If you’re going to get a new Ford Mustang, a V8 manual is the one we’d recommend. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’ve scored with our new long-term Pony car.
Drawing looks practically non-stop since joining the CarAdvice Melbourne team just shy of a month ago, ‘Old Yeller’ – our Triple Yellow 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback – has been well and truly introduced to all and sundry in and around the office.
In the weeks and months to come we’ll be testing out the ‘Stang’s 306kW/530Nm naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre Coyote V8 engine, its six-piston Brembo front brakes, and its very welcome limited-slip rear differential. However, first things first.
First impressions. With regards to people, they say first impressions can significantly influence how individuals are treated and viewed over time. They say first impressions last. But others are convinced that first impressions aren’t everything…
Over the next few months, we shall see which rings true for our eye-catching Ford Mustang long-termer. Below though, are the first impressions of some of the team, having wrangled some time with ‘Old Yeller’.
Marika Zhu – Southern region sales director
From afar, it looks tough, mean, and outspoken. From close up, it looks tougher and even more aggressive. And I really love the Pony logo puddle lights that light up the ground in front of the doors.
At first glance, you don’t think the interior looks too bad. The more time you spend with it though, the more you notice the hard plastic bits that really should be a bit more ‘soft-touch’ to give it a greater feeling of quality inside.
The worst thing bar none, however, is accessing the back seat. The whole process is just not intuitive – you need to slowly move the seat forward via the electric switch, then pull up the handle to manually to move the backrest forward. And then once you’re in the back, the space is tiny. But then again, you don’t own a Mustang for the back seats.
Fun and thrilling to drive, the noise inside makes you feel like you’re not just in any Ford, you’re in a Mustang. The turning circle could be a lot better, but with this car, the driving experience is emotion over practicality – all you want to do is find a tunnel, shift it into third gear, and make some noise.
The Bluetooth connectivity is intuitive and pairing my phone to the car was a breeze (yes, I care about that). Navigation isn’t bad either, with the system showing you where the traffic is, which is always helpful. Nothing beats Google Maps though…
Overall, the Mustang is just such an emotional car. It’s supposed to be somewhat practical, but really, it’s just fun and enjoyable – provided you don’t mind the occasional interior quality issue. In the end, I’d be happy to live with this car (if I had plenty of money for fuel, that is).
James Wong – Journalist
I had seen plenty of Ford Mustangs out on the road before, but being up close and personal with our long-termer made me appreciate just how nice the new Pony car is to look at. Even in our test car’s bright yellow, the ‘Stang looks athletic, and the black wheels provide a nice contrast. This current generation also looks far more premium than those that preceded it.
While the retro-inspired design of the Mustang’s cabin looks cool, the mismatched quality of the plastics isn’t great given the car’s near-on $60k price tag. A lot of the materials used on the dash and doors are hard, scratchy plastics, though, there are some squishier touch points on the upper dash and in the door inserts.
The leather used on the seats and steering wheel also feels a little low-rent compared with other vehicles at this price point. But hey, it’s a Mustang, it was never going to challenge Audi or Mercedes-Benz in the interior stakes.
Before driving the Mustang, I had never driven a V8 on public roads before. Firing up the 5.0-litre engine was an awesome first taste of the V8 life – it sounds fantastic!
The manual transmission feels a little clunky, but it’s so much fun revving the engine and shifting gears yourself in a car like this. The ride is quite firm and picks up a lot of imperfections in the road, but it doesn’t really crash over them, so it’s not totally uncomfortable.
The long bonnet and large turning circle aren’t great for city driving, but once you find a nice stretch of country highway or freeway to plant your foot and let the Mustang stretch its legs, it’s plenty of fun. A main gripe, however, are the side mirrors. They are so bloody small, especially on the passenger’s side, so visibility is compromised in a lot of situations.
Headlining the Mustang’s tech suite is Ford’s excellent Sync 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s simple to use, quick to respond, and immediately familiar from most of the company’s other models. However, once you get past that – and the small driver’s information display that also misses out on a digital speedometer – there’s not much else in terms of technology. There’s no driver assistance aids like adaptive cruise control or blind-spot monitoring (which would come in really handy considering how small the wing mirrors are), but then again, the car is soon to receive a mid-life update which should include most of these systems.
Look, it’s obvious the Mustang has its flaws, but it’s still a great machine. It’s got enough presence and character to make it desirable, even though you know it has its shortcomings, and there’s plenty of performance and aural drama from that V8 engine to put smiles on faces every time you press the accelerator pedal. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with ‘Old Yeller’.
Tom Fraser – Staff photographer
Talking first impressions – and I mean a brief jaunt around the block – the thing that immediately makes itself known is the car’s character. It’s not like any old run-of-the-mill car, there’s plenty of trademark ‘Mustang’ elements to ensure you know you’re in a Pony car – the long bonnet, the retro switchgear, and let’s not forget, the terrible build quality.
I’m not a huge fan of the specification of our long-term tester, I wish it were a dark grey or black on black – the yellow is just too flashy and the shape suits a more sedate colour choice, in my opinion.
The interior leather feels of terrible quality, and there is plastic everywhere. That said, the design of the interior looks quite neat and at least is a little different to the rest of the Ford range. Ford’s Sync 3 system is one of the best non-European infotainment systems going around, as it understands voice commands every time and there’s very little lag.
I won’t comment much on driving the car until I get a proper drive, however. Around the block, I found myself almost going through the windscreen due to breathing on the brake pedal. That pedal sensitivity is just a bit much for road driving. There also definitely needs to be more exhaust noise, which is why I’m excited to have a look at the updated 2018 range next year.
Issues aside, I’m glad we have a naturally-aspirated V8 in the garage, and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel for a longer drive.
Mike Stevens – Producer and news editor
The styling of the new Ford Mustang is a home-run – to use a concept even more American than the legendary Pony car itself. When it first appeared, it was such a departure from the iconic Mustang look, but now it is the Mustang in my mind, and that’s what a near-total styling reboot should do.
Funnily enough, the recently revealed facelift was a bit of a disappointment for me – that’s how much the current model’s look had grown on me – but I’ll try to withhold judgement until I see the new car in the flesh.
When it comes to the interior, this is where we have a bit of a letdown. Now, let’s be fair: the cabin of the Mustang, historically, was never intended to be where it scored its sales. But in today’s market, and especially for the money Ford asks for the Mustang locally, we do expect better than lunchbox plastics through most of the cabin.
I almost feel as though, if I’d bought the V8 Mustang, any after-market spending would go into replacing and re-trimming surfaces in the cabin. A custom leather dash, along with machined-aluminium inserts to replace all the chromed plastics… now that’d be something. I do think the switches, seats, and steering wheel (apart from the silver plastic spokes) are all nice, though, so clearly time has gone into the regular touch areas. I guess that’s something.
What’s the Mustang like to drive? In a word: twitchy. I don’t know for certain that’s a bad thing, but certainly if my goal were to attack the hills, I’d be picking a different car (perhaps a Nissan 370Z, Dave..?).
Still, even despite Ford’s claims that this new IRS-equipped Mustang is a wholly new and dynamic marvel, there’s no harm in accepting the truth: the Pony car is forever at its best in simply looking the part. And delivering some ‘fishies’ on demand. And throwing the tail out in corners. And lighting it up at launch. Is that so bad? I can’t imagine anybody buying a ‘Stang would or should expect more than that, really.
In terms of technology, Sync 3 is on-board, so it’s all good. We’ve covered this technology in detail, now. It’s one of the best infotainment platforms going around, in my book, regardless of price level. It looks a little ‘PlaySkool’, but only a little, and it’s really quite good at all the basics. Many can’t even achieve that. It’s fast, it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the in-built apps are a strength too.
Of course, the elephant in the room with the Mustang is that two-star ANCAP safety rating. Look, it’s a known quantity. Drive it or don’t. Perhaps keep your kids out of it, and don’t let Paul Maric tell you what to do.
Overall, I think the Mustang is terrific. I’m not the car’s target market, but I sure as hell had a hoot driving it, and I didn’t mind all the looks either. It’s not loud enough, the cabin isn’t up to my lofty arrogant journo standards, and it isn’t a true driver’s car (that said, I’m also no track legend). But it’s sure as hell fit for purpose, if its intended job is to look great, do ‘fishies’, look great, give you a nostalgic buzz, and also, if I didn’t mention it, look great.
Mandy Turner – Audio production manager
The Ford Mustang has a timeless design, with muscular curves and a mean stance. The yellow with black rims would be my choice of colour, as it stands out on the road and plenty of people watch it drive by.
The interior is a letdown, though. Full of hard plastics, it’s not as attractive as the outside, and doesn’t beckon you in once you open the wide doors. Look-a-like brushed aluminium plastics on the steering wheel and dash proved to be an issue with sun glare when I was driving in daylight hours, and the dash also reflects on the windscreen. The chrome toggle switches on the centre stack resemble those of an old airplane and, for me, are a standout feature of the cabin.
I drove the ‘Stang on the freeway in torrential rain for half an hour. While it was scary, the car handled deep puddles really well and without tugging the steering wheel. Muscle cars have always loved straight lines, and this is once again true for the new Mustang. Just don’t attempt to throw it around tight corners, as it could get a little hairy.
In the end, you can’t beat the torque of that awesome V8, and those lines of such an iconic American car will always look great. But for me, that’s about where it stops.
James Ward – Associate publisher
I’ve never experienced so much positivity from such a yellow car before. The Mustang, like it or not, is still an icon. Everyone knows what it is, and it seems to make everyone happy. It is an undeniably cool looking car. I’m a big fan of the tail-lights and the huge bonnet – which seems to stretch on for days when you are behind the wheel. Don’t get too close though, as the plastic panel between the lights on the boot feels terribly light and cheap, and the bonnet never looks totally closed.
Same goes for the interior. From afar, it looks cool and retro and very ‘Mustangy’. But up close, there are plastics that feel cheap and light, the fit and finish looks pretty ordinary, and even the usability just hasn’t been thought through. Who has toggle switches that only go one way but cycle through things? And a white engine start button in a cabin of mostly black just looks silly.
But, it is fun and it sounds cool. When you accelerate, the whole front end lifts up – just like a classic muscle car… but not like a modern sports car. When people say it’s a modern version of a classic Mustang, they have hit the nail on the head. If you go into it wanting a modern, tight, dynamic sports coupe, you will be disappointed. If you want a classic Mustang that has good air con and satellite navigation, then it ticks the box.
Bottom line: don’t take it too seriously, and you’ll enjoy it for what it is.
I think Sync 3 is incredibly good. I think the noise the 5.0-litre makes is absolutely addictive. And I can’t help but be a sucker for a manual performance car. But my first impressions haven’t all been positive ones. Far from.
Only one month in and I already have issues with engine noise being too hushed and reserved – particularly when there are ‘Sport’ and ‘Race Track’ modes that don’t better the situation. Overall fit and finish and build quality are glaringly questionable. The 12.2-metre turning circle is a hassle and frustrating. Accessing the backseats is even more frustrating and a nuisance beyond compare. Vision out of the wing mirrors isn’t great. And the front seats aren’t the most comfortable things I’ve ever sat in.
For now though, let’s leave it there. Stay tuned for our next instalment, where we’ll be focussing on how the car handles a road trip down to the coast. Should be interesting…
Click on the Photos tab above for more 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback images by Tom Fraser.