FIRST DRIVE | The new 2019 Ford Mustang gets extra gallop
Brenwin Naidu saddles up with the Blue Oval's invigorated pony car
In 2013 Ford whet appetites when it announced that South Africa would finally receive the legendary Mustang in right-hand drive. Two years later, in time for December, the pony car was launched on our shores.
A (relatively) attainable price, coupled with the lofty mystique of the nameplate ensured it was a galloping success. The carmaker is quick to state that it is the best-selling sports car in the country, outpacing the volumes of names such as Porsche 911.
But the jury is out on whether the Mustang is an out-and-out sports car. What makes its placement tricky in our context, is the absence of traditional rivals such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
For us, the more relevant reference points would be contenders like the Audi A5, BMW 4-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupé and Lexus RC. Still, it can be argued that the Mustang buyer would not even have considered those alternatives in the periphery. They want the one with the famed legacy and the horse on the grille. In 2017 Ford revealed the mildly enhanced version of the current Mustang and finally, last week, it was unveiled to national media at an event in the Western Cape.
At the front it appears noticeably more disgruntled. Look at that furrowing brow. See those headlamps squinting with rage. Re-sculpted bumpers and nostrils complete the scowling countenance of the Mustang. The tail, meanwhile, sees a fresher interpretation of that hallmark triple lens arrangement.
There are new alloy designs on offer in addition to a shade dubbed Orange Fury. Engine choices are as they were before, but there is more power on offer – sort of. In the case of the 2.3-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost, you get 20kW less but 11Nm extra. The figure is now 213kW and 441Nm. The 5.0 V8 sees a gain of 25kW, yet the torque figure is down by 1Nm: 331kW and 529Nm. A ten-speed automatic transmission is on duty in both derivatives.
There is a bit more polish to proceedings from ride quality and handling perspectives, as the rear suspension has been tweaked, with new shock absorbers added to the mix as well. Those wanting to add a little more civility to their Mustang experience can opt for adaptive dampers, available in the eight-cylinder GT model only.
That said, there is no confusing the character of the Mustang with those of more sophisticated peers mentioned earlier in the piece. It remains a stallion for the wild and untamed plains, rather than a Lipizzaner on the precision show-jumping circuit. Ford attempted to convey a classier feel in the latest Mustang, with materials of purportedly better quality. But it still errs on the low-rent side to be frank, noticeable when you scratch away at some of those surfaces.
A contemporary touch comes in the form of the digitised instrument cluster. And as before, standard specification is bountiful, with no options list to speak of. An update for that SYNC3 infotainment system would have been welcomed. It is starting to look dated.
A limited number of Mustang Bullitt units have also made their way over. It was built to commemorate 50 years of the eponymous film, often cited as featuring one of the coolest car chases ever. For your money, you get a choice of Highland Green or Shadow Black paint, 8kW more than the GT, Recaro seats and a manual transmission. Steve McQueen polo-neck sold separately.
The updated Ford Mustang, especially in GT guise, remains a charming brute. While it is certainly not perfect, the upgrades afforded by this mild refresh are bound to keep it on the radars of shoppers and dreamers in this category.
Pricing ranges between R768 000 and R995 400.