No longer a stranger to the Australian motoring landscape, the Ford Mustang is instantly identifiable and one of those rare beasts that is more than the sum of its parts.
Launched in its current form in 2015, Ford has moved some 21,000 Mustangs since it became available, straight from the factory in Aussie-friendly right hand drive.
Now in its second rendition it is demonstrably a much better car than the original that we drove at launch, particularly inside where it has lost the taxi/Falcon feel.
But it’s the way Mustang looks, drives and sounds that is the key to the whole 50-year, successful equation and the reason you’d put your money down on the V8 every day of the week.
To put this in context, however, Ford still sells something like six Ranger utilities to every Mustang that rolls off the line.
There’s intrinsically wrong about that, don’t you think?
What’s it cost?
Prices for the so-called Pony car start from $49,990 for the two-door, turbocharged four cylinder fastback. A convertible is another $10K.
The 5.0-litre V8 coupe is $62,990 while the limited edition Bullitt edition tops off the list at $73,668 — on roads need to be added to all prices.
An auto is optional and adds $3269 to the price.
In fact, quite a lot of the things you want are optional, things such as Recaros, GT stripes, forged alloys, a rear spoiler and adjustable MagneRide suspension.
Though it’s considerably more expensive, you’d have to be nuts to go the sensible route and buy the turbo, because the V8 and the noise it makes are such a large part of the Mustang experience.
Standard kit includes leather accents and two-zone climate, heated and cooled front seats, 19 inch alloys, LED headlights, selectable ambient cabin lighting, heated steering wheel, auto high beam, adaptive cruise control, and 8.0-inch touchscreen with Ford’s SYNC3 interface which includes satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity — plus 1000 watt B&O audio.
Safety has been beefed up with Pre-Collision Assist with pedestrian detection, distance alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and Driver Alert System.
We should point out however that the current Mustang still attracts only a three-star safety rating, despite the addition of auto emergency braking or AEB as it is known — in case it matters.
What’s it go like?
Our test vehicle was the V8 GT with some options.
It’s brash and it’s loud, and most importantly it’s fun to drive.
The V8 puts out 339kW of power and 556Nm of torque in standard form, the latter from 4600 revs — and it revs all the way to an impressive 7000rpm!
These days it’s available with a 6-speed manual or, count them, a 10-speed auto with paddle shifts — though the latter is optional.
The GT fastback is a real nod to V8 Muscle cars from the 60s and 70s, with lots of grunt delivered in a lazy, almost lurching sort of way with plain D selected.
Siting lower and wider with a wider track and beefier rear wheels and rubber, it lacks the skittishness of the first model that almost swapped ends on a wet roundabout, despite electronics supposed to stop this from happening.
Slipping into the car for the first time I was struck by how more upmarket it feels, with a large, impressive, user-friendly, change it to the way you want it dash.
We opted for gear indicator left, digital speed right with a bar graph showing engine revs bracketing them across the top, and three smaller dials tucked underneath.
Or if you fancy a more traditional, analogue look, you can have that too.
There’s three views from which to choose: normal, sport and track.
Dig deeper and you can set your preferred settings for steering and suspension and the exhaust note.
Deeper still and you’ll find a timer for the 0-100km/h dash, complete with countdown LEDs (damned if we could get it to work).
Mustang seats four, but the claustrophobic rear seats are not really an adult option.
The front seats are comfy and supportive, and even the ride quality is surprisingly cultured for a sports machine.
You can still find some generic Ford plastic trim if you look for it, but most of it is tucked away where it’s not relevant.
They could however have been more imaginative with the garnish Mustang badge across the glovebox too.
And we’re not sure what’s going on with the tacky “shaker” badge at the bottom of the console?
The 5.0-litre V8 has been thoroughly reworked, delivering more power and more revs.
The increase was achieved with Ford’s new dual-fuel, high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection.
The new 10-speed transmission delivers quicker shift times, better low-speed tip-in response and significantly reduced friction losses.
The all-new electronic control system includes unique tunes for different drive modes and features real-time adaptive shift scheduling to ensure the right gear at the right time.
Importantly, the basics are there: strong acceleration and braking, with a fast-acting transmission that drops from tenth to fifth gear in the blink of an eye.
It feels quicker off the line and more attached to the road too, with a claimed 4.6 seconds to 100km/h, and the accompanying sound track from the four exhausts is electrifying, compared to the lacklustre first cut.
Fuel economy in our auto is rated at 12.7L/100km and it can take standard unleaded. We were getting 11.8 after 250km (guess we weren’t trying hard enough).
It all adds up to brutal acceleration and a stirring engine note and a smile broad enough to catch a few errant blowies with the window wound down.
What we like?
Especially the sound
What we don’t like?
Couldn’t get the 0-100km/h timer to work
The bottom line?
The Mustang might lose some of its gloss when the Camaro eventually comes along, but this is a car with a huge rep and long, long heritage that will be difficult to unseat.