If you’re a car guy, you can probably remember the first time as a kid that you pinned up a poster of your favourite car on your bedroom wall. If you don’t remember the first time, you can probably remember the first car.
As a 5 year old, I had posters of a BMW M1 and a Porsche 959 on my wall. As I got older, I used to pour over glossy car brochures to find the next cool car that would be worthy of being pinned up.
I would find pictures of many Mercedes-Benz flagship cars (among others), carefully free them from their saddle stitched glossy expensive brochures, and then delicately tape them to my wardrobe doors.
Space on that sacred bedroom wall or wardrobe door was, of course, reserved for cars that reached a certain “cool” factor. Top Gear UK has publicized this with their Cool Wall segment that has different levels of coolness ranging from “Seriously Uncool” to “Subzero”.
So the question is, would the 2014 Ford Mustang GT V8 be worthy of being pinned up? And which level of coolness does it fit into?
Upon first sight of my 2014 Grabber Blue Ford Mustang GT V8, that excited 5 year old small boy in me awoke again. I swear I skipped a step as I was handed the key to my first muscle car experience.
The nice lady representing Ford Canada could see that I was excited, and thankfully sent me on my way quickly after a brief overview of the vehicle and the obligatory paperwork.
Over the course of my week long test drive, I would get a sense as to why the Ford Mustang still sells in droves to many, despite some of its much ballyhooed shortcomings.
Did I love it at the end of the week, or could I not wait to turn the keys back? Read on to find out!
Coolness factor – Seriously cool
“Yo bro, that’s a sick car”
“Hey man, cool car!”
“I had one of those back in 1967 when I was a teenager”
“Mommy, I like that blue car!”
Apparently to be looked upon as a “’cool’ car guy” by 5-10 year old boys, 18-25 year old young adults, or 50+ year old silver haired guys in white New Balance crosstrainers, all you have to do is get a Grabber Blue Mustang GT V8.
Steve McQueen, Jay Leno, Bill Clinton, Charlie Sheen, Tim Allen, Richard Hammond. These are just a few of the celebrities that own Mustangs.
The car looks absolutely mega with its mean retro modern face, it’s classic fastback body, and its darkened LED taillamps.
It even has functional hood louvers that remind me of the nostrils of an angry dragon. When you sit in traffic, you can actually see the heat waves rising as heat is being extracted out of them. Cool!
Every day, without fail, I would come back to the car to find at least 2-3 people around the Mustang taking photos of it.
In 2012, DuPont Automotive Paints reported that the world’s most popular automobile colour was….drumroll…WHITE!
So it’s no surprise that despite resembling a Smurf, the Grabber Blue was a very distinct colour in a world of ubiquitous white, black, silver, champagne gold, and red cars.
After living with it, it’s actually the colour that I would buy my Mustang V8 if I was to get the car!
Did you know that in 1967, there were 19 available shades of blue on the Mustang?
This crowd pleasing colour totally fits the character of the GT V8. Loud, unapologetic, full of character. Over the course of its almost-50 year history, for the most part, the Mustang has stayed true to its muscle car character. And it has almost always been able to bring a smile to its driver’s face. Including mine.
Despite its retro modern looks though, the Mustang can be equipped with many modern touches. I was a bit shocked to see that the foglamps, which also double as daytime running lamps on my test car, were actually LED-based. That’s the kind of cutting edge stuff that you’ll find on the Tesla Model S or the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
All 2014 V6 and GT Mustangs also get standard high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps and signature two bar LED parking lamps.
The LED technology carries on throughout the car with customizable gauge and ambient lighting, as well as some pretty mean looking smoked LED-roped taillamps with the retro sequential signaling function. Definitely a distinct night signature when you see the Mustang at night with its iconic three-bar rear lights.
How does it drive?
The news is mostly good here. I’m not going to argue that the car’s handling is anywhere close to as refined as the Porsche 911 or the BMW 3-series, because it isn’t. The Mustang has a uniquely raw American motoring driving experience that I haven’t experienced in other global marketed Ford products.
When rowing the gears through the short throw 6 speed shifter, you get the feeling through the palm of your hand that you are an extension of the car. You can feel the clunk of the linkages working, the clutch engaging, the gears turning. You get the raw sense that it is a machine that you are piloting, not an appliance. Some may like it, others will definitely not like quite that visceral of an experience.
Kudos to the interior designers for the beautiful metalized gearshift knob. I never got tired holding or looking at it.
That being said, I found the clutch and shifter combination slightly clunky on my car, especially through 2nd and 3rd gears. Be sure to test drive the 6 speed manual transmission first before you commit to it if you’re undecided. For many, the 6 speed automatic will be a much more friendly choice from a day-to-day standpoint.
To help to make the manually equipped Mustangs more livable on a day-to-day basis, Ford’s Hill Start Assist feature keeps the car from rolling back when pulling away on a slope or hill. With the brake pedal activated, sensors detect if the car is on a steep enough slope and the system automatically holds the car for two seconds after the driver releases the brake pedal. I wish it was a bit more sensitive on shallower slopes though.
Power is never short on hand with the 5.0L V8 with 420 hp on tap. What surprised me however, was the need to rev the engine to about 3000 rpms to get into the meaty part of the torque band. That is to say that below 3000 rpms, the car feels quick but not “Omg, I’m being pinned into my seat” quick. As the tachometer’s needle swings past 3000rpms, the Mustang is sure to illicit screams or giggles from your passengers.
Adding to that experience is the burbling V8 soundtrack from both the engine and the exhaust. What a symphony of noises! I won’t be able to tell you much about the Shaker audio system in the Mustang because it was on for exactly 4 songs during my week long test drive. I promise you that the V8 will be far more enjoyable, especially if you go hooning through tunnels in 3rd gear.
In the twisties, the Mustang corners well enough with little body roll. But this is a car that likes bigger open corners, not tight ones. It will do what you tell it to, but when driving on Marine Drive through West Vancouver into Horseshoe Bay, the pony car felt one size too big and was slightly difficult to place in the lane.
That type of narrow twisty road would be more suited, at least from a driver’s confidence standpoint, for the nimble Focus ST I reviewed a few months ago.
The live rear axle is another carry over from the old days. At low speeds over undulating pavement, you get some annoying head tossing as a rear wheel going over a pothole or bump on one side of the car will transmit the motion to the opposite side of the car. A bit ox and cart and less cutting edge.
Push the Mustang hard and that back end, with its live rear axle, will show you why AdvanceTrac is needed. Shut the traction control off, and the rear end simply breaks free and gets loose like Mustangs from decades before. But this, of course, is half the fun of the muscle car experience!
When things get hairy, my car’s GT Brembo Brake Racing Package showed why it was worth every penny of its $2200. Check this option off the order sheet and you get a set of 14” vented front discs and a pair of sizable Brembo calipers shod with performance friction brake pads. But that’s not all. This new option, only available on manual GT Mustangs with the 3.73 axle, is designed for customers who want to push their Mustang even further at the track. It also adds an engine cooler, upgraded radiator, and unique 19” gunmetal coloured alloy wheels with summer performance tires.
Aside from the brake upgrade, the 2nd most significant feature here, in my opinion, is the Torsen limited slip rear differential borrowed from the Mustang Boss 302. I could feel it working around tight and slippery corners to maximize traction at the rear.
My only other complain will be the smallish 60.5 litre tank. That doesn’t last very long when you get the V8 engine option! I averaged about 15.5L/100 kms during the 660kms that I drove the car in mixed city/highway driving. In all fairness, the tall 6th gear does let the Mustang rev at around 1300 rpms when on the highway, so it never drones. But highway fuel consumption is still only around 10 to 11L/100 kms.
Inside the cabin
The styling inside the cabin is slightly less successful than the outside. You can tell that this is one car that hasn’t had the level of global collaboration by the “One Ford” design teams, unlike the Focus, Fusion, or C-MAX.
While there are some soft touch surfaces on the dash, the door and trim panels around the MyFord Touch screen and the centre console feel cheap. The glovebox lid is too close in quality to a cheap Chinese-made toy from a kid’s toy chest. Must do better here!
I could never find a 100% comfortable driving position either because the steering wheel only tilts and doesn’t telescope. Seated in my proper driving position, my right elbow would be a few inches further forward of the armrest and have to rest on the centre console’s hard latch.
When exiting the car, my left and right hips would always rub against the steering wheel and outside lateral seat bolster. Clearly I wasn’t the only one with this problem as there were heavy wear marks on the outside lateral bolster’s leather from other journalists who have had this car. Not a good sign considering that my test vehicle only had around 8000 kms on it!
The retro gauges, while initially cool because of their throwback 1960’s font, ended up being a bit of a pain to read at a glance because of the typeface.
But all is not bad and there are a quite a few points of highlights. Despite the number of Chiclet-like buttons, I really appreciated the multitude of redundant button controls versus having to go to MyFord Touch system for everything. Moreover, the interface on the Mustang’s MyFord Touch system is also slightly different than others Ford products I’ve tested! The user interface and the menus make far more logical sense, albeit the graphics are a tad bit uglier.
Another high point was the (optional) Recaro one-piece seats. They’re a result of the global team effort led by Ford’s SVT (Special Vehicle Team) along with the Mustang engineering group in North America, Team RS in Europe, and Reccaro.
Not only do the seats have integrated head restraints that allow for ample room for drivers and passengers wearing helmets when at the track, but the openings on the seatbacks also accommodate racing harnesses.
As far as everyday driving is concerned, the Recaro’s lateral bolsters in the cushion and seatback provided support and comfort for all the scenarios I put the car through. If you can live without the power seat adjustment, get these seats. In fact, you’ll find the very same seats also available in the Shelby GT500 and the Boss 302.
As far as the rear quarters are concerned, the news is actually good here! While not the most commodious, each rear seat has a full height head restraint and is relatively comfortable. The angle of the backrest was more than acceptable and you’ll just make sure your rear passengers aren’t taller than 5’11” or they will have to slouch. Rear legroom was adequate for trips up to 45 minutes.
Make sure that you get the rearview camera option too, as the high trunklid and proper rear head restraints don’t allow for much rearward visibility.
Also make sure that you check off the option for the full-sized fixed tinted glass moonroof. I would go so far to say that I would not buy a Mustang coupe without it! WOW what an amazing open feeling you get when that black mesh sunshade pulled back. You can really see the world around you while still being sheltered from the elements. It made the small interior feel big and airy.
To wrap-up my comments about the inside, I’ll finish off with how the Mustang’s trunk is surprisingly spacious for a muscle car. I managed to pack in all of this video lighting equipment into the trunk! The picture says it all.
There’s an app for that
A new 4.2 inch high resolution colour LCD screen allows Mustang owners to access a wide variety of information at their fingertips through the steering wheel controls.
This “productivity screen” can be configured to display fuel economy, instantaneous/average fuel economy, vehicle performance and settings, and much more. There is also a unique “Track Apps” screen which allows drivers to display performance metrics!
While I never got the chance to try the apps first hand, they allow you to measure g forces, acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0-60 increments, as well as braking times complete with automatic and countdown starts.
Not just a one trick pony
I’m going to miss this generation of Mustang when it goes out to pasture. The next generation Mustang, due for the 2015 model year, will indeed be a global Ford vehicle sold outside of North America. Spy shots have shown it to share more of the Aston Martin-eque front end look to bring it in line with the rest of the Ford lineup.
While it will likely have to still look like a Mustang, the next generation pony car is certain to have far less of the retro modern flare as the 2014 model. I guess there is only so long that they can milk this puppy!
Despite some of its shortcomings, I came to the conclusion that today’s Mustang is worthy of its namesake in the modern age. I admit that I found the interior a bit cheap for $50K (aside from the amazing Recaros), and for calendar year 2013. But overall the car offers amazing value too, whether it’s the 305 hp V6 model, or my more expensive 420hp GT V8 model. You will have to look pretty hard to find another car that gives that great of a horsepower to dollar ratio.
This price vs performance balance is another reason why many people, almost 50 years since the original Mustang’s debut, will find it hard to resist the original pony car’s charms.
So in conclusion, if you want a road trip capable commuter car that looks great, feels raw, and allows you to match the performance of many high-dollar sports cars with just a couple of cheap bolt-ons, the Mustang is your answer.
I know that I, for one, have a new pin-up car for my wall (courtesy of photographer Andrew Holliday). And unlike when I was 5 years old, this is a car fantasy that is actually within reach.