Driving full circle in the global Mustang

Driving full circle in the global Mustang

The all-new Ford Mustang might have been designed for global markets but it is still at heart a very American car.

We had a brief drive of the new right-hand-drive production V8 and four-cylinder Ecoboost Mustangs this week in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, and came away mildly underwhelmed about some attributes of the new Ford.

Forget what Ford have said about it being a global car, it is rather an American car made for global markets and comes with some characteristics that US buyers are used to, but we are not.

IMG_2140That said the car has 7.8 million fans says Ford and 50% of them live outside the continental USA.

The 5-litre V8 GT Fastback is by far the pick of the bunch, especially for people who like to drive it hard, and surprisingly the four-cylinder Fastback is also pretty good steer, and responds well to the accelerator pedal.

We drove a manual Ecoboost fastback which isn’t available to New Zealand buyers (only the automatic is available for Kiwi buyers to order), and thats a shame because it too is a very pleasant car to punt around.

Around a private circuit in New South Wales we found the V8 Fastbacks rode well, turned in nicely, and had ample power and torque, and the brakes worked very well too, as they would need to.

IMG_2150The new Mustang convertible however showed its milieu in life is to be more of a show pony rather than a driving machine, the body flex, especially on Australian rural roads was quite noticeable, there were noticeable movements around the dashboard air vents when travelling over bumps and corrugations.

It is more of a machine for cruising up smooth Californian freeways and boulevards, and this showed on our drive back to Sydney from the Hunter Valley.

The new ‘Stang betrays its American origins in the fit and finish of the cabin. While the interior plays homage to the design of the past, some of the plastics and the aluminium details look a bit low rent, and the alignment of the glovebox on several cars driven was decidedly wonky.

The indicator and wiper wands are straight out of the parts bin, as are a number of items in the interior, and the handbrake hasn’t been swapped over for RHD cars.

It’s not all bad, the car is well equipped and the heated/ventilated seats and climate air con were a godsend in the 42 degree heat, the navigation system also works well.

The Mustang is more than the sum of its parts, and therefore these minor peccadilloes will be forgiven by the people who buy them and enjoy them, but we cannot see the car conquering buyers who would buy a coupe or convertible from the European brands or the Japanese ones for that matter.

The Mustang journey to Australasia

It’s been more than two years since the Ford Motor Company officially unveiled the Mustang in Sydney to Asia Pacific markets in November 2013.

The production of the event was massive, as hundreds of media from the Asia Pacific region including motoring journalists, bloggers, lifestyle publications, television, and digital content producers descended on a converted railway warehouse for an evening of Mustang-infused revelry bordering on the almost reverential.

Ford Designer Craig Metros appeared before the throng to present the car and he did his level best to ignore the banter of the facetious fat bloke from Top Gear Australia Shane Jacobsen who was charged with the duties of being the MC for the evening.

Ironically, the car driven into the presentation for the now overly excited throng to applaud was a left-hand-drive preproduction Mustang convertible, but that didn’t matter.

There was, as you would expect from such a staged hurrah, much flashing of cameras, jostling of video jockeys, and general commotion.

There were also a few hangovers the next day, amongst both the Kiwi motoring journalists and the Ford dealer council members who had flown across for the shindig.

Even the recently departed Ford New Zealand boss Cory Holter admitted to having a fuzzy head as he headed for the airport, with the media and dealer contingent in tow.

So there was a touch of irony that I returned to Sydney as Autotalk’s representative to complete the two-year odyssey that has possibly become the longest drawn out product launch in the history of a new car.

Let’s be frank, in the forthcoming demise of the Falcon as the performance hero down under, Ford has milked every bit of goodwill and PR out of the Mustang’s journey to market as it can, no doubt with the intention of trying to whip up as many pre orders as it can.

In 50 years of production, Ford has sold 9.2 million Mustangs, so theres a huge brand equity in the vehicle.

Once the 600 New Zealand customers take delivery of their cars, we think the desire will cool off, and the hype will settle down.

In the meantime, we look forward to driving the new ‘Stang on local roads to gauge public reaction.

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