2016 Ford Mustang: Australian Hands On

The Mustang is an iconic car. In Australia, we've rarely seen it outside of films like Bullitt, Gone In 60 Seconds and the new Need For Speed — the last locally delivered model was the relatively unpopular 2001 4.6-litre, and companies like Performax charge upwards of $100,000 for right-hand-drive conversions of US-delivered variants. Now, in 2016, the first made-for-Australia version of the Ford Mustang is here — it's launching this week, starting at under $46,000.

What Is It?

The 2016 Ford Mustang is in high demand around Australia; dealers and opportunistic order-holders have been selling their confirmed deliveries for upwards of $40,000 over the manufacturer's recommended retail price, with nearly half a dozen listed online on sites like Carsales from both dealers and private sellers. No cars are in customer hands yet, though — anyone willing to pay that much for an early Mustang will be buying it sight unseen.

Starting at $45,990 (plus on-roads) gets you into the four-cylinder manual coupe, while the V8 is $57,490 before options. $2500 more on both models will get you the 6-speed auto, and a further $6000 chops the roof off and gives you a motorised convertible soft-top. That means you'll pay $66,490 for the most expensive Mustang, actually making it the cheapest V8 coupe in Australia since the death of the Holden Monaro in 2006. 10 different colour variants are available; my pick is either Magnetic Grey or Competition Orange, both of which are a $500 premium.

The basic Mustang uses the same Ford EcoBoost 2.3-litre four-cylinder used in the Ford Focus RS, with a slightly different tune and hardware setup. Developing 233kW at 5500rpm and 434Nm at 4000rpm, it's highly turbocharged to deliver that kind of power in a relatively small displacement, but has breathing room — the Focus RS is upwards of 260kW and 475Nm. Step up to the V8, and you're getting Ford's all-aluminium Coyote 5.0-litre block, which sports 306kW at 6500rpm and 530Nm at 4250rpm.

Waiting lists are long; if you walk into a dealership now, expect to wait over a year for your top-spec Mustang to be delivered. Over 4000 preorders have been placed for Ford's new halo car in Australia, with an approximately 80-20 split in favour of the significantly more expensive 5.0-litre GT variant. The 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost is much less popular, but in a few ways I think it's actually the best car of the pack.

What's It Like?

It's good. It's worthy of the Mustang badge, and it's a worthy successor to the last Falcon GTs that will soon end local production in Ford's Broadmeadows plant. It's not a complex car — there's only the one interior trim level, and the key exterior difference between the 5.0-litre GT and the Ecoboost is a different set of black multi-spoke 19-inch wheels (the EcoBoost gets 18-inch five-spokes). There are no advanced technological features like automatic emergency braking or adaptive cruise control. But what it does, it does well.

Get in the Mustang and you'll see the interior is well appointed for a Ford — it's a huge improvement from even the best Falcon. The black leather seats are smooth and comfortable, with a good amount of bolster without being excessively racey and uncomfortable. The driving position is inviting, behind that big pony-emblazoned steering wheel, with the six-speed shifter on the manual model sitting on top of a modest transmission tunnel and centre console. For the front passenger, there's a Mustang plate in the centre of that side of the dashboard.

The placement of the cupholders is a genuine problem for Aussie manual drivers, though. You won't have fun changing gears with one or two 600mL bottles in the spaces; anything taller than a small coffee cup will get in your way. Part of this problem is caused by Ford's choice not to change the placement of the handbrake, which is closer to the passenger seat and therefore harder to operate.

The dashboard, centred around Ford's great but also quickly-aging SYNC2 platform — read more about it here — is straightforward and simple from the bottom of the touchscreen upwards. In the lower centre of the dash, though, a cluster of buttons for air conditioning, seat heating and cooling, and the adjustable driving modes and steering weights looks somewhat out of place — the manettino switches, too, only flick upwards rather than both directions, so you're left tapping three or four times to cycle through menus rather than back and forth.

The rear seats and headroom — or lack thereof on both accounts — are another factor that might turn off local buyers, especially those keen on transporting anyone in the back seats over the age of six or seven. If you're a tall driver, you'll have barely a skinny leg's worth of room behind the seat, especially in the manual which requires two legs' pedal-pushing. The rear seat seems more suited to a quick cross-city trip with the kids, or for a backpack or bag of groceries after a trip to the shops.

Driving it, though, makes you forget about any small complaints you might have about the interior. It's not a hugely powerful V8 — no supercharger to give you an excess of power available — and you will have to drop back a gear or two on the highway to overtake — but it's the overall package — well damped but compliant over small bumps and potholes in the road, with a huge amount of urgent push in the middle of the rev range, and plenty of traction and strong brakes to pull you up — that makes it just fun to drive.

Different driving modes — Normal, Sport+ and Race in the GT, and a few Sport variations in the EcoBoost — tighten up throttle response and stability control, giving you a firmer ride if you want it, and turn off traction control entirely in the Race setting for whenever you intend to get sideways. The same is true of the electronically adjustable steering weight — it feels best in Sport, but Comfort will likely be less fatiguing on a long stretch of unbroken highway at the cost of a little steering feel.

The Mustang is not a sports car in the same vein as the new Mazda MX-5, which I've also been driving recently. It's a GT car, made for spirited driving but not necessarily that corner-to-corner, point-to-point racing that some Mustang buyers might be expecting. You can feel this in the suspension setup, which allows for a small amount of body roll — more in the heavier convertible, which has no overhead brace to keep things stiff. Ford has gone overboard with the excellent standard six-pot Brembo braking package, though, which is excellent and does an incredibly good job of pulling the circa-1700kg 5.0-litre GT up, and are even more effective on the 1600kg EcoBoost.

I will say that the EcoBoost is significantly lighter in the front when you're pushing it around a corner at speed — on a private road, of course. It feels easier to turn, quicker to respond, and gives you more freedom to play around with confidence. That, and the reduced body roll on the coupe versus the convertible, cements my decision that the entry-level Mustang — EcoBoost 2.3-litre, manual, coupe — is actually the best driver's car available from the entire Mustang fleet. It just trades that V8 growl for a more muted turbocharger whistle.

Should You Buy It?

You'll have to wait a while if you want to buy the new Mustang in Australia, especially if you're keen on the V8. But either model is a legitimately worthwhile purchase, and if you buy soon you'll be jumping in at the height of renewed Mustang fever in Australia — which should translate into more thumbs-ups and smiles from passersby and passengers alike. It's a beautiful car from the outside, it's fun to drive on the inside — you just have to forgive a few small interior quirks along the way.

Here's my advice: if you're on the fence between EcoBoost and V8, choose the turbo — you won't be disappointed. We'll have a full, more comprehensive review of the new Mustang on Gizmodo in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.


Comments

    The black leather **sets** are smooth and comfortable,
    just a heads up...

      Ah damn, thanks mate! I promise I can spell sometimes...

        Can you spell any other words too? :)

    great review. would love to take a couple of these for a ride. seems like fun!

    Does it have a LSD in either or both models?

      Yep! On both! It's worth mentioning that in Australia, we don't get the electronic line-locker for burnouts -- we're the only country out of 130 that doesn't.

        what does an electronic line-locker do exactly? (excuse my ignorance)

          locks the front wheels completely and disengages rear brakes

          Last edited 22/01/16 8:39 pm

          It lets you lock up the front wheels while torquing up the back wheels, for launch control or burnouts. Some manufacturers (not sure if any in Australia) which have this feature or similar will void your warranty if you use it though, since it is for non-street use.

          It allows you to do burnouts, so not even remotely justifiable including it as factory equipment on a road registered car.

            America has more freedoms than us for many things. Australia is extremely over regulated.

              They also have the freedom to die in the street if they lose their job or can't afford medicine. Great country.

            You're so right 'Not Lindsay', i mean, who would want to buy one of these and take it to the track? How 'common'. In fact, i wont use any car on a track that can be purchased off it! No, for me i must keep my road cars and track cars separate, like the servant staff and the house owners.

            Such nerve ford allowing a common road car to have a track feature! Whats next? replaceable wheels and tires? customised paint? no no, that wont do.

        The function would just be turned off in the ECU.
        Wouldn't a simple ECU flash get that function back. Like the disabled "Drift" button in the Focus RS.

          Not if it requires some sort of actuator in the master cylinder or brake lines.

        I have good source that the line lock control will still be there, just wont be fitted to the dash. The wiring will still be behind the dash but not connected, so if you know someone or can do yourself the line lock feature is still possible.
        Flat rock still put the wiring in them, they wont change the way they build just for australia.

    No cars are in customer hands yet, though

    I just saw one on the road a couple of days ago, so there are some out there already.

    The placement of the cupholders is a genuine problem for Aussie manual drivers, though. You won’t have fun changing gears with one or two 600mL bottles in the spaces; anything taller than a small coffee cup will get in your way. Part of this problem is caused by Ford’s choice not to change the placement of the handbrake, which is closer to the passenger seat and therefore harder to operate.

    I've got a Nissan 370Z and it has exactly the same problem. The handbrake is in a different postcode to the driver, and the placement of the cup holder means it's pretty much useless for anything taller than a soft drink can because having a bottle there makes it very awkward trying to reach the gear shift. Probably wouldn't be such an issue in an automatic, but that's much less fun.

    Last edited 22/01/16 2:32 pm

      Yep, cars have definitely been delivered to customers.
      First one I saw get delivered was on Christmas Eve. That was from the first shipment. Rest have been going out the last few weeks.

        Mate of mine has been spamming facebook with pics of his for about a week now.

      Same problem on heaps of cars these days. They made a new RHD dash, but keep the LHD centre console. Pure laziness. The interior layout was one of the minor factors that tipped me towards buying an FG Falcon over waiting for this car. The bigger one being the ability to transport adults on the back seat.

        As someone who had a two door Japanese GT car, like I give a crap about people in the back seat. Freeloaders should take their own damned car or stop whinging.

      Yep. Saw one here in Townsville on Tuesday. Must say I wasn't that impressed with the sound of it. It had the 5.0 on it so I assume it was the V8, and it was only coasting past but it sounded like a Focus.

        Cost or laziness, it's a douche bag move. You've put the money into marketing for RHD, you've made a mold to form the RHD dashboard, is it REALLY that much more to make a mold for a RHD centre console and make them accordingly?

        There's possibly a mechanical reason for it, depending on handbrake cable placement on the undercarriage etc, where a movement of 5cm from left to right could have an effect, but for electronic handbrakes there's no excuse. And i've seen even electronic ones placed on the "wrong side" for RHD cars.

          Yeah it's kinda shit really. Least my Chrysler had a foot actuated one so it was at least on the correct side.

        All vehicles are required to meet ADRs for noise compliance. Noisey exhaust = non stock exhaust.

          Sorry but ADRs are not this restrictive. A factory V6 Commodore sounds ballsyer than this. Hell a stock WRX Sounds like it has more guts.

            Ever heard a Harley with a stock ADR compliant exhaust? Sounds like a sewing machine.

              Yeah my Buell with stock exhaust sounds like a light truck.

    Was fortunate enough to get a 200mi old MY15 Ecoboost Mustang when in Hawaii last year for a week. Can only agree with *almost* everything said above Campbell. Did several laps of Waimea Canyon road and was genuinely surprised and delighted by the turn in, ride and handling. Carrying 60mph plus speeds through some serious twisties as my brain was still in kph mode and it had no dramas at all. We also did over 500mi of driving over the week and all the mod cons and interior comfort made this driving a breeze.

    My only complaint was the Turbo charged engine lacked responsiveness and character. I put this down to probably unfairly comparing it to my FG 6cyl 4.0 lt motor and perhaps being an early model run default tune state/low miles.

    Would love to get one locally but practical concerns (large dog, small kids) and the pricing just puts it out of range for a few years.

      I definitely agree that it needs a bit more character -- an exhaust upgrade would be early on my list. It's just a bit quiet! You've gotta wait for the turbo to spool especially in the manual, unless you're flatshifting, so maybe that's the difference in responsiveness that you noticed.

    Just hearing Tim Allen from Home Improvement in my head looking at the pics and reading the specs.

    This is the first Mustang that seems like it's a proper sports car and it's something you could comfortably live with day to day. I know it's probably highly frowned upon by the Mustang faithful, but I'd take the 2.3L as well.

    Last edited 22/01/16 4:07 pm

    My understanding is they disable the rear brakes, allowing for hectic burnouts...

    I am pretty sure they aren't compliant with ADRs

    Looks like the interior is made of cheap nasty plastics. America never could do good quality interiors.

      yes, lets weigh down a sportscar with a full titanium woodgrain interior

      better yet, i think full carbon nanotube material should lower the cost too

        Other cars are made of better plastics and the plastics weigh the same. By your reasoning, it would be okay for the mustang dash be made out of used tissues. You might be fine with cheap scratchy plastics, I'm not.

          its not a sports car.... it's a muscle car.... sports cars know what to do when they encounter a corner.

            I think you should of posted that comment to Fureien. He was the one that said sports car.

        That's the best straw man I've ever seen.

    It's great that Ford is proactive, already organizing a succesor to their GT/Force range.
    Holden is keeping it's loyal customers in limbo as to what their muscle car(s) might be (I'm talking about RWD V8's).
    The media teases tbe odd a US model from GM here and there, but nothing confirmed at present.

    Call me old school, but I can't associate FWD with Sport Car... Years of idolising GT's, Cobra's, GTS' and Monaro's have set my ways in what a 'real' sports car should be. V8 and power at the back.

    I'm still reeling that the mighty blue and red competitors will no longer produce cars in Oz. As a fan of Australian goods, it's sad to see this happen.

    Last edited 22/01/16 5:28 pm

    If this is the future of the V8 in Aus I'm going to miss HSV :(

    I had a pony in 1967, great ride. Ran on dam water, would buck in the corners though..

    Campbell the Ecoboost has 19" wheels as well but as you said different style

    I drove an EcoBoost convertible from Vegas out to Hoover Dam, back and a bit around town in September. No GTs available at the time of booking. Before driving it I though a Mustang could potentially be my next car but not after. It was a nice car but too many small things I didn't like, drivers seat was offset from the steering wheel, like I was sitting next to the door and the wheel was closer to the center of the car. The screen was smaller than the one in my 2008 car, it wasn't immediately obvious that I was supposed to touch the buttons underneath the screen rather than the screen itself. I don't think it had a reversing camera (or was of little use if it did). The stereo would start playing a song from my phone, then interrupt two seconds later to say "your phone is now connected" or something to that effect. For 0-62mph it seemed pretty gutless, possible being a hire car didn't help but still.. also the auto was pretty terrible, on the freeway, just wanting a little acceleration while changing lanes it didn't want to, then after putting my foot in it more to get a response, it paused while dropping a gear and then gave me more than I wanted. Interior seemed a bit blocky, old and cheap for a brand new car, had to manually unlatch the roof with a handle..

    That said, it was comfortable, sat well in corners at a good pace and looked nice.

    The v8 with a manual and better tech package could sort out a lot of these complaints but probably not enough to win me over.

    twin turbo this thing... it will be mad... :D

    I am still not sold on supercharger kit...

    It said how they didn't change the handbrake and move the cup trays to the other side. I wonder if we can custom swap them.

    Last edited 23/01/16 1:01 am

    This reads very much like an advertisement. Can you disclose what Ford has provided you in return for taking the test drive and writing a story? Food, accomodation etc. Thanks.

      +1

    Decent price. Makes a change when 35K USD Tundras and other vehicles were being imported and sold for 100K

    it’s highly turbocharged to deliver that kind of power in a relatively small displacement, but has breathing room — the Focus RS is upwards of 260kW and 475Nm

    The Focus RS version of the motor was specially modified to make that power so I wouldn't expect the Mustang motor to be able to make it and be reliable for any length of time.

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