What is it?
Call it a legend, the quintessential muscle car, or a young, boisterous boy's dream, but for me (and I am sure I am not alone) driving a Ford Mustang has always been on my bucket list. And, for good reason. It has never been about finesse or path-breaking technology or outstanding driving dynamics; instead the Mustang has always been about raw POWER. Power to hurl you down a straight with the rear tyres lit up, the tail wagging, and a smile plastered so wide even the Joker would be jealous.
For Ford in India though, the new Mustang, is all about giving the company's image a boost. And hoping the Mustang's charm and aura will rub onto its everyday, bread and butter product lineup. The new Mustang is priced at Rs 65 lakh, so it isn't blue collared anymore, but for what it is, we wouldn't term is pricey either.
Now this one is a Mustang GT. And as the name suggests it is more about traversing continents in rather than chasing lap times. So even though we only drove the new Mustang GT on a racetrack, we decided to indulge more in hooliganism than fast, precise driving. Good for me, because I am no good at the latter anyway.
How is it on the inside?
For starters, the Mustang's interiors don’t completely justify its price tag. It has some cheap, hard plastic, which wouldn't work on an EcoSport even. But, thankfully these are few and far between. The rest is a mix of soft grain plastic, metal finishes and leather, which is well within acceptable levels of quality, both in terms of look and feel.
There's decent equipment on board as well. Two zone climate control, ambient lighting, ventilated seats (which have part electric adjustment), touchscreen multimedia and some boyish toys in the form of an accelerometer and data recorder come as standard. O! And there's Line Lock too; a cheat code really for doing endless burnouts like a pro. The Mustang also gets auto headlamps and wipers, and on the safety front, besides ABS and ESP, it also gets eight airbags!
Now, the Mustang is a large car. It measures nearly five metres in length and two in width. But, most of that length is reserved for that long hood. The front passengers don't have it too bad either. And the seats are nice; the ones at the front mainly since the rear ones are only good for 10 year olds. And, I just couldn't get in there, not with my flexibility challenging that of a dried stick. Moreover, the front seats are cushy, supportive and comfortable, and I can easily see myself spending long hours in them without yoga classes.
How does it drive?
Then, there’s the powertrain to keep me firmly in the driver’s seat. Ford, rightly, has brought in the full fat 5-litre, naturally aspirated V8 petrol powerhouse to India. It makes almost 400bhp – nothing to go weak-kneed or cry foul – but it sounds nice putting those horses through their paces. A pleasing baritone if you will. It isn't the most powerful V8 on sale in India but it has that tyre-shredding grunt that makes a Mustang, well, a Mustang.
Sadly, the engine needed a better companion than the 6-speed auto it comes mated to. One can shift manually via the paddle shifters, but the shifts themselves, both up and down the 'box, are a bit too lethargic. We tried it in all modes – Normal, Wet, Sport+ and even Race, but still found it wanting.
Not that it took much away from the overall driving experience because I was still grinning all the way; especially around bends. The thing is, this the sixth generation Mustang is the best handling production Mustang ever. It has the best brakes, the best suspension, the best tyres, and the best technology on a Mustang… ahem… ever.
But, it isn't a handling god. It still rolls and doesn't exactly dart into corners. It could also do with a quicker steering rack. And its first reaction to measured throttle input nearing corner exits is to understeer.
But, here's the Ford coupe's party trick, all 515Nm of it.
Understeer? No problem. Lift off, let the nose tuck back into the corner, and then mash the throttle to the floor. The flat and meaty torque easily overwhelms the rear tyres and before you know it, you can feel the rear coming around.
Best part? It isn't snappy. Instead, the rear just glides out of line giving the driver enough time to catch, hold or add even more angle to the drift coming out of corners with easy to balance steering and throttle inputs. The limited slip differential helps hugely, of course. So, yes, sliding around the Mustang really is as easy as it reads.
This is in Race mode wherein the ESP is at its lenient best. It isn't as flowing in other modes, of course, not with the electronic nanny donning its headmaster cap and cutting in sooner than we would have liked. Also, let's be clear that the Mustang feels heavy and a little squishy changing directions while squatting on its haunches, bellowing smoke from its rear tyres in opposite lock.
But, here's the thing: Even with all its heft, it's still manageable. In fact, it is more than that – it's tremendous FUN! Exactly, as I had imagined a Mustang to be. Only this one is a little less hairy.
Why should I buy one?
Absolutely! The Ford Mustang GT might not be a great track car, but with its tail happy nature and an easy to drift setup, it is probably more fun than straight lining corners and setting a quick lap. It is also relaxed when you want it to be and an absolute hoot under hard acceleration. It dispatches the 0-100kmph run is under 5 seconds, by the way; though this for the full powered near 435bhp version. The India-spec car will be a little slower. The Mustang GT then is a poser, a burnout machine, a piece of history, and one of the coolest cars one can buy in India. But, do get one in red.
Photos: Ameya Dandekar