Driven: Ford’s new thumping V8 Mustang

The new, facelift Ford Mustang has been around since 2018, but South Africa had to wait till the second half of 2019 for this pony to arrive. Launched at the end of 2015, the Mustang was an immediate sales success for Ford South Africa and is the waiting list for this car growing after each passing month.

Come 2019 and the Mustang not only sees a revision to its exterior and interior bits but also its drivetrain. Both the turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost and naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 GT has revised power outputs, but the interesting bit is Ford’s decision to only fit its new 10-speed automatic gearbox to the vehicle.

Also launched is the limited-run Mustang Bullitt, of which only 50 have been allocated to the South African. Coming in at R995 000, the Bullitt is a nod to the 1968 film Bullitt, featuring Steve McQueen. The now-famous car chase scene set the wheels in motion for all future car chases in film and is the Mustang Bullitt a commemoration of the 50th year since the movie’s release. According to Ford, South Africa would originally have gotten 200 Bullitts, but that figure shrunk to 100 and then 50.

And yes, we drove it.

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Image: QuickPic

The changes

Because this is only a facelift and not an entirely new model, the 2019 Mustang retains much of the outgoing model’s design traits. Look closer and the reworked head- and taillights show their upgrades, both the front and rear bumpers are different, and daytime-running LEDs have been brought on, too.

The sloping profile that makes the Mustang the design icon it is is still very evident and the big bulge on the bonnet has been retained. Additionally, the bonnet now features two air-inlets.

Though the 2.3-litre and V8 share the same design ethos, the V8’s front grille has two slits – giving the GT a Darth Vader type of look. At the rear, the GT has four exhaust pipes over the outgoing model’s two. The EcoBoost retains its two pipes. Both models are finished off in a selection of new wheel designs.

The interior has not been left untouched and can one immediately feel the improvements. The materials Ford used are softer to the touch, the layout is far less fussy and clustered, and is one of the big talking points Ford’s decision to fit the car with more technologies; including a new multimedia system with touch function. Notably, the flick switches have been retained for that retro feel.

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Image: QuickPic

Improved drive?

The previous Mustang was a bit of a handful in terms of drivability, but Ford addressed those issues and made sure that the new model was a horse of a different colour. Pun intended. Both the EcoBoost and GT benefit from recalibrated shock absorbers, a stiffened rear suspension, and a reworked architecture. Mustang GT owners can now also opt to have their ponies fitted with Ford’s MagneRide – an adaptive suspension system that adapts the car’s ride quality by the second for the best possible driving experience (MagneRide is standard on the Bullitt).

In terms of power delivery, the 2.3-litre EcoBoost delivers 213kW and 441Nm, but the engine is prone to some turbo lag. The engine works well with the new gearbox and are there definite improvements in the vehicle’s drive. The 5.0-litre V8’s power is rated at 331kW and 529Nm of torque. This model is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch and does it do the Mustang’s heritage justice. From the off drivers are aware that they are in something special and the roar of the engine is one of addiction and intoxication. Steering on both models has been markedly improved and is it easier to enjoy your favourite piece of road with it.

A ‘considerate’ feature on the Mustang GT is how loud you want your exhaust to be. With a selection of pre-programmed options, users can choose between Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Track. Quiet can be programmed to literally be quiet between certain times. Ford calls it ‘Good Neighbour Mode’. The other settings adjust the loudness of the exhaust note accordingly, but it’s very likely that Track will be the chosen mode.

Read: 338kW V8 Bullitt leads new Mustang charge in SA

Regarding driving modes, both engines feature Normal, Sport, Track, and Snow/Wet modes. Each mode adds a different dynamic to the Mustang’s character and does even the EcoBoost show its ‘track’ colours when the mode is selected. Bar the omission of exhaust mode, the 2.3-litre can be a good dose of rear-wheel fun. In the GT we found that an ideal combination is to have the exhaust in Track and the driving mode in Normal. It adds a good balance to the car.

Drivers can toggle between these settings via the aforementioned flick switches, but these only allow one-way selection. Meaning that if you missed the desired choice, you have to go through the entire menu to get to your decision.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Ford Mustang Bullitt

As a little incentive, Ford South Africa had two of its Mustang Bullitts for media to sample. The car, fitted with the GT’s V8 engine, still produces 529Nm of torque, but power has been increased to 338kW. Power is still sent to the rear wheels, but a six-speed manual gearbox has been roped in. And boy oh boy, is this car a treat!

The car barks to life with an unceremonious bark and are you then almost immediately struck with the realisation that you’re about to drive something special. Something limited.

Clutch in, engage first gear, and you’re off. This car is built on the Mustang, it shares elements with the Mustang, but it’s so much more than the Mustang! Letting all 338kW loose via that gearbox is like something from a storybook. It’s almost surreal and are you faced with more disbelief than anything else. From behind the steering wheel, you’re confronted with the fact that this is the Bullitt. The steering wheel has ‘Bullitt’ written on it, the interior has green hues, and the white gear knob is a definite highlight. The drive was just too short, but those 15km were enough.

Driving the latest iteration of one of the most iconic Mustangs ever has to rate up there with any petrol head’s top wishes and will it probably be a good few decades before another Bullitt is put in production. At the time of writing, 25 of the 50 Bullitts have been sold.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Recommended retail prices:

  • Mustang 2.3 Fastback 10AT – R768 000
  • Mustang 2.3 Convertible 10AT – R831 000
  • Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback 10AT – R915 800
  • Mustang 5.0 GT Convertible 10AT – R978 400
  • Mustang Bullitt 5.0 V8 GT Fastback 6MT – R995 400
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Image: Charlen Raymond