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Driven: Ford’s new Mustang range set to expand

Dressage: If it follows the progression of past Mustang models, Australia’s first pony car will be treated to an annual update, including the possibility of more power or official Ford tuning equipment.

Ford could bring boosted models in next Mustang wave as first batch launches

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Ford logo20 Jan 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER

FORD Mustang fans who missed out on one of the first batch of 4000 vehicles to hit Australian shores could have their patience rewarded with more variety in the pony car range when the second wave of cars arrives in 2017.

Exact numbers for Australian allocation and new line-up additions are yet to be announced for the next wave of Mustangs, but if the model mimics the evolution of its predecessors, the Blue Oval brand will progressively introduce more options and variants.

The first Mustang to be sold in factory right-hand drive was officially launched in Australia this week with all stock already spoken for.

However, Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood told GoAuto that in addition to the unprecedented interest the Mustang had already attracted, a continuous refreshing of the model should prevent a drop-off in demand as typically experienced by new sportscars after the initial sales spike.

“We are just getting started with Mustang but the good news is that it has gone beyond our expectation,” he said. “For us to be the number-three market is pleasantly unexpected and it gives us a lot more voice in everything coming forward.

“Mustang is predicated on keeping it fresh with new models so we are going to do what we can to take advantage of that. That’s what has really sustained Mustang all this time while competitors have come and gone there has been something fresh every year — something new to keep people’s interest.”

Quite what the “new models” will look like is yet to be revealed but speaking to GoAuto at the local launch, the Mustang’s chief engineer Carl Widman said he would return to Australia soon to better understand what customers want here.

“I’ll be back in another six months just to talk to customers,” he said. “I think we need to keep tabs on the market to see how it plays out.”

Mr Widman explained that one new variant to be offered Down Under will not be the manic Shelby GT350 due to significant manufacturing constraints of its flat-plane crank V8 engine and many unique parts that would be too costly to re-engineer for right-hand drive.

“We are still constrained on the flat-plane crank and we would still have to re-engineer everything to a certain extent. I don’t think there’s going to be a pull to do that in that series of the car,” he revealed.

But Mr Widman said an upgrade for the four-cylinder EcoBoost Mustang was a more likely candidate, which may take the form of a factory tuned version using an engine similar to the 257kW unit that powers the forthcoming Focus RS or a tuning kit.

According to Mr Widman, the Mustang team works closely with independent tuners such as Roush and the Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) to develop upgrade kits that can be offered worldwide more cost effectively than factory-fitted equipment.

“We are always looking at it and trying to work out what makes sense,” he said.

“The Roush team is very tied into what we do. I can help them design things and then they can bring it to market cheaper than I can.

“The ones we think we can offer globally are the ones I am interested in because since we have launched into all these markets we need to stay fresh in all these markets.”

If one were to be made available, an official Ford aftermarket power boost kit would likely reflect some of the modifications developed by expert tuning houses at the SEMA show and would be more affordable than the expensive Cosworth engineering required to manufacture the Focus RS-type cylinder head.

“At SEMA, what people were doing is getting a slightly bigger turbo, open air inlet, totally different charge cooler, a chip to go with it and a high-flow exhaust. They were advertising in the range of up to 350 (horsepower – 261kW at the wheels),” Mr Widman said.

“I think there is some traction that that set of parts will come together because that’s another way to the skin cat and keep the same. From talking to the guys at SEMA, it makes engineering sense to me, because those parts probably cost the same as that Cosworth CNC machining.

“The reason the SEMA guys have a market is because it will sound so different.

The systems they sell, they call ‘fart pants’. We wouldn’t sell it that way.”

For now, the Australian range extends to six variants with a choice of four Fastback coupes and two convertibles, powered by either the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine or GT V8. Convertible Mustangs will be available only as an automatic, while auto coupes are an option over the standard six-speed manual.

The second pony wave will cost more than the initial run, with the most affordable manual EcoBoost Coupe kicking off from $45,990 plus on-road costs, representing a $1000 increase, while optioning the six-speed SelecShift automatic transmission adds $2500 to the price.

For the cash, you get Ford’s 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost engine driving the rear wheels with 233kW and 423Nm, and returning a combined average fuel consumption of 8.5 litres per 100km or 9.3L/100km when paired with an automatic transmission in the coupe (or 9.4L/100km in the soft top).

CO2 emissions output ranges from 196 grams per kilometres on the on the EcoBoost manual coupe to 218g/km for the auto convertible, with the auto coupe splitting them at 214g/km.

While Ford is predicting the EcoBoost to steadily gain traction, it is the GT that has proved the runaway success with a vast majority of early adopters going for the V8-powered car, lured by its 306kW/530Nm 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8.

Fuel consumption and emissions increase to a hefty 13.1L/100km and 305g/km respectively for the V8 manual coupe, with the automatic version slightly better at 12.6L/100km (and 293g/km). The GT convertible comes in at 12.7L/100km and 296g/km.

Ford is keeping official acceleration benchmark figures under its hat for now.

The pony car rides on a double-ball-joint MacPherson strut suspension with hollow anti-roll bar at the front end, while the back end is looked after by a multi-link arrangement with independent coil springs – a critical step forward for the whole Mustang range.

Australian-spec cars are fitted with a Performance Pack as standard – it is optional in the US – which adds 19-inch wheels, uprated brakes, a more accentuated front splitter and tweaked suspension.

Mr Widman explained that homologating all the US options for other global markets incurred more project costs that would be passed on in the final price, but the Performance Pack was included because it supports the Mustang’s driver-focused guiding principle.

“If you homologate all of these things you basically double the cost if you add more variants,” he said. “So what we said was — the car we should export should be the Performance Pack because it is the car that is most true to the target of the brand.

“If we can only have one version of the car to get it out there, that’s the one we are going to offer.”

The Performance Pack in the US includes a 3.55 limited-slip differential for EcoBoost variants and a 3.73 Torsen final drive for the GT, but these have been omitted from the Australian extras list.

Other differences from the US Mustang include the deletion of bonnet vents from the GT as they were identified as pedestrian hazards, larger door mirrors have replaced the slender American versions for a better field of view, while the option of Recaro seats and a more luxurious machined aluminium dashboard effect have been left out to minimise the showroom price.

EcoBoost variants have 352mm front brake discs grabbed by four-piston callipers, while GTs have Brembo six-pot versions to halt the larger 380mm vented rotors. Rear brakes are 330mm vented discs with single piston callipers across the range.

Sadly, the line-locker brake system that allows American owners to perform faultless burnouts has not made it to the Australian market due to vehicle regulations.

Ebony Black wheels measure 19 inches for all Mustang variants, but the GT has wider 275/40 rubber on its hind, compared with the 255/40 tyres on the front end and in all four corners of the EcoBoost.

For a large US-made sportscar, Ford has managed to trim its stallion down for weigh-in with a kerb weight ranging from 1666kg for the manual EcoBoost coupe, to 1811kg for the GT Convertible. For comparison, Lexus’ RC-F 5.0-litre V8 coupe tips the scales at up to 1860kg.

Measuring 4784mm long, 1916mm wide and 1381mm tall, the new Mustang is similar in stature and proportions to the Audi A5 and Maserati GranTurismo.

While the hard-top has classic coupe looks, the convertible gets a multi-layer folding fabric roof that takes just seven seconds to stow, and uses 10mm insulation to create a cabin “nearly as quiet as the Fastback.”

Operation is largely push-button electro-mechanical except for an initial manual unlatching, and its compact fabric construction occupies minimal boot space, allowing two golf bags to be carried even when the roof is open.

Convertible and Fastback models do not just differ in the roofline they have completely different rear quarter panels from the door back to set the two variants apart.

With the exception of the different drivetrains, roofs and chassis set-up, Ford has simplified the Mustang equipment specification, with the same kit applied to all coupe, convertible, GT and EcoBoost variants across the board.

In addition to the new global styling, the Mustang has Xenon headlights with daytime running lights, foglights, rain-sensing wipers and “Pony” projector lights that beam the Mustang motif on the ground at night.

Satellite navigation, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, keyless entry/start, ambient lighting, illuminated sill plates and auto-dimming rearview mirror are all standard comfort features, while leather adorns the steering wheel, park brake lever and some sections of the electrically adjustable seats, which are heated and cooled.

On-board entertainment includes Ford’s Sync2 interface with 8.0-inch touchscreen and emergency assistance, a nine-speaker amplified sound system with Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity.

Safety features include six airbags including a knee bag for both driver and passenger, rear view camera, tyre pressure monitoring, alarm, and all the usual driver assistance aids with Ford’s AdvanceTrac switchable dynamic stability control.

2016 Ford Mustang pricing*
EcoBoost Fastback$45,990
EcoBoost Fastback (a)$48,490
EcoBoost Convertible (a)$54,990
GT Fastback$57,490
GT Fastback (a)$59,990
GT Convertible (a)$66,490
*Excludes on-road costs

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