Driven: Ford’s God of Thunder – Mustang GT Premium, glorious V8 goodness

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We recently tested the EcoBoost variant of the Mustang a while back and while looks were impressive, there was just several things amiss. The turbocharged Ecoboost version was the engine that could – it didn’t quite live up to the pizzazz the pony car was known for. All show with some sort of go, fast without the zest; you get the hint. Well SDAC heard us and we now have the GT Premium variant in our hands; same threatening exterior, but fused to a growly 5.0 liter V8, with outputs of 416PS and 530Nm on tap all in perfect matrimony. As you can tell, we recommend buckling up tight for this one.

How do you tell apart between the Ecoboost and GT models from the outside, you ask? Even for us initially, it was difficult to spot at first glance. But soon enough, you notice the subtle cues in the V8: GT emblem at the rear, as opposed to the Ecoboost having the titular image of the feral horse, the rims are also within the same spec as the former, although redesigned to extrude aggression and with additional 20 millimetres of width at the rear. And then of course are the brightly polished exhaust tips.

At a push of the start/stop button, the engine fires up all eight cylinders, giving rise to a throaty growl reminiscent of the V8s of old. The experience is oddly disconcerting at first, as you are in the driver’s seat surrounded with modern amenities, center LCD instrument cluster and paddle shifters. Yet, stepping on the gas yields a primitive, mechanical roar that brings you back to the ’70s. Further accentuating its heritage from days yonder are the prominent use of chrome fittings and polished aluminium pieces on door handles, and shift stick – even the volume dials and stability control flick switches are anodized with reflective metal – lots of bling here if you don’t mind them.

On the road, the Mustang doesn’t give any hoots trying to blend itself with the rest, even when driven with etiquette. It will grunt and stifle, patience unwavering- until you bury your right foot with the revs and sounds that builds towards an apex of pure, raw American brashness, furiously channeled to the driveshaft, 3:55 limited slip rear differential and finally onto the rear wheels, propelling you right into the distance. It’s no pragmatic way to describe the experience but just so you know it’s the combination of events which left us mightily impressed.

Looking to quell the common misnomer that muscle cars are better off without a steering for their straight-line performance, Ford has done a number of redesigning from the ground up for the Mustang which now comes with fully independent suspension at the front and rear to ensure corners are taken on with the same fitnesse as it does on the drag strip. Naturally, we expected by the end of the day we would have our backbones shattered and pelvis dislocated by the car’s inherent nature but the ‘Stang was gentle enough – we ended up just fine. Fine enough to ride around with your grandma without knocking her dentures off. Good for her, but not for us though, because we’re suckers for pain…

Not wanting to take the car off-trajectory, our handling tests began at rather safe speeds to get a feel of things. The Mustang handles accurately, although nimble isn’t the right way to describe it. It’s 1,780kg weight no doubt contributes to very noticeable body roll at fast turns, which will get in the way to a novice before the rear wheels can break free.

Running road slaloms back-to-back was certainly an exciting experience, and a good chunk of it was dealing with weight transfer swinging in every direction; we couldn’t help being fearful for our lives – but thoroughly we enjoyed the peppiness of the V8 and the SelectShift transmission to rocket ourselves away from the competition every single time. Stopping power is lovely too with the Brembo brakes gnawing hard to bring the equus to a halt faster than you can say ‘whoa horsey.’

A small screen lies between the chrome-lined analog dials, giving visual access into the Mustang’s beating heart via the Ford SYNC 2 system. Four driving mode selections are available at your disposal, catered for various situations such as slinging it on sodden roads to maneuvering in heavy traffic and finally, going full head-on at the track. These driving modes influence steering, throttle response, shift points and the levels of intervention before Ford thinks you are driving out of whack – and fortunately, if you want to do so there’s an option of turning off the traction control completely.

Ford included a fun little feature into the Mustang as well, called line-locking and indubitably it’s the party trick of the GT Premium variant, which the Ecoboost doesn’t have. Lock down the front wheels via a series of instructions on the screen, pedal to the metal for 15 seconds and you have yourself a smoke machine, complete with flecks of rubber and asphalt bits flying out the back for added effect.

While one may think it’s nothing than just a flashy display of prowess there is purpose to the function, at least – the heat and friction evenly heats up the tyres, keeping them sticky to lay down maximum grip to the driven wheels down the line. Fun for once, twice, and maybe thrice until you realise how much those Pirelli P-Zero 275/40s cost a piece.

While the Mustang is a swashbuckler in terms of looks and performance, the interior does not happen to follow suit. Surfaces within the cabin such as the door panels, centre console are formed out of hard plastics which doesn’t feel right – after all, you did sign up for more than a half million loan which now hangs over your head. The insides, in our opinion only contains a bare minimum of softness and plush; maybe it’s done so in the name of weight reduction but it’s no Ritz.

So by the end of the day, we returned the GT back to SDAC, dropped off the keys and headed home. Was there a void left in our hearts? We sure did miss the horses on tap and the song it sings to our ears, not to mention the turning heads to our general direction. The Mustang GT Premium is a great example of how tradition meets modernism, and it paves the way to another generation any pony enthusiast will adore; it’s a pity a handful here in Malaysia could love it entirely for what it is.

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Having a penchant for cars since youth, he firmly believes that speed and stature go hand-in-hand. He enjoys the occasional spirited drive and can be found personally grooming his cars from time to time.

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