I think most Australians would agree with me when I say it’s been a while since we’ve had an iconic car come to our shores. The Volkswagen Beetle and Mini Cooper both got facelifts and bucketloads of marketing dollars some 15-20 years ago and everybody pounced (well, mostly women pounced, but Marky Mark behind the wheel of a fresh-faced Mini in the remake of The Italian Job gave it plenty of street-cred for blokes as well). Then we had the Audi TT, a design so instantly recognisable and likeable you couldn’t drive down a Sydney street without seeing three.
And then the line kind of went dead. As some marques played to their strengths and didn’t take any risks, others started making 4x4s and SUVs to appease the ever-growing ‘Dad market’, and others took risks that were too risqué (anybody who remembers the drop-top version of the Chrysler PT Cruiser knows exactly what I mean). Others launched outlandish designs right about the time the GFC hit and everybody went into financial hiding, shying away from anything too flash.
Perhaps it’s this itch we didn’t know we wanted scratched that’s made the release of the new Mustang in Australia such a successful one for Ford. Now I will start by saying that this car does feel a little like the keys being jangled in front of our faces as a distraction for the fact that they’ve just closed down their Australian production facility, resulting in some 600 job losses, and also canned the iconic Falcon in the process. But when the keys being jangled in your face are to a 5.0L V8 Pony, you tend to keep an open mind.
While Ford have been making the hard financial decision to finish up producing vehicles in Oz, they haven’t become complacent in finding out what it is that makes Australian drivers tick, spending over $300 million in research and development last year alone to help develop their understanding of the marketplace and how better to service it. And it’s an investment that’s paid off – after a simple online ad campaign showing the sports car cruising down the Great Ocean Road, they’ve already oversold the four new models of Mustang and new purchasers are now on a waiting list.
And you’ll be forgiven for not having seen the car advertised everywhere since it landed. After all, it’s a Mustang. Just hearing the iconic growl of the engine as one tears past you is advertisement enough, it always has been. It’s not a set of wheels that needs billboards or celebrities. It’s older brother was in Bullitt for crying out loud. The Mustang’s first ever on-screen appearance was in a Bond film. It’s a pedigree that sells itself.
The Mustang is offered in two different engines; a 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost and a 5.0L V8, manual or automatic, as well as a convertible body (albeit auto only). While the EcoBoost engine is very quick, economic, better for the environment and and all round pleasure to drive, let’s be honest, you came here to buy a Mustang, so a V8 only seems fitting. And while a drop-top might seem like the perfect way to score chicks with your surfboard poking up past the rear seats this summer, a manual gearbox (not the norm for US cars) paired with this engine and the excitement of rear-wheel drive is palpably hard to resist.
Being an entirely new car, the team at Ford have built it from the ground up, repeatedly testing and tuning to make it ring true for die-hard Mustang enthusiasts. It certainly looks like a Mustang; the bonnet is huge, the seats low and its presence is instantly felt. It also comes in a bevy of in-your-face colours (race red being the crowd pleaser) and it sports the signature of any sports car – token-effort rear seats (perfect if your friends are Hobbits).
So it’s a big American car with bucketloads of power that’ll turn heads. That formula hasn’t worked for most other US imports, at least on the scale of the Mustang, so why has it worked so well for Ford? After all the groundwork they put in to making this happen down under, Ford allocated 4500 units and instantly sold 6000. There’s now a waiting list, and they’ve already announced improvements on the 2017 model, with a new interface that pairs with your smartphone better than most other luxury vehicles fitted as as standard equipment.
It’s also not going to break the bank, landing at roughly $45,990 AUD for the 4-cylinder EcoBoost and $57,490 AUD for the V8 – a surprisingly small price to pay for a car with this much power, style and history.
Is it a 1960’s head turner? No. But it’s not trying to be. The effort Ford have put in to bringing their iconic muscle car into the 21st century is admirable, and the little details have all been considered, without losing sight of the fact that people buying a Mustang couldn’t really care less about where the cup holders are and how the sound system works. Mustang fans want a big, loud car that roars when you put the foot down and sends all of its power to the rear wheels. It’s a feeling that transcends ride quality or practicality, it’s a statement without being overstated. It says ‘I like hooning around but I’m not a hoon’. Almost like the grown-up version of your first car.
Perhaps that’s why this car has created so many instant fans. Whether a Mustang was your dream car as a kid, or you just love taking a long weekend drive where the journey is just as important as the destination, this car, despite all of its modern upgrades and fangled technology, whether die-hard fans like it or not, is undeniably a real Mustang, and will no doubt be remembered in years to come as the car that brought an iconic, unique vehicle back to Australia in the 21st century.