The first three months with our long-term 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback have been, overall, quite fun and fascinating. But, as the concept of a long-termer is to simulate a real-world ownership experience, it was time to take ‘Old Yeller’ to the track.
With the delightful Kevin Flynn from Driver Dynamics organising some track time at Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway – as part of a Driver Dynamics Level 3 High Performance driver training day – we roll up and onto pit lane at a little after 8am. The Ford Mustang is not alone though…
As the day is also planned for Part Two of our recent Ford Mustang GT Fastback v Holden Commodore SS V Redline comparison, the 5.0-litre Ford Mustang is joined by a 6.2-litre Holden Commodore. You can read more about how that battle went down here, but for now, we’ll focus solely on the Mustang.
Armed with its 306kW/530Nm Coyote V8 and a set of Pirelli tyres – 225/40 P Zeros up front and 275/40 P Zero Rossos out back – our Triple Yellow GT Fastback will also rely on its independent rear suspension and limited-slip rear differential to help it perform on track.
Up front, the Mustang’s six-piston Brembo calipers and 380mm discs will be on hand to rein in the Pony car down Sandown’s two 900m-odd straights, further assisted by the rear end’s single-piston calipers and 330mm discs.
With an ambient temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius, and tyre pressures upped by two pounds per square inch (psi) front and rear – from 36psi to 38psi – in a bid to increase sidewall stiffness and tyre performance, we hit the 3.1-kilometre, 13-turn circuit for the first time.
Appropriately enough, the Ford’s ‘Race track’ mode is selected, meaning sharper throttle response, heavier steering, and more lenient stability control intervention – although it has to be said, even in ‘Normal’ mode, the Mustang’s electronic stability control is considerably more lax than you’d find in many other 2017-model-year cars.
Disappointingly quiet and muffled – from both inside and out – the 5.0-litre Mustang might be more aurally subdued on full noise than we’d like, however, there’s little doubting the punchy engine’s ability to wind out with gusto.
Make no mistake; the Mustang GT is fast.
Able to pack on pace with relative ease, and seeming to pull even harder at the race track than on the public road, the two-door V8 hits 215km/h down Sandown’s front and back straights, requiring the driver to pull fifth gear to avoid parking the thing on its 7000rpm rev limiter.
And, despite the Ford’s heavier clutch, poor pedal positioning, and clunky and overly-notchy six-speed manual transmission – which we found all but dictates slow, precise, and very deliberate gear changes – the healthily-brisk Mustang manages to hustle around the Supercar track in around 1min30sec. Not a terrible time to record during a social track day.
Super-touchy around town, on the race track, the Mustang’s brakes impress, offering excellent initial bite and ample and consistent stopping power. Some fade does become evident after a few harder laps, however, a cool-down lap or two is usually enough to rectify the issue.
Although we found the Ford to be entertaining, seriously fast, and a heap of fun throughout the day, it’s no ‘sports car’.
Even with its standard ‘Performance Pack’ suspension fitted – comprising heavy-duty front springs, a front-end K-brace, a larger rear sway bar, and unique chassis tuning – the Mustang’s floatier on-road feeling translates to the racetrack, and it lacks front-end bite, lateral and under-power grip, and feedback and communication.
The ’Stang feels significantly happier and more in its comfort zone being on a wider, smoother race track, compared with a tighter, bumpier public road, however, it still requires plenty of patience and careful use of the throttle to get the best out of it.
With the rest of the day’s competitors scoffing down some lunch, the track is momentarily empty, leaving the front straight vacant for us to hook up the VBox and run some straight-line tests.
While all and sundry in the pits enjoy pizza, the Mustang records a VBox-certified 5.3-second 0-100km/h time and a 13.6-second 0-400m sprint at 172.2km/h.
A little tricky to get off the line quickly and smoothly, the Ford’s underwhelming manual gearbox also makes being pacey a little, let’s say, ‘challenging’.
That said, all in all, the 5.0-litre ’Stang did pretty damn well over the course of the day, with its 36.1L/100km average fuel consumption figure actually pipping its Holden-badged V8 rival.
Although our time with the Ford Mustang is slowly drawing to a close, it ain’t done yet. And coming up, we’ll be narrowing in on the GT Fastback’s daily driver credentials and its overall liveability. Stay tuned for that one…
Click on the Gallery tab above for more 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback images by Tom Fraser.
MORE: Long-term report three – the road trip
MORE: Long-term report two – first impressions
MORE: Long-term report one – introduction
MORE: Ford Mustang news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Ford
MORE: All long-term reviews