FORD’S sixth-generation Mustang has undoubtedly been a runaway success, resonating with customers around the world thanks to its blend of rear-drive fun and V8 grunt at an attainable price.
Australia has been quick to embrace the Pony car since it was launched in late 2015 – The first factory right-hook Mustang since its inception in the 1960s – with nearly 18,000 Mustang registrations to the end of May this year.
Not one to rest upon its laurels though, Ford has listened to customer feedback and updated the Mustang with fresh looks, new technologies, higher levels of standard equipment and more power.
The catch is however, the new Mustang also comes with a heftier pricetag that puts it up against some entry-level luxury sports coupes, so are the changes enough to justify its popularity, or does this new pony car just spin its wheels?
No doubt some things just go together like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, namely rear-wheel drive and V8 power, as evidenced by the popularity of the Aussie-built Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon (RIP).
Lucky for us though – and petrol-heads the national over – Ford has been keeping the faithful happy with its sixth-generation Mustang that was launched in the tail end of 2015 and has just been given a mid-lifecycle refresh that includes new looks, improved in-cabin appointments and, probably most enticing of all, higher outputs from the 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8.
Engine outputs now measure 339kW/556Nm, which is a 33kW/26Nm lift over the previous version, and while on paper, the increased performance may seem marginal, in reality, the Mustang GT has more punch to match its sporting looks.
In automatic form, the V8 Mustang Fastback will hit 100km/h from a standstill in just 4.3 seconds – pretty spritely for a 1756kg coupe – but manual and convertible versions are a tad slower at 4.6 and 4.5s respectively.
Now, we’re not saying the old Mustang was slow, but power is a bit like popcorn, you can never have too much.
In the outgoing V8 Mustang, peak power was available at 6500rpm and maximum torque came in at 4250rpm, while the new pony car delivers its figures 500rpm later in the former and 350rpm higher in the latter.
Out on the open road, the extra performance is noticeable too. Punch it in any gear and at any speed and the Mustang will surge confidently forward thanks to the torque-rich mid-range.
A higher 7500rpm redline also rewards, holding onto the gears and really wringing out the motor.
Just be sure to have the long nose pointed straight, as the rear-drive Mustang is still able to induce joyous bouts of oversteer with a jerk of the wheel and a dab of the throttle.
Also new in the facelifted Mustang are improvements to the six-speed manual gearbox and an upgrade of the automatic transmission from a six-speed to a new 10-ratio unit.
In the manual, a new dual-mass flywheel and twin-disc clutch have been installed in GT versions, resulting in 15 per cent less effort required to engage the clutch, making the Mustang just that bit more user friendly.
The automatic will naturally be the most accessible version, so it is fortunate Ford has delivered a well-calibrated, intuitive transmission that is not afraid to kick down a gear or two with a stamp of the throttle.
The four extra ratios also means less rpms at freeway speeds, we clocked about 1600rpm at 100km/h in tenth gear, meaning a less hefty fuel bill.
Official fuel consumption figures peg the manual Mustang at 13 litres per 100km, while automatic variants are slightly more frugal at 12.7L/100km.
However, while we appreciated the automatic in stop-start city traffic and highway cruising situations, we found some shortcomings when it came to blasting the Mustang through some tight and twisty roads.
In a few instances, the automatic was caught out in quick-shifting scenarios, not knowing if it wanted to grab sixth, seventh or eighth in high-speed turns with even throttle-pressure applications – maybe a case of too much choice then?
Those who want to use the Mustang on the daily, as maybe a commuter car, will find it – naturally – much easier to live with the self-shifter, so luckily the automatic Mustang is a no-compromise option.
A bi-modal exhaust also makes its way into the updated Mustang with four settings available – Quiet, Normal, Sport and Track.
The softest setting does an outstanding job of muffling the guttural roar of the V8, while the next few modes should just be renamed loud, louder and LOUDEST.
The new exhaust really adds to the character of the new Mustang too. Whereas before, occupants could be fooled into thinking they were in a six-pot or turbocharged sportscar, now, there is no mistaking the aural sensation of the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8.
Those living in quieter suburbs will also appreciate the Good Neighbour mode that lets you set a timer for when the exhaust is in Quiet mode, for those early morning starts or late night drives home, for example.
The suspension set-up has also been slightly retuned, as well as the steering, offering more feedback from the road and delivering an overall sharper feeling Mustang than before.
Our thoughts of the pre-facelift Mustang put it squarely in the grand tourer camp rather than an outright sportscar, but thanks to the changes in the steering, suspension, performance and exhaust, the new Mustang definitely moves the needle closer to the latter.
Inside, Ford has taken the criticisms of its cheapie interior to heart and added more soft-touch points on the doors, centre console, dashboard and steering wheel, and while it is never going to feel as lux as anything from the premium German car-makers, the Mustang’s cabin is now a more pleasant place to be.
The inclusion of all-digital instrumentation also elevates a previously drab and stock-standard interior into something a bit more cutting edge and modern.
Playstation-generation drivers will also revel at the amount of customisation on offer, including the ability to achieve the right colour mix on the instrumentation and lighting.
Also, of note is the inclusion of active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control as standard, which, let’s be honest, were sorely missing in the first place.
These upgrades do come at a price though, with manual Fastback GTs now $62,990 before on-roads, automatics are $66,259 and drop-tops coming in at $74,709 – $5500, $6269 and a whopping $8793 more expensive, respectively, than before.
But there really isn’t any other vehicle that can deliver rear-drive thrills and V8 power at this price is there?
The upgrades are tangible enough to make the new Mustang an more appealing product from all aspects, one that can be used for the daily commute or weekend trackwork in equal measure.
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