Test Drive: 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0

That is hot!” said my fiancée (now wife) as I pulled up to the curb, my cop-bait blue tester growling its own note of appreciation back at her. It was probably thinking a reciprocal thought. I felt like a bit of a boss. Five-point-oh litres of torque-monster rumbling under swooping hood in front of me, long coupe doors swinging open to let my beautiful partner slide into the leather Recaro sport seats… hell, I even had sunglasses on.

In that moment I realised two things. One: I was a bit of a douche. Two: I had already fallen in love with this car.

I picked it up in torrential rain, so trepidation was the name of the game early as I got to know Ford’s 2014 Mustang. The heavy clutch action made me nervous, but I needn’t have been. For all its brash colouring and loud barking the Mustang is surprisingly easy to drive. Surprising because 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque is a lot to deal with, but the six-speed manual and rear-driven 255/40 19-inch Pirellis handle it solidly.

The traction control is not intrusive. There is a lot of virility inherent in this car and the electric nannies are content to give it a loose rein – even in the rain.

With that much torque and power, there is enough to throttle-steer the Mustang around corners and create long, lurid slides (on closed private roads, of course) that make you feel like a drift king. This is where the duality of the Mustang starts. The same car that will bump-steer like a wild bull when thrown over rough patches mid-corner, will hold and maintain a trajectory even when crossed up and sideways. The fact that the Mustang is so forgiving in those conditions makes me agree with editor Jonathan Yarkony – that bump steer and bucking that goes on was dialled in deliberately. All in the name of fun, right?

The dichotomy doesn’t stop there. This is a muscle car, a serious, pull-no-punches growler with a muscle-car stance and plenty of grunt to back up its claims – why then is it this vivid cop-bait blue? And what’s with the 1980s disco light show in the cabin? On the one hand, the Mustang GT is the perfect car for a nostalgic older rocker fulfilling a childhood dream. On the other, it is the perfect car for an exuberant teenager with a love of dub step and baggy trousers. I’m not sure what it says about me, but I really enjoyed the Mustang at night. The cabin comes with a thick, sporty steering wheel and weighty gear lever, and nicely bolstered leather sport seats. There are the mandatory aluminum racing pedals and two striking analogue dials for the tach and speedo.

In this tester, there was also a version of MyFord Touch with a large screen on the centre stack and another smaller one nestled into the instrument cluster. From here, you could choose your lighting scheme – orange, blue, green, white, red, purple or two personal settings. I began with green but after remembering that blue and my favourite colour don’t mix, changed to purple. That purple hue now shone from the door handles, door sills, footwells, dashboard lights and the “Mustang” lettering on the scuff plates. I was in Fast and Furious heaven.

The steering wheel is a retro-look three-spoke affair with the right amount of heft, and Ford has managed to shoehorn in a full suite of controls without ruining the lines of the wheel. The gear lever is thick and short, with a nice short throw, it is aesthetically well placed – dead in the centre of the console, but I think it would benefit ergonomically from being offset towards the driver more – it was a little far away for my liking.

The Microsoft-powered MyFord Touch system is excellent in this iteration, and comes with an easy-to-read white background. All the MyFord tricks are there, including text-voice for your text messages, and 50 preset messages, including “I Love You”, “Can’t Wait to See You” and “Sorry”. Handy, that.

There is dual-zone climate control, Sirius XM, back-up camera and navigation, so you can enjoy your 1970s-inspired muscle car and your modern conveniences. The buttons are small, but well laid out.

All of that combines to make the Mustang GT a very welcoming place for the driver and front-seat passenger. But even the enormous glass skylight (it’s not a sunroof, it doesn’t open) isn’t enough to make the back seat bearable for any adults. The Mustang is a reverse TARDIS. On the outside it is huge, but it quickly shrinks to claustrophobic proportions when the doors close. The Super Beetle I reviewed a while back felt larger on the inside than the Mustang, especially in the back seats. There wasn’t even room between the headrest and roof to thread the top tether for my daughter’s child seat. Luckily there is a LATCH system so I was able to safely secure her chair to the rear.

But the Mustang wasn’t built for taking around other people, it was built for having fun, and drawing attention – my two favourite things. My wife is a little less excited about drawing attention, especially that of the constabulary. Driving sedately up the highway she had a police cruiser pull up behind her, accelerate rapidly into the distance and then slow to a crawl several corners later. That happened three times before he realised she wasn’t taking the bait; poor bloke probably thought he had the first scalp of the day in the bag when he saw the ‘Stang.

Despite that episode, she fell in love with the Mustang, too. As Tom Sedens would say, WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was off the charts. If ever I mess up big enough, I might just have to buy her one.

What would normally trigger a rash of disdain is ignored in the Mustang. The carpets in the rear and in the miniscule trunk are loose and flimsy. The whole cargo area looks unfinished and raw. There is some cheapness in the dash materials and the interior had some rattles. Make no mistake, that much engine and that much fun comes at a price – corners must be cut somewhere.

Who cares though? The steering feel, braking performance and handling are all way better than I expected. Despite a bit of nervousness on rougher roads and initial turn-in, the Mustang is a confident and competent cornering device. And, if you get in trouble, a quick stab on the juice will send it sailing onwards and out of harm’s way. Power comes on strong, early and progressively, there is no surge, no sputter, just a straight line of ever-increasing velocity. It cruises at 60 km/h at just 1,300 rpm in fifth, 110 km/h barely nudges 2,000.

The sound of the 5.0L is electrifying even at idle. Give it a squirt between traffic lights and you’ll delight pedestrians and fellow motorists alike. Or at the very least send yourself into a chuckle-fit.

The reverse “L” Macpherson struts up front and the three-link rear suspension with panhard rod and stabilizer bar is a long way from the leaf springs of old, and the ride is compliant and comfortable when cruising. It’s no Silver Ghost, but it’s adequately smooth for long country cruises.

If the modern suspension leaves you wanting more nostalgia, you’re in luck. The Mustang’s fuel economy numbers are reminiscent of the 60s and 70s. The EPA says it will do 21.4 L/100 km city, 9.0 highway and 12.4 combined. I ended my week up at 18.7 – despite several highway jaunts. The EPA combined reading is usually pretty accurate, but it is hard to compensate for the sort of lead-footed behaviour the Mustang evokes. Heck, even my sullen fifth-grade Civics teacher would have found himself thrusting his brown loafers into the firewall just to hear it sing.

The Mustang is a rare breed. It couples silly, boyish fun with genuine power in a chassis that responds well to spirited driving. It manages to somehow bridge the generational gap without disappointing the purists, nor leaving the young ‘uns wanting more. It looks great, sounds ridiculous and makes anyone who drives it grin like an idiot – at least until they see their tire bill.

Competitors:
Chevrolet Camaro
Dodge Challenger
Nissan 370Z

2014 Ford Mustang GT Coupe
articles_PricingType 2014 Ford Mustang GT Coupe
Base Price $40,099
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,550
Price as Tested $50,749
Optional Equipment $9,100 (Electronics Package – $2,300; Reverse sensing system and Security Package (anti-theft, wheel locks, reverse park assist) – $700; hood stripe – $300; GT Brake Perf. Package – $2,200; Glass roof – $2,200; back-up camera – $300; Recaro leather seats – $1,000)
Optional Equipment