and it does so without any exhaust-derived auditory embellishments to cloud its already uplifting soundtrack.
But in an age where turbo has displaced displacement and national policies presented in tweets, the 5.0-litre V8 isn’t here just for sentimental reasons. The very fact that the engine isn’t force fed probably means the power delivery is that much more linear compared to having a hard-hitting turbo or two, and that makes for a throttle that’s also much more tractable and granular in response. Ah, if only the automatic was a touch quicker in swapping cogs when given the beans.
The Mustang harks back to the days when driving a performance car wasn’t nearly as complicated an exercise as it is today. Of course, it has modern day electronic gubbins to select different drive modes and steering weights, but the default settings are good enough (and plenty fast) for normal beings with limited driving prowess. The steering is properly geared and feels natural while the rear axle, now independently sprung and fitted with a limited slip diff, is planted and more than capable of handling 530Nm of torque without threatening to break traction on uneven surfaces.
Yes, that V8 is special but as the three-hour test drive wound down (which included a school run over our consistently inconsistent roads), the Mustang is turning out to be a performance coupe that’s surprisingly conducive for daily use. The ride quality is characteristically Ford, which means it’s firm, controlled but rarely harsh. It’s uncomplicated and fun to drive, and there’s just enough room to seat four with a 408-litre trunk for everyone’s luggage. Oh, it makes other coupes look feeble and meek too. How much is the road tax again?