Ford's new Pony driven: We take the upgraded Mustang for a spin

When Ford finally brought its current generation Mustang to South Africa two years ago, local car enthusiasts went crazy and it sold like hot cakes for almost two years - selling more than 60 units each month.

In fact, during the first few months, it surpassed 80 units per month.

The trend continued until it began to fizzle out only a few months ago, with a total of 2 642 units being sold in SA since 2016.

In June, Ford only managed to sell seven units of its "old stock", and then jumped to 36 in July, but that's because everyone knew the "new" upgraded Pony was on the way.

The Mustang has been around for 55 years and has sold 9.8-million units since it was launched in 1965, making it the best-selling car in the US for 52 years.

Ford has also brought in the extremely limited edition Bullitt. The tribute movie car of Steve McQueen will only make its way to 50 very lucky South Africans.

The first batch of 25 have already been sold. Ford SA had two models available at launch, and motoring media were treated to a short little joyride, but more about that later. 

Even now, the "new" or 2018 version Mustang has been out for some time internationally, but heck, it doesn't matter because it's here now, and even better than before.

Ford reckons the refreshed Mustang has much better looks, enhanced engines, sharper driving dynamics, and it's definitely packed with more driver tech. It is available in either Fastback or Convertible guise.

Its new design is inspired by

Star Wars' Darth Vader, but some of us would need a few drinks before you could spot the resemblance - unless you're a serious fan of the dark villain.

Design manager Melvin Betancourt says: "When we were designing the 2018 Mustang, we wanted to make the new model look more aggressive, and one place we found inspiration was from one of the most famous screenplay villains of all time. The angled nostrils and contours of Darth Vader's mask became the inspiration for the Mustang's new fog light scoops, and front-end shape." 

darth vader mustang

The car most certainly has more athletic styling and is underscored by crisp, clear LED lighting, and three bold new exterior colours, including Kona Blue, Orange Fury, and Velocity Blue. The Bullitt comes in an exclusive Dark Highland Green colour of which 45 of the 50 SA-marked cars will be in said body paint, and only five will be black -

talk about exclusive

The interior also features more upscale soft-touch materials and aluminium finishes, although, and I hate to say this, there are some dash bits that look like they've been upgraded, but it still feels and sounds as though it was built using cheaper plastic.

There's the usual fighter jet-inspired chrome touches we were introduced to a couple years ago, although they're much better.

Ultimately, the interior changes are passable, but then I'd much rather pick the BMW-clad fascia and dash of the new Toyota Supra - and most will know my gripes with that.

Then again, the interior bits are almost irrelevant since this car is so well loved for its exterior design and engines.

Both cars come fitted with advanced driver assistance aides, including: Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Lane-Keeping Aid, and a customisable 12-inch digital cluster.

The instrument cluster delivers information displays optimised to match the selected Drive Mode - of which there are five, including: Snow/Wet mode, Normal, Sport, Racetrack and DragStrip with Line Lock.

The cluster configuration will automatically change depending on Drive Mode, and can be programmed by the driver to display a range of gauges in one of seven colours.

So what's really new?

old and new ford mustang

 

How does it drive?

The range comprises two models: The enhanced 2.3-litre EcoBoost and that burbly 5.0 V8. Both are mated to a 10-speed auto gearbox which boosts acceleration and fuel efficiency. 

Ford says its 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is more fuel efficient, although that is debatable.

It delivers 213kW and 441Nm of torque – with an increase of 11Nm over the previous model. According to the automaker, it offers a more responsive and engaging driving experience, thanks to a transient overboost function for the turbocharger – triggered under heavy acceleration to provide an extra burst of boost following each up-shift.

The 2.3-litre feels a lot more lively than before, and definitely more exciting to drive. It seems quicker off the line and the bit of turbo lag that was felt in the previous model feels as though it has diminished. It might not be as punchy or loud as the V8, but with 213kW and a bit of sound, and awesome good looks, there are still plenty enough bragging rights to go around. 

I am a teeny bit concerned about its fuel efficiency though.

It has a claimed figure of 10.0-litres/100km, yet the V8 5.0-litre has a claimed figure of 12.3-litres/100km.

Now we all know that fuel figures depend vastly on one's driving style, but considering we had driven the V8 a lot more aggressively on Day 1 of the launch than the 2.3-litre in heavier rains and traffic on Day 2, the V8 proved to be more fuel efficient at a figure of 10.3 and 10.1-litres/100km.

The 2.3-litre was giving us 12-point-odd readings, even driving conservatively. Only when our speeds were down to 80-60km/h, had we seen 10.1-litre averages. But then again, all of this too is irrelevant because who on earth buys a Mustang to worry about how much fuel it uses, right?

The 5.0-litre V8

Just typing it gives me goosebumps. Man, it sounds amazing. It's sonorous roar will make you want to rev up to everyone's delight - as we had do throughout the brilliant driving route through passing little towns en route to sleepy Montague.

The V8 pushes out 331kW (309kW previously), and 529Nm. It's supported by Ford's new high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection system which improves low-end torque.

It has a new Active Valve Performance Exhaust technology which means drivers can adjust the intensity of the vehicle's exhaust note to suit their scenario.

So you can be polite with the innovative "Good Neighbour Mode" which can be programmed to automatically limit the exhaust's noise output at pre-programmed times of the day to avoid disturbing neighbours, or, be that guy and let that V8 rip. I wouldn't mind being woken up to that ferocious roar every day.

Given a bit of bad luck in terrible weather three years ago, I had experienced just how tail-happy the 'Stang can be. It did not end well, but I lived to tell the story.

Driving the revised V8 in just as shocking weather made for a different story this time round, especially with the new Snow/Wet mode which helped me get back my confidence. 

The car feels a lot more planted on the road, more controlled too.

The automaker's engineers have optimised the car's driving dynamics to deliver the most engaging driving experience yet. So thanks to recalibrated shock absorbers, its stability through corners has been improved immensely, along with the rear suspension stiffened with a cross-axis joint that drastically diminishes jittery jolts at cornering. The thicker anti-roll bars also induce better body-roll for sharper handling.

There's also the optional Magneride Dampening System, which is an advanced new suspension system which continually monitors road conditions and driver intention, checking and adjusting the dampers up to one thousand times per second.

Selecting different Drive Modes automatically adjusts the system's calibration for exceptional stability, ride comfort and control in all conditions.

It's another car in which you can't help keeping your foot stuck in the corner. And, after driving the Toyota Supra recently, the fact that the Mustang is a 2+2 seater, it almost tips the scales to which car I would buy as a petrolhead Mom with a sprog.

"I was in the back of the Mustang and Steve was going about 120 mph. We came to the last downhill section and when we got to the top of the hill Steve was still going pretty fast. I tapped him on the shoulder and said: 'We can slow down now, we're almost out of film.' Steve said very calmly: 'We can't. There aren't any brakes.'"  

– Peter Yates, director of "Bullitt," recounting one day of filming, according to The Telegraph.  

I know exactly how Peter Yates felt. In fact, you can't help channeling Frankie Bullitt (Steve McQueen) when you're driving  this car. It's a totally different beast.

For one, it has a freaking 6-speed manual. Can you imagine piloting a 338kW (albeit detuned SA-version) with 529Nm down a quiet road, double clutching and snap changing the gear-lever reminiscent of the original? I could have died and gone to heaven for that blistering 8km stint. Would I buy this one, just shy of R1m? You bet your bottom-dollar I would.

ford mustang bullitt

ford mustang bullitt

Ford Mustang prices:

Mustang 2.3 Fastback 10AT - R768 000

Mustang 2.3 Convertible 10AT -  R831 000

Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback 10AT -  R915 800

Mustang 5.0 GT Convertible 10AT - R978 400

Mustang Bullitt 5.0 V8 GT Fastback 6MT - R995 400

All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a four-year or 120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year or 90 000km service plan is included, with 15 000km service intervals.