What better to way to see if Ford’s newest range of factory-backed Ford Mustang performance parts are worth the money, than by putting them up against a standard Mustang?
You love the new Ford Mustang. You love it so much, you get permission from your other half and you go out and buy one. It's great. You love it even more now that you have it. But then Ford announces a locally available – and warrantied – range of performance upgrades for your shiny new Pony car.
What do you do next? Spend up or leave it stock? Great question…
Life may not always go your way, but sometimes things have a way of working out in your favour. This is one of those times.
With our long-term 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback nearing the end of its extended time in the CarAdvice garage, we were stoked to see Ford Australia announce the availability of several key Ford Licensed Accessory (FLA) performance parts for owners of 2016 and 2017 Ford Mustangs.
Better yet, Ford kindly fitted a bunch of these parts to one of its own cars and let us compare the ‘Performance Parts’ car against our stock-as-a-rock long-termer.
To clarify – if you haven’t read our first four long-term reports or our Ford Mustang GT Fastback v Nissan 370Z comparison or our two-part Ford Mustang GT Fastback v Holden Commodore SS V Redline comparison – our Triple Yellow Ford Mustang GT Fastback costs $57,490 (before on-road costs) and pairs a 306kW/530Nm naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 with a six-speed manual transmission.
It rolls on gloss-black 19-inch alloy wheels, and is equipped with Pirelli tyres and six-piston Brembo brakes up front and single-piston calipers out back – the latter teamed with 380mm and 330mm discs, respectively.
Finished in Ruby Red, Ford’s Performance Parts demo car is based on an identically-specced GT Fastback manual, however, it’s been fitted with a swag of new FLA components. Yay!
With a mandrel-bent 2.5-inch stainless-steel cat-back exhaust with black 4.0-inch exhaust tips ($3584), blue engine coil covers ($222), and a Ford Performance short-throw shift-kit ($805) on board, the Performance Parts features a 19 per cent shorter gear-shift throw and an interior topped off with a nostalgically old-school-styled Ford Performance gear knob.
Sitting one-inch (25mm) lower to the road than the standard Mustang, the ‘stanced’ ‘Stang additionally features a fairly serious track handling pack ($4130), comprising track-focussed lowering springs, assembled front struts and rear shocks, performance pack upper strut mounts, a jounce bumper kit, a sway bar kit, performance pack rear toe links, and toe link-to-knuckle bearings.
Combined, the parts add up to $8741 (fitted and including GST), and effectively take the GT Fastback to a price of $66,231 (before on-road costs).
If the Ford Performance-developed ‘FR3-M9’ track handling suspension is a little too hardcore for you, a less aggressive street lowering springs pack with blue springs ($1260) is also available, as is a cat-back exhaust with chrome exhaust tips ($3584), and black engine coil covers ($222).
Guaranteeing seat time in both cars on a variety of roads, we decided to take our two Pony cars – and our top-gun photographer Tommy Fraser – and head for the mountains. Well, one particular mountain anyway…
Victoria’s glorious Mount Macedon is located around an hour outside of Melbourne, with the route there and back providing us with not only a good mix of highway and twisty tarmac, but also a total of around 150km to assess if the performance parts are, in fact, worth the spend.
On the road
It’s true, since rolling into the CarAdvice Melbourne garage back in March, the Ford Mustang hasn’t overly impressed us with its ride.
As such then, we were super keen to see what sort of difference Ford’s latest performance-oriented setup would have on the notoriously unsettled and poorly controlled Mustang. And wow…
Driving the two cars back-to-back, suspension wise, it really is like night and day.
The second you hop out of the standard Mustang and into the Performance Parts, you genuinely notice that you’re sitting lower to the road.
For normal driving – negotiating urban backstreets, speed humps, driveways, and the like – while the track handling suspension does indeed feel firmer than the standard car’s setup, it’s only slightly stiffer, yet delivers a much more settled ride.
Replacing most-to-all of the standard Mustang’s incessantly fidgety, busy nature with controlled, taut stability, the track tune brings with it levels of body control the standard car sorely lacks.
It’s not only a vast improvement when it comes to daily driving either. Reach some bends and up the pace, and as the roads become a touch more stimulating, the Performance Parts’s suspension becomes even more rewarding.
Squeeze it on through sequential switchbacks, and you quickly become aware that the standard Mustang’s previously commented on float and bounce has been all but eliminated, substituted instead for levels of control and surety that would’ve been brilliant to have experienced on the American-built sports car since its original launch.
More planted, more secure front and rear, and generally a lot more accurate and agile, the addition of the track handling pack simply removes – or at least vastly reduces – the standard Mustang’s front-end float and rear-end instability, giving drivers confidence the standard Mustang simply never does.
Legitimately impressive on a number of fronts, Ford and Ford Performance should be highly commended on what is a really excellent suspension calibration for such a potentially excellent car.
The Performance Parts’s upgraded exhaust system, however, is a bit more pro and con.
Not quite as loud at its peak as the system fitted to the Mustang by Ford’s former long-time performance associate, Tickford, the FLA cat-back is far more measured, and comes without the Tickford unit’s constant, migraine-inducing drone.
Start-up and idle volume is only mildly increased over the standard car’s system – and it’s the same deal for most ‘everyday’ throttle inputs – but when you apply heavy-to-full throttle, that’s when the Performance Parts car's upgraded exhaust really makes its presence known and, consequently, triggers the biggest smiles.
And, from our point of view, overall, that’s a good thing. It means that for everyday driving, you’re not subjected to needless and tiresome exhaust drone.
The flip side, of course, is that, perhaps, some owners will feel a degree of mild disappointment that their brand-new $3500 exhaust doesn’t deliver the full aural V8 muscle car experience they may have hoped for, or expected.
Also a bit of a mixed bag, is the short-shift kit.
If you’re a fan of Fords, classic muscle cars, and especially classic Ford muscle cars, then, without question, you’ll dig the black and white Ford Performance-branded gear knob. It simply looks the business.
It feels great in the hand too, however, while its respective short-shift kit does indeed deliver a shorter throw between gear changes, the kit itself is still attached to the standard Mustang’s inherently heavy and clunky six-speed manual transmission.
This means, while shift throw length may be reduced, cog swapping is slow and ‘sticky’-feeling, with the kit failing to add any much-needed slickness to the Mustang’s shifting experience. Not a total waste of time then, but definitely somewhat disheartening.
Even in standard form, the 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback is a fun and bloody entertaining thing. It does plenty to make fans smile, and plenty to pique the interest of others.
Is then, spending a stack of dollars on changing it, really worth it?
Well, firstly, although the Ford Licensed Accessory (FLA) range of performance parts have all been tested, approved, and endorsed by Ford and Ford Australia, the cat-back exhaust systems are currently only reserved for V8 GT Mustangs, as are the engine coil covers. That said, the track handling pack, street lowering springs, and short-throw shift-kit are all available for both GT and turbocharged Ecoboost models.
Further, falling under the guise of ‘Genuine Ford Accessories’, FLA performance parts fitted by an authorised Ford dealer to a brand-new Ford Mustang are covered by Ford’s ‘Express New Vehicle Warranty’ of three years or 100,000km.
However, ‘retro-fit’ your existing 2016/2017 Ford Mustang with the same FLA performance parts and, provided those parts are fitted by an authorised Ford dealer after delivery, they are covered under the remainder of three-year/100,000km 'Ford Express New Vehicle Warranty', or the one-year/20,000km 'Ford Express Parts and Accessories Warranty' (whichever is longer).
So, in the end, what do we reckon? Are the parts worth the spend?
If you’re the kind of Mustang owner keen on pushing it and likely to attend the odd performance driver training day or track day, we can’t recommend the track handling pack enough. It’s excellent and improves the Mustang no end.
If, however, you’re the kind of Mustang owner content with merely cruising around in your Pony car and drinking in the looks and thumbs-ups, we’d probably suggest you pass on this one.
Providing a small but still noteworthy increase in the aural delight of owning a V8-powered American muscle car, we like the cat-back exhaust, although, a touch over $3500 could be hard to swallow when a stock Holden Commodore V8 rumbles past you, popping and gurgling on overrun.
And finally, the short-shift kit: possibly the toughest choice of the trio of elements fitted to the Performance Parts car.
At $805, the kit ain’t cheap. But it does what it says on the box – reducing the length of the throw – and jeez the Ford Performance gear knob it comes with looks damn cool. Smart money? Maybe not, but we’d still do it.
Click on the Gallery tab for more Ford Mustang GT Fastback v Ford Mustang GT Performance Parts images by Tom Fraser.
Tell us what you think
Are you a Ford Mustang owner? What would you do to your Mustang? Spend up or leave it stock? Let us know in the comments below.