Ford Mustang: Australian Review

Ford's new Mustang is finally reaching Australian shores. But what's it actually like?

What Is It?

The 2016 Ford Mustang is the Blue Oval's hero car for Australia for this year, its replacement for the outgoing Falcon and Falcon GT. It's replacing four doors with two, and five seats with (barely) four, but at the same time it's bringing surely its most iconic marque to Australia for the first extended stint in the car's over 50 years of history. The Mustang is the car that a lot of the world associates with the Ford brand.

The Mustang as it's delivered to Australia is a four-seat, two-door coupe offered in both automatic and manual, with two different engine options -- a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost, and a 5.0-litre V8 'Coyote' in the GT trim. On top of that, you can opt for a convertible roof, although you're only able to select that with the auto transmission. You'll pay roughly $45,990 for the EcoBoost and $57,490 for the V8.

The price of the Mustang itself is a point of contention, really. Plenty of dealers and buyers have been asking a premium for early delivery of the Mustang, and it's also interesting to note that next year's cars have already enjoyed a mid-life refresh -- with the improved Sync3 in-car entertainment system -- before they've even been built and delivered to customers. From around now, all new Mustangs will be built with the updates included.

I spent a week inside probably the least desirable spec of the Mustang, at least from the point of view of many of the list of Australian buyers that have already put down thousands of dollars sight unseen for a Mustang -- an automatic convertible EcoBoost, the turbo four-cylinder and its paired traditional six-speed auto 'box. We'll be testing the manual V8 coupe -- the hero spec -- in the near future, too.

What's It Good At?

From the outside, and as it drives past, the Mustang is a seriously visually imposing car. That bonnet is absolutely massive, and it's a credit to Ford that the impressively masculine design extends right across the range from GT to the base trim. From the outside, in everything from the width and rim size of its wheels to the various colour options on offer -- from what I've seen, Race Red is overwhelmingly the most popular choice -- the Mustang is one of the most beautiful and attractive cars within its price point.

It's also fun to drive, under the right conditions. You can't exactly imagine yourself as Steve McQueen in Bullitt when you're driving a four-cylinder auto convertible, but there's just something about sitting behind the wheel of a Mustang -- even if it's on the wrong side of the cabin for those steep San Francisco streets -- that makes you feel like a racing driver on the loose. I had much the same experience behind the wheel of the Falcon XR8; the car invites you to show off to your mates a bit, I guess.

That EcoBoost engine, by the way, is an absolutely impressive technical achievement. For its small displacement, you get a good deal of get-up-and-go, and while fuel economy isn't exactly diesel-level minimal, you will save a fair whack of fuel versus the V8. There's a goodly amount of turbo whoosh and whine, too. It'd be even more fun as a manual, and there's a huge tuner community around the same engine that lives in the slightly more powerful Focus RS.

Ford's semi-manual convertible mechanism for the Mustang is simple to understand and use. Not being a sun-lover, it was an initially odd but somewhat enjoyable experience for me -- I'm not sure that I'd buy a convertible for long-term use, but on a sunny week during April I did find myself with the top down more often than not. By the way, if you have tall rear passengers, having that roof down is almost a mandatory requirement.

What's It Not Good At?

The interior of the Mustang is a conflicting place to be. It's certainly Mustang -- you get that from the classic-looking shifter, the massive transmission tunnel cutting up the centre of the cabin, the Mustang badge prominently placed in the front passenger's eyeline. But at the same time, the plastics used are basic at best, and the mid-year Sync3 in-car entertainment refresh is very overdue. Visibility is also interesting with a tiny rear window, wide stance and high waistline.

And special mention has to be given to the placement of the two cup-holders sitting in the centre of the Mustang's front cabin, between the driver's and front passenger's seat. Coffee cups are manageable, but forget about carrying a water bottle or Coke bottle if you actually want to shift gears in the manual, or easily reach the handbrake -- the placement makes it genuinely confoundingly difficult to shift gears with one or two bottles in the holders.

The rear seats are not an especially fun place to be. We actually fit three people in the rear pews of the Mustang, designed for only two -- there are relatively deep buckets for each pair of pants -- but it was not a pleasant experience for anyone involved. Consider the rear seats of the Mustang best for exciting your sub-teenage kids and their friends when you take them for spin around the block.

It's also quite a basic car, in its way. Agricultural is probably too harsh a word to describe it, but despite the comparatively modern suspension setup -- versus Mustangs of just a few years ago -- it still feels somewhat antique to drive. There is, at least, the option to adjust the weight of the car's steering between Sport, Normal and Comfort driving modes. It very much wants to get sideways, too -- even on the auto EcoBoost, take care around damp corners on cold tyres.

Should You Buy It?

Do you want an iconic car? Then the Mustang is the car for you. Short of the impssible return of the Falcon or some mythical GTHO rebirth, the Mustang is Ford's most visually recognisable vehicle in Australia at the moment, and people will see you driving it. The prancing bronco on the front grille and rear boot lid are instantly memorable and evocative, and this is what pedestrians and fuel-miserly econobox drivers will see when you rumble (or whoosh) past them.

It's not a high-tech car by any stretch of the imagination. Really, it's probably one of the least complicated large cars that you're able to buy in Australia this year. Sure, it has electronic stability control and adjustable steering weight, and Ford's Sync2 and Sync3 in-car entertainment systems are both good, but you're not buying this car for its navigation system or the fact that it has Bluetooth pairing to your phone -- you're buying it because you want a Mustang, and you (probably) want a manual V8 driving the rear wheels. And that's what you get.

If you're able to somehow secure a test drive of the Mustang -- a task that will become easier as stock floods into Australia in the next few months, and once dealers and Ford clear their backlog of patiently-waiting customers -- then I'd highly recommend you try out the EcoBoost. It's almost sacreligious to suggest a four-cylinder Mustang, but it's really quite a hoot when you put the boot in -- and it's more fuel-efficient at the same time as well.

I actually ran into another Mustang driver, a new and clearly happy owner of the top-spec Race Red V8 GT, on my drives around Sydney. A shout of happy surprise and a thumbs up later, there was a sense of instant community around the car that I'm sure Ford and its Mustang owners are going to enjoy in Australia like they have in the US for decades. The Mustang has been properly introduced to Australian soil now, and it'll be a popular breed.


Comments

    The '90s called, they want their car interior back. It looks so plastic-y!

    Looking at that thinking... so how small is the cock you a compensating for?

      Some people buy cars like this because they genuinely enjoy them, rather than to show off.

        The Mustang is a "show off" car...

          The mustang isnt a show off car in the states and wont be here soon enough, its a stylish, powerful pony car that does everything someone that loves driving and doesnt have a family needs.

            The mustang isnt a good driving car though, sure it might be for people who love driving their old muscle card and it gives them some kind of nostalgic feel, but it's predominantly a show off car.

              I suppose it depends on what you enjoy driving, you mentioned the RS below and while i havnt driven one and bet its a hoot, alot of the reviews have said its boring because the car does so much of the work for you and mitigates so much of the risk of pushing the car to its limits, I really enjoy driving a powerful RWD car and the Mustang is just that, the suspension might not be as refined and it might feel heavy to people that prefer light AWD cars but it has the raw muscle car feel that i think cant be beaten. I also have a FGX XR8 and Challenger Hellcat (now thats a car that is bare bones old school muscle) and love them both, the missus drives a WRX and it just doesnt feel as fun to drive, it might hold the road better but that doesnt mean its a drivers car. By the way im only 30 so not trying to regain some lost youth thing.

              Last edited 06/05/16 1:39 pm

        I went to the local dealership and asked what size car should I get, he said put your pants back on.

      The top-spec model costs less than a base model 3 Series BMW, so I think most owners would be happy with the side of their appendage.

        Indeed, it's still better than the cars rich dickheads who know nothing about cars buy!

    I find the interior more then adequate for a car in this price range, its a fantastic car to drive and looks awesome. My cock size is fine by the way, i just love the look and feel of this car or any coupe in general, I have no need for a back seat and the boot size is fine for what I need.

    the Mustang is a seriously visually imposing car

    I saw a few in WA a couple of weeks back. "Visually imposing"? No, not really. Recognisable, yes.

      Definitely imposed on me when I saw one on the freeway yesterday. Amazing

        I like the look of them, but they're (to me at least) not much different from any other car.

    To this day I still don't know why they named the turbo version "EcoBoost" sounds so silly.

      Because that's what they call all of their direct-injection turbo engines.

        Yes I do know what it is lol. It was more to the fact "EcoBoost" sounds lame, usually anything with ECO in it sounds weak/conservative. When you think of Mustang "Weak" and "conservative" do not come to mind.

        Should have just called it "Turbo"

    These things are cumbersome, rubbish to drive, horrible washy turn in, brakes are good though, has a bit of power but it is not able to get it all to the ground in any meaningful way. After driving one of the GT variants of these I was left really disappointed. The way they handle it's no wonder there are so many videos of these things getting crossed up, going over kerbs and into people/objects/other cars etc. After getting out of this and back into my RS6 wagon, completely worlds apart.

    Last edited 05/05/16 4:42 pm

      You are having a laugh right? a new RS6 costs FIVE times as much as the Mustang, not even in the same league so it is hardly a fair comparison or did you just want to tell everyone you have an RS6?

        It's ok, for another 7000 US you can throw a supercharger on and have over 700 hp. Spend a couple more dollars on some tyres and suspension and your on on your way to a budget (friendly) supercar

    If you buy one you'll never keep up with the last of the Falcon XR8's in the twisties, or have as nice and interior, but each to their own. Personally I like a dash from 2016 not 1976...

      I think you'd be surprised. It is supposed to be a pretty good handler with a low centre of gravity and great steering.

    The cup holder thing is a common ford one I think. My focus is the same.

    Don't like it, don't buy it. No one is forcing you. And for the bloke who said they don't handle, most major automotive magazines disagree, saying the '16 Mustang stays glued to the street better than a Porsche 911. I'm not much for these cars purely because of my lifestyle. But I think the new 350R is an mazing car with real soul.

      It's a rear wheel muscle car built for purely aesthetic reasons. I think most people are just saying it's more of an iconic car than a driver's car. Not that it's bad. For example, the focus RS is a driver's car and was around the same price.

    Watching cars leave meets used to be a safe place in Australia, then this happened...

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