Monday 21 January 2019

Mustang gets more 'bad ass' appeal with overhaul - expect it to stride onto Irish roads by December

In focus: Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang
Ford Mustang
Mustang convertible

Brian Byrne

There is a donkey festival held in June in the tiny hamlet of Escragnolles in Provence. It gathers a sizeable number of people willing to spend to preserve the humble animal.

I wonder what they thought last week for what could have been a festival of Mustangs, as the latest versions of Ford's most iconic car were driven though the village.

Probably not a lot. There's a big difference between a car with an equine name and the rather cuddly donkey. But both have their passionate fans. And, like certain donkey breeds, both face the risk of extinction.

But let's look at Mustang in its latest version, because maybe sooner than we think, there won't be one like it is now.

Mustang convertible
Mustang convertible

The reason for the latest Mustang ride was the mid-life upgrade of the current generation.

Some relatively minor exterior changes have made a significant difference. There's a new grille and fascia, sexier lights and a lowered hood front. There's a new rear spoiler option too.

But nothing has been done to take from the style of the version which is generally agreed to be the closest in concept and execution to the original of 1964.

They haven't fiddled much with the interior, though there's an upgrade in trim material with more soft-touch surfaces.

The main differences are in the instrumentation and central display, the former completely digital and providing different styles depending on mode.

The centre display uses the bright blue theme seen in other recently revised Fords, and that's all to the good.

They've left the distinctively Mustang steering wheel as is. An immediately noticeable element is that looking out over the hood - lowered by 31cm - offers better visibility and a less intimidating sheet of metal.

The unseen big changes make the main differences. Both engines have been modified, the 2.3 EcoBoost 4cyl de-powered, the 5.0 V8 uprated. I've always preferred the four-cylinder, I think it's a better balance for the car. Reducing the power from 310hp to 290hp hasn't diminished the performance in any perceptible way. I felt it had become a tad more refined. The V8 now pumps a deep, growling 450hp.

Both can come with the standard 6spd manual, but a new 10spd automatic is the real deal for either. It is seamless in use and adapts exceptionally fast to any change in engine loading. There's never a second it's not in the right gear.

The cars at launch also had the optional MagneRide adaptable suspension, which uses electromagnets within the struts of the shock absorbers to react in milliseconds to changes. In the hilly poor surfaces of the launch routes it worked well.

There are now six drive modes available at the flick of a switch, including Track and Drag Strip.

The Normal, Comfort and Sport modes are what they say on the tin, in each case modifying steering, suspension, throttle response and sound. Each can be separately selected to My Mode. The owner can have, for instance, Comfort suspension with Sport+ steering, and even Track noise.

The engine sound options are a tech-fest, showing once again that engine note has little to do with the tuning of a car these days.

In the 2019 Mustang there's even a Quiet setting. You can set it to be the default between sunset and sunrise, for instance.

Really, though, all that's window dressing. The desire for a Mustang is a mix of ethos, nostalgia and ability.

It is a sports car and must be able to provide a sporty experience. It does, in either power guise. It's a big car, though, and feels it. Like the wild horse after which it is named, it requires a firm touch by the rider to get the best from its spirited soul.

Despite all the technology adding layers of refinement, this car is still no highly controlled and over-bred Andalusian dancing horse. Thankfully.

Like the donkeys at the festival in Escragnolles, it's the earthiness in its character that has people continuing to love it.

Coming to Ireland in December.

Indo Motoring

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