Mustang madness

Ford has redesigned the Mustang GT for 2010 and as Imthishan Giado finds out, the American car giant has finally got it right.
Mustang madness
By Imthishan Giado
Tue 23 Feb 2010 04:00 AM

Ford has redesigned the Mustang GT for 2010 and as Imthishan Giado finds out, the American car giant has finally got it right.

The Mustang and I have somewhat of a history together. For most of my adult life I have craved ownership of a 1965 ragtop and with good reason - the first generation Mustang was one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Substantially smaller than the regular Detroit behemoth, the lightweight, compact Mustang appealed (and sold) to millions. The fact that Steve McQueen used it in Bullitt's iconic car chase only cemented its muscle-car legend status.

Unfortunately for me, classic-car status has elevated the ‘60s Mustangs well out of my price range while the following models got fatter, slower and uglier over the intervening 40 years. Fortunately for me however, Ford remixed the Mustang in 2005 to bring back its original look and feel. I couldn't wait to drive it.

But the new edition was a colossal letdown. The steering was woolly and imprecise while the asthmatic engine never really felt as fast as 300 horsepower and 4.6 litres of American V8 might suggest. But my harshest complaint was reserved for the actual dashboard, which was built with cheap parts-bin switchgear and plastic quality.

None of this stopped Ford from selling boatloads of ‘Stangs but with the emergence of newly-relaunched rivals, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, it was clearly time to give the old girl a bit of an update. Nevertheless, looking at the pictures of the 2010 Mustang you'd be mistaken for thinking that they've just photocopied the old one.

First impressions are good. The searing electric blue paint of my tester, while probably dangerous to the naked eye, nevertheless matched the bold new curves. While the old car had an air of chunky heft this new ‘Stang looks like it's been dragged to the gym, tied to a treadmill set on max for 48 hours, then done 300 laps of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and finally released after a debilitating Pilates session.

In other words, it isn't fat. The Mustang has pulled off the neat trick of actually gaining 15kg over the old model but looking like it's lost far more.

The interior is light years ahead of its predecessors (and the competition, for the most part) with proper soft-touch plastics adorning the fascia, while the great stereo features Microsoft's surprising Sync system for entertainment.

But how does it drive? Turn the key and a bold, throaty V8 bark greets the Mustang pilot, quickly settling down to a gentle, intimidating rumble. It's all sonically tuned and piped artificially into the cabin of course, but I can forgive the sleight-of-hand for its effectiveness.

The handling - oh, where do I start on the handling? In the course of one roundabout, I had understeer, lift-off oversteer, understeer again followed by power oversteer. For the uninitiated, it can be terrifying, although I have to admit, a lot of fun.

The big Mustang actually turns into quite sharply but without any real feel, confidence is in short supply. It's much the same story with the brakes, which are surprisingly adept at hauling the car back from three-digit speeds, but a rapidly-sinking pedal means your nerves will give out long before the car will. The autobox shifts smoothly and kicks down eagerly if you stab the throttle but gets hopelessly confused in anything more aggressive than a drag race. Aftermarket kit will fix most of this issues, but out-of-the-box, it's no match for anything from Korea, let alone Japan and Germany.

And yet - strangely, I don't care. I don't care about the catastrophic fuel economy, the malfunctioning stereo or even the utter lack of top-end power from the engine, because it's got bags of torque and in the real world, that's what gets you places. The truth is, you can't apply regular standards to the Mustang. After I calmed down and began driving it at 4/10ths, this mad, bad car magically began to make sense.

When I started this review, I had every attention of tearing the Mustang to shreds but by the end I was hopelessly in love with its potent cocktail of matinee-idol looks and brutish power delivery. And I wasn't the only one; everywhere I went, people smiled and waved as if the Mustang was the king of the urban jungle. Even on the highway, the UAE's famed high-beam brigade gave it respect, diving down the outside lane rather than risk a flick of the flashers.

The Mustang isn't a good car. It's a great one.

Factfile

Price:$38,000

Engine:4.6L SOHC 24V V8; 315 @ 6,000; 325 @ 4,250

Transmission:TR3650 5-Speed Manual (standard); 5-Speed Automatic (optional)

Performance:5.3 sec 0-100kph 230kph top speed

Weight:1,620kg

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