What we’re driving: 2019 Ford Mustang V8 Fastback
What it costs: From $62,990
Why we’re driving it: Since the sixties, the Ford Mustang has been an object of desire around he world. Maybe a bit raw and even somewhat crass at times, but the original American muscle machine was still an ‘it’ car.
The Mustang's return as a factory-built right-hand drive in Australia some three years ago saw sales skyrocket. It helped that the Ford Falcon had just died, and this year the Mustang has also been a first-up winner in Supercars racing to polish the badge, but a surprising number of Mustangs go into the garages of user-choosers in mid-level management and even company CEOs chose one as a reward.
A range of updates for the 2019 model have made the Mustang more user friendly, although it’s still a long way short of a five-star safety score, but there is no end in sight to its popularity.
On the outside
It looks like a Mustang, sounds like a Mustang. Job done.
The Australian Business Traveller test car is a V8-powered GT Coupe with 10-speed automatic, the most popular choice in the line-up. There is also a four-cylinder turbo model for eco-conscious buyers and a convertible for people who like maximum sunshine fun.
For an extra $550 it's been sprayed with ‘Orange Fury’ paint, the signature colour for the new year, adding a top-up to the base price of $65,990.
This year’s model comes with 19-inch alloys and there are detail styling changes around the nose, including new daytime running lamps and a different bonnet with inlet nostrils.
Four-pipe exhausts and a fake aero ‘diffuser’ are added at the back, along with new LED tail lights.
The overall effect makes the ’19 the best Mustang for generations, with bold good looks and all the cues - including the snorting Mustang badge in the grille - which tap back to the early ’stangs which ruled in the sixties.
Under the bonnet
'Coyote' is Ford's name for the 5.0-litre V8 driving the rear wheels, and both power and torque are up a little for 2019 although no-one complained about the earlier version of the engine.
Ten gears in the automatic might seem excessive, but most carmakers are adding extra cogs in their search for fuel economy. That means it shifts quickly up to the most-economical gear, although sliding the shifter into the Sport position gives more emphasis to the go side of the ledger.
Perhaps surprisingly, Ford claims fuel economy of 13 litres/100km and that’s pretty good for any sort of go car. And it will go close to that number, based on my drive time in and around Melbourne, while also taking 91-octane standard fuel instead of the pricier premium.
On the inside
Most notable of the cabin updated, and the most important, is a classy digital dashboard with a prominent speedo readout that was missing when the Mustang first arrived. It can also display all sorts of performance numbers for people who want to impress their passengers or hit a track.
Seats are also better, and the general feel is more upscale, so Ford has listened to customers.
On the safety front, the ’19 Mustang is now a three-star safety car after a disappointing two-star effort that got lots of coverage but did almost nothing to deter buyers. The car still gets eight airbags, auto safety braking with pedestrian detection, anti-skid brakes and stability control, as well as lane-departure warning.
On the road
What is says it what it does. The Mustang looks like a Mustang - which is fun when you rumble past the reflection in shop fronts - sounds like a grumpy V8, and responds when you plant your foot on the pedal.
That’s enough, or more than enough, for many Mustang shoppers but the car is now more user-friendly than before thanks to the digital dash, comfy seats and that little extra urge from the engine room.
Sometimes it can get a bit sluggish as it tries to find the right gear, visibility is not great in traffic or in parking - thankfully the rear-view camera is a good one - and there are people who think the Mustang is just a Falcon in a new suit.
But it is great fun on twisty roads, and accelerating away from traffic lights, and it’s the sort of executive express which marks you out as a free thinker in the corporate world.
The Mustang certainly isn't for everyone, but for the right person it will be everything. The price is right, the equipment is better for 2019, and it’s a great way to have some driving fun even at low speeds in the city.
In a world of buttoned-down compliance, the Mustang is a great escape machine. And it’s great that it has survived with the same spirit and style it had when it changed the world of wheels back in the 1960s.