The Ford Mustang has been around for almost 50 years and is credited for starting the whole "muscle car" movement. Today, it still keeps to its roots as a powerful coupe, but is that enough for this married couple? Benjamin Brodrick and Natasha Vallen took a drive to find out...
As a red-blooded man, I absolutely love muscle cars. The raw, unbridled, old school V8 power and styling reflect a time well before carbon footprints, aerodynamics or pedestrian safety came into play to ruin it. And it's good to know there are cars out there keeping up the tradition, such as the 2011 Ford Mustang GT.
The Mustang has been gracing the earth since 1964. It was an instant success, with more than one million built in the first 18 months. Unfortunately, after the first generation of 1964-1973 cars, the second, third and fourth generations were designed by the same people who would think Sarah Jessica Parker is attractive. Thankfully, in 2005, the fifth generation brought retro cool back to the Mustang.
The 2011 GT styling has not changed a great deal from the last update in 2010. With pumped-out guards and the bulging bonnet sweeping back, it's a real beauty. The 2011 GT gets a new transmission and new all-aluminium 5.0L V8. Compared with the previous 4.6L engine, the new V8 churns out 412hp, a generous 102hp more than the previous model. Starting the GT, the burble of the V8 sounds fantastic. At slow speeds and with traction control off, planting the accelerator hard will cause the rear end to break free, just like a true muscle car. Using all its 528Nm of torque, the Mustang will dispose of 0-to-100kph in an impressive, drama-filled five seconds with the rear end squatting down, the V8 roaring all the way to 7,000rpm.
Handling has never been the Mustang's strong suit, so at an adventurous pace I was following my wife in the Mustang's little cousin (a current Ford Focus) into some sweeping corners. There I found some strong understeer as the front tyres scrambled for grip and then some oversteer as the power came into play. To my wife's amusement, the little Focus was one car length ahead coming out of the corners. The GT's handling isn't perfect but still sharper than the previous model. Due to the live rear axle, this pony does not exude confidence when pushing hard in the bends. But even with dated suspension, the Mustang still manages to perform just as well as the heavier 6.2L Chevrolet SS Camaro, which has a multi-link rear end.
As the badge suggests, the Mustang is a "GT" (Grand Touring) car and not an R/T (intended for Road & Track). So when you are cruising along checking out the retro interior you realise that what the 'Stang does best is cruise. For me, the Mustang provides a relaxing drive mixed with retro styling and a modern V8 that means business. I like this offering, and with updated, 20th century suspension, I might even love it.
The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the Mustang was "wow, good luck parking that". The 'Stang, as he kept referring to it, has a chunky presence.
First impression is that it looks like a man's car. The exterior design has no feminine characteristics that would appeal to me as a consumer. Upon nestling into the large driver's seat, I noticed the general design inside the GT has a definite correlation to the retro exterior. I also could not help but pick apart the cheap-looking plastics in a cabin enhanced by the occasional silver Mustang logo. I could see Ford has spent the budget on the cool, retro-design dash and steering wheel yet scrimped on the dated 80s-style console buttons and stereo.
When driving, the first thing I noticed was the oddly positioned brake pedal, which sat way too high. I also noticed the rear seats had very little leg room - strange, considering the car looks like it would of have enough room for an NBA player. But I loved the camera display that illuminates in the rearview mirror and I like the magical flicker of the sequentially flashing rear indicators too.
The tri-spoke steering wheel and full glass sunroof also really set off the design, while another nifty little feature that I spent a decent amount of time fiddling with was the changeable mood lighting colours for the cabin interior. It's a novelty but it is quite nice. Taking to the motorway, the Mustang is a very relaxing drive, although when you hit the accelerator it feels like a dinosaur is trying to escape from under the hood.
Pulling up, the Mustang is not a problem as the brakes feel reactive but not overly reassuring. In reality, while this car was fun to drive, it's not on my shopping list. It's too big, aesthetically unattractive and lacks "buy me" appeal to females. It rules out families with the lack of rear seat room. This car was designed with the single male in mind. I guess that's why my husband liked it.