Ford Mustang GT test drive report – NEIGH-SAYER
When the original American pony car sets its hooves on Indian roads, it is time for European luxury car makers to be afraid. But can a naturally-aspirated V8-powered tyre scorcher also be a grand tourer? We find out.
Back in the 1960s, the race for dominance in the American market had car manufacturers plonk large motors into mid-sized two-door cars, a la the then prevalent hot-rodding culture. And so were birthed muscle cars. Most well-known amongst these was the Ford Mustang, which would go on to eke out a niche of its own in American culture. Nearly lost to a momentary lapse of reason in product planning during the 1980s and 1990s, the Mustang brand saw its resurgence with a new model in 2005.
Today, we drive the sixth generation Ford Mustang GT, launched in India during the summer of 2016. Straight off the bat, there is nothing more pleasing to hear at the crack of dawn than the burble of this naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 motor turning over. It brings with it a promise that nothing will ever be the same henceforth.
Look at it from the side and the iconic ‘pony car’ profile immediately enlivens lost childhood dreams. Walk up to the front and sure enough, the sheen of a large chrome horse on the front grille tells you that you aren’t dreaming.
The vertical LED slats in the angry headlamps on either side of the wide grille tell you this is a bad, bad horsie. On the boot is the differentiator, the centrally-placed GT logo in a ring. All these details and the tri-bar taillights combine to capture the essence of the iconic design of the original Mustang.
The cabin is all black leather and satin-finish metal with chrome accents for a touch of class. A large touchscreen dominates the central console. Under it is the climate control setup. At the bottom of the console a row of aircraft-inspired toggle switches for various driving mode combinations catch your eye and one is tempted to see how they can enhance the fun. Next to these is the start/stop engine button.
The passenger side of the dash has a tag with the Mustang logo that says ‘Since 1964’, a reminder of the icon’s history. It is this rich lineage that causes all of us to become someone when we drive this car. I chose to channel Steve McQueen’s character Frank Bullitt from the 1968 classic film ‘Bullitt’. It helps that the character too drove a Mustang GT Fastback of the time in one of the best car chase sequences ever filmed.
Step on the accelerator pedal and you instantly know that driving pleasures are to be had. The burble from idling turns into a muted roar (and sadly nothing more) as the Mustang gets past 100 kmph in around 4.4 seconds, sending each of its 401 ponies (BHP) to the rear wheels.
This is nothing unusual for a car with such power, but the drama with which it accomplishes this is worthy of a paean. There is half a moment of silence, and the rear slides just so, before it is reined in, you get pushed back into the seat and there is a sense of ‘what unearthly beast have I awakened’!
The way the car goes about delivering its power is very American. The six-speed auto gearbox takes its time to respond in Normal mode, but you have paddles behind the fat leather-wrapped steering wheel to take care of this semi-laziness.
Switching from Normal mode to Sport+ is a revelation. You are now crossing the double-ton more easily with swifter shifts at higher RPM, splitting lanes on a busy highway and yes Mr Bullitt enjoys every second of an imaginary car chase with a grin that refuses to let up for a few days. What also changes is the way the rear functions – the wide Pirelli PZero tyres can barely contain the excitement from the Sport+ mode.
However, they keep the car planted through long curves at high speeds. And unless you want to face the other way, you will step on the gas, not stomp on it, in the twisties. For, the second you poke this horse, is the second it wants to kick you back. To check this, there is a limited slip differential (LSD) in place at the rear.
With the LSD, sudden change in direction is mitigated well at speeds in the range of 150 to 200 kmph, but the Mustang GT is not a track tool as much as it is an open road cruiser in its demeanour. In other words, show it a relatively flat blacktop and it will give you hours of entertainment. There are two more modes – Track for track-use only and Snow & Wet for low traction situations.
Looking at the speedometer display, one reads ‘Ground Speed’, a reminder that it may not be very accurate if you were to, say, take off. During our time testing the car, there moments when stepping hard on the gas translated in tyre squeals, all within reason of course. And no sooner would the rear depart from our general heading than the traction control would step in and take charge.
The climate control is dual-zone setup, and the 9-speaker sound system is a party for two, or four, if you happen to have two kids and don’t much care for their hearing. Adults can fit in the rear seats too, provided they aren’t claustrophobic. But this car is not about the passengers, as much as it is about the driver. The music selection is through the 20-cm touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and voice control which uses the SYNC 2 communication system to sync to your smartphone. (The car we had for test drive, featured SYNC 2. But from Jan 2017, all Mustang units sold in India feature SYNC 3 system).
While it may not the snazziest of cabins, the seats can be heated or cooled to 3 levels each. The general comfort and built-to-American size of the features means it feels plush enough to allow long hours behind the wheel. Sitting in the well-bolstered fully-adjustable driver seat, one thinks he could do this all day. Right at this moment, on comes the low-fuel warning to send us packing for the fuel station for a refuel of the 60-litre tank. The car manages an indicated 5 km to the litre with careful driving, dropping a digit (even two) depending on the amount of lead in your foot, and steel in your cojones.
Surprisingly, the Mustang GT manages to fit in rather well in a traffic scenario. Low as it is with its 137 mm ground clearance, it is not one to get jumpy while inching along bumper-to-bumper. However, with its proximity to the ground, you would be well-advised to keep an eye out for surprise potholes.
The suspension setup turned out quite responsive. With this sixth generation, the Mustang GT gets independent rear suspension for the first time. The overall feel of the suspension suggests it is not suited for bad roads, but it will take the occasional pottering about in its stride. The rebound on the setup was a bit much for potholed streets in Pune. The springs did keep the car from swaying about while negotiating corners at speeds through the ghats, but by no means was it smooth sailing.
If all you really want out of your touring car is lots of comfort, precision, and no personality, there are always ‘ze Germans’ to consider. For this reviewer, though, this is exactly what a grand tourer should be – easy enough to live with yet fun enough to liven up a long drive. So if you have Rs 66.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) burning a hole in your wallet, why not use it to burn some rubber the good ol’ American way instead, with the Ford Mustang GT!
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