Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback…a pony with lots of horses
FOR many readers, the 1964 launch of the Ford Mustang will be something that’s too distant to be in the memory bank but no motor fan of any age will not be aware of this American “Pony Car” which is presented here in its most muscular form, now six and a bit generations along the road.
What is perhaps most significant about this generation is that it was the first (2016) to offer right hand drive which will doubtless account for why the bonnet catch annoyingly still resides on the left. What is undeniable though is the fact that Dearborn’s designers have managed to retain most of the styling elements of the original in this latest iteration, albeit that the 5.0 has grown hairs on its chest and lots of added centimetres evident from every angle following a 2018 styling tweak that turned this model into an enhanced sixth generation version.
I so clearly recall illustrated advertisements for early convertible Mustangs that invariably showed a very happy, petite female negotiating what I’d assume to be the beach front in Waikiki. While the current 2.3 version, still also available as an open top, may retain just a few of those fair-sex genes, the V8 is an American style Grand Tourer aimed unashamedly at blue collar workers. No airs, few graces and lots of relatively raw muscle underpin this decidedly large Fastback coupe.
The cognoscenti, and there are a few of them around who worship any ground a Mustang has galloped upon, will be quick to spot a nose job that incorporates new lamps, a re-shaped grille and angry-looking but relatively small vents in the long, sloping bonnet. The test unit sported a coat of silver paint that had been applied with appropriate care to produce a decent but not miles-deep gloss with contrasting gloss black alloys housing 255/40ZR19 rubber.
Although it’s self-obvious the designers have sought to infuse this Mustang with muscular overtones, they haven’t gone overboard with fancy add-ons, so the side skirts are modest and the lip on the boot lid is almost apologetic as are the wheel arch blisters. And the rear panel in gloss black is flanked by clear (actually, almost white) lamp housings that are oh-so-similar to the lamps on that original Mustang. For sure, the large polished quad exhaust outlets of today’s car were not derived from the ’64 original.
It’s more the sheer volume of this GT Fastback that catches the eye along with its simply enormous front doors. My eye also noted rather more panel gap variability than is ideal, but it must be a difficult task to get that volume of metal truly ship-shape. Certainly, onlookers didn’t notice as this GT received a host of thumbs-up signs on the road and lots of stares at the local shopping centre from old and young alike.
A number of significant changes have been wrought under all that metalwork, not least tweaks to the venerable 5.0 V8 which now serves up 331kW backed-up by a torque peak of 529Nm. All that grunt is reined in and unleashed according to throttle demand by, amazingly, a 10-speed auto box that seems an overkill in this application. Clearly, the desire to sweeten emissions and consumption figures has triggered the use of this cog-laden box which I noted seemed reluctant in semi-urban use to progress beyond 8th gear.
That tells you the top two gears are for cruising which this Mustang does with absolute disdain and the merest woofle from the rear, in Normal mode at least. Talking of modes, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a car with so many drive options, these being titled Normal, Sport/Sport+, Snow/Wet, Track and Drag Strip. There’s even a Quiet mode to damp that V8 burble on start-up so as not to annoy your neighbours ,but needless to say, this was NEVER deployed.
Indeed, that off-beat V8 warble was especially audible on cold start up and it was the sportier modes that my nearest neighbour was subjected to without fail! This cocophany of sound did actually receive tacit approval up to about day four when I was advised that it would not be feasible for me to attempt a clandestine departure from my abode. It was easy enough to work out that the commotion was starting to wear thin, so as a sop to the two occupants of the house most in line of audible fire, a neighbourhood ride was provided as a peace offering!
Let’s be honest – it’s that Yank V8 off-beat orchestral contribution that’s the essence of any muscle car from across the Atlantic, something that even kids on bikes recognised judging by the multitude of exaggerated hand gestures demanding a burst of acceleration.
As for those modes, I should mention that it is possible to pick and choose but I ended up, for the most part, using Normal as this softened the ride a tad. My neighbourhood roads are deteriorating (surprise, surprise) and the jiggly responses from the stiff springs and MagneRide adaptive dampers can become wearing.
At this point, I ought to mention that the chassis has been honed in this updated car and includes beefier roll bars and a general stiffening to improve responses. For a big Yank, this one is pleasingly free of float, roll and wallow, almost to the point of becoming knobbly in the sportier modes. The steering is naturally altered too at the flick of a chrome plated toggle switch, but the differences were not great. The helm is accurate enough and of medium weight, but always feels a tad anaesthetised which tells you the real feel factor is not great. Nonetheless, the Fastback was easy to wield around the urban environment, but its sheer bulk always demanded consideration.
Obviously, you’ll want to know about the performance abilities and just what 331kW and 529Nm can do. For starters, forget any notions of a big, lazy lump at work. This V8 can rev and while its soundtrack is drowned by the exhaust note at lower revs, as the rev counter approaches its upper reaches, so does the wail from under the bonnet. It’s an intoxicating mix and feels fast and furious, especially in Drag Strip mode when traction can be tested, even on the 1-2 shift. But, and here’s the rub – the on-paper figures show 0-100 taking 4.3s which means those pesky turbo’d Germans will, for the most part, be quicker out of the starting stalls.
Having said that, most of those same Germans will be draining bank balances at double the pace, so when the big riding crop is wielded in a quest to shrink horizons, it’s the Ford that offers the best bang-for-your-buck equation. But do remember at altitude, some of the gallop will have deserted the Mustang.
Getting back to driving dynamics, that 10-speed box is something of an oddity. Driven with restraint, changes can sometimes feel delayed or hesitant to the extent that use of the paddle shifters is encouraged, and at times, downshifts can feel a tad snatchy, but floor the gas pedal in the aggressive driving modes, and the shifts are ultra-rapid and seamless.
The Brembo brakes too are very adept at reining in the pace, offering undoubted powerful responses at speed and a well-judged weighting to the pedal in slow running conditions. And talking of slow running, if you can bear to restrain use of the throttle, fuel consumption can be reduced to around 10l/100km on the cruise but expect a more normal average of 15l/100km in everyday use.
If you were paying attention earlier, you will have noted my reference to variable external panel gaps. While the fit of interior bits is just fine, the materials employed are of variable standard, Sure, perforated leather is used on part of the seating surfaces but there’s plenty of disguised vinyl swathing those shapely, electrically adjustable pews too. And oddly, there’s absolutely no leather aroma to be savoured.
Not unexpectedly, given its length, this Mustang Fastback offers four seats but in a strictly 2+2 arrangement. The rear quarters are difficult to access past the fiddly seat belts, but the two deeply dished seats look inviting even if they’re endowed with limited head and leg room. For very short hops, two adults can be squeezed in while two kids would be entirely happy, a situation that enhances the practical virtues of this Mustang, along with its relatively generous 380l boot space.
There’s also lots of soft surfacing to be found on the dash and doors but these surfaces lack visual appeal, even if the tactility factor is OK. Add in rather quaint plated toggle switches, some pseudo metal bits and unlined oddments receptacles and you can understand where the cost saving has been sourced. It’s not nasty – just a bit low rent compared with much more costly European machinery, but to its credit, the interior was totally free of rattles and trim squeaks.
A big plus point is the new 12-inch digital and full configurable instrument cluster which is supplemented by a central infotainment screen that’s home to Sync111 as well as sat nav and camera images. Adaptable cruise is also on board as is pre-Collision Assist along with the usual air con, electric windows, powered seats, fully adjustable steering wheel, keyless entry/stop/start and more, specific details of which can be accessed on www.ford.co.za
The Mustang has earned its spurs over the years and in this latest iteration equipped with a brawny and soulful V8, it has successfully combined traditional virtues and design cues with updated technology and a chassis that dismisses any notions of sloppy suspension control often associated with Detroit cruisers, Thanks to its versatile drive modes, it can be configured to suit the driver’s mood. Whether at a canter or at full gallop, it’s a smile-inducing combination only blunted to a degree by its size and by some indifferent materials on display inside together with some less than flawless external panel alignment. Those vices are easily forgiven when the asking price is taken into consideration for this is a pony that boasts lots of controllable horses stabled in a package that’s become part of motoring folklore.