The new Ford Mustang 5.0 GT. On paper it’s an automobile, an assemblage of metal and mechanical parts, but in reality it’s so much more. Going on how people react to its presence it’s more of a mythical entity.
Driving one around town is akin to walking through the Rosebank Mall with Dave Grohl or Bruce Springsteen by your side — an invitation to paparazzi-like levels of public attention. The Ford Mustang is more rockstar than car — I watched people take endless selfies in front of it.
Pedestrians on a busy street corner would point and whistle and throw their hands up in the air. The old haggard hobo with his plastic sack knelt down and kissed its bonnet like Mary of Bethany kissed the feet of Jesus.
It’s an extraordinary phenomenon. I’ve driven thousands of cars over the last eight years and none has stirred up quite as much buzz. Why? Simply because this is the first time in 52 years that it is actually being officially sold here in South Africa — in right-hand drive.
That’s right, the Mustang is that fabled unicorn finally come to life: a star of Hollywood arrived to save us from predictable Teutonic banality. And so, in the eyes of the great unwashed, it can do no wrong.
Well I’m here to tell you that it can. Spend a few days with any celebrity and you’ll see flaws oozing through the cracks.
In this instance it’s got to do with build quality. The cheap-feeling petrol filler cap, for example, that never seemed to fit flush with the bodywork of my test car. No matter how many times I adjusted it, the damn thing would never sit level with the metal.
Then there’s the boot lid. The lip, the piece that holds the boastful GT badge, is made from plastic. Plastic that feels ill equipped to deal with a lifetime of being banged shut.
Move into the interior and you’ll notice that the Mustang has 2+2 jump seats. Nice on paper, but in practice the rear seats are useful only as a luggage rack. Although having said that, every time I used the pull-handle that moves the front seats forward to access the back seats, it felt like it was on the verge of snapping off. Then there’s the low-rent centre console plastic, the moulded-from-takeout-cartons cubbyhole, and the cheesy faux aluminium dashboard cladding.
Am I being harsh? In light of how much better this new model is over its predecessor then, yes, I am. But when you factor in the sticker price, no, I am not, because for near similar money you could have a BMW 435i or an Audi S5 Coupé — Ritz-Carltons to the Mustang’s Great Western.
Yet no matter how much this pricing disparity annoyed me (especially in view of how much less this Ford costs stateside), I couldn’t but grin every time I buckled into this rambunctious piece of Americana. The ride may be harsh across road scars but on smooth surfaces it’s fantastic, with supersized helpings of V8 power and torque. Hold it in a straight line and you’ll see that it is a properly fast car.
Does it corner? Although the Mustang is certainly no M3, it does change direction with a reasonable amount of dexterity. Probably better than it ever has before. Let’s just say that if you enjoy driving you won’t feel hard done by through the curves.
On the highway it’s a marvellous cruiser and gobbles up kilometres with all the chilled-out grace of a proper Gran Turismo. Perhaps the best thing about it is its playfulness.
Like Chuck Norris in a barroom brawl, the Mustang knows how to enjoy itself. Call those cylinders into action and it will slide sideways all day, every day.
It will also perform some of the most outrageous burnouts. In fact I can probably count on one hand the times I didn’t drive away from a traffic light in a great big cloud of acrid tyre smoke. Not since the old Chevrolet Lumina SS has a car turned me into such a yobbo.
And this is the thing about the Ford Mustang. It’s expensive. It lacks the quality you get in many of its rivals. It has foibles. It certainly doesn’t deserve the Second Coming hysteria that seems to follow in its obnoxious exhaust wake.
Yet similar to that naughty celebrity caught on camera getting plastered with a harem of leggy girls, it manages to get away with all of this. For unlike so many other vehicles out there the V8 model has a charm and character that are lacking in its peers. It’s fun and enduring.
Which is why, I must admit, I am something of a fan. –Thomas Falkiner
FAST FACTS: Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Auto
Engine: 4951cc V8 petrol
Power: 306kW at 6500rpm
Torque: 530Nm at 4250rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 263km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 14.7l/100km (achieved)
CO2: 287g/km (claimed)
Price: From R839 900