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This week, Jodi Lai and Nick Tragianis shredded some tires and did some burnouts while blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd in the brawny Ford Mustang GT.
Jodi Lai: I’ve always adored American muscle cars. They’re brash and fast, they remind me of rock ’n’ roll and I love the retro vibe. I think I was a rockabilly chick in my past life.
The problem is, I’ve never driven a muscle car before the Ford Mustang, and I’m saddened to say it left me dealing with a huge dilemma: The Mustang may be too brash and retro.
How can that be? The problem is while I adore the Mustang’s brash and retro looks, I do not at all enjoy the brash and retro driving characteristics. The Mustang is a big, heavy car and it really shows when you’re behind the wheel. Do you share my dilemma?
Nick Tragianis: They may be way before our time, but muscle cars have never really been good at anything except going in a straight line really, really fast. Or, in detective Frank Bullitt's case, going really, really fast over the hilly roads of San Francisco while chasing a Dodge Charger. I've fallen for the charms of a muscle car, and I've always felt the latest Mustang is the best out of today's pony-car trio, but that doesn't mean I don't share your dilemma.
Our Mustang GT has all the ingredients we love in a performance car. Brembo brakes? Check. A manual transmission? Check. Recaro racing seats? Check. A 420-horsepower V-8 that threatens to gnaw your right leg off with each ferocious bark as you prod the throttle? Check.
The Mustang GT is the car for peeling away from stoplights or doing donuts around lamp posts in empty parking lots. Er, not that I did any of that, but the thing is, there is plenty of room for improvement when this hunk of all-American muscle tries to hoon its way up loopy on-ramp with some semblance of speed.
JL: That's exactly what I mean. Being the first in line at a stoplight was my favourite thing during my week with the rear-wheel-drive Mustang. I couldn't get enough of the V-8's thunderous bellow and eye-widening speed off the line. That intimidating sound is inherently hostile and is basically car-speak for, "Get the hell outta my way." If there was someone doodling about in the left lane on the highway at 90 km/h, I just revved the beast instead of honking.
I loved creating plumes of tire smoke as I rocketed from stoplights. I was "that guy" when I drove the Mustang. I drove it obnoxiously, as you should when you have an obnoxious car. In this way, the Mustang is awesome. It makes children scream with joy when you drive by and you get mad respect from people on the road. Everyone knows what the Mustang is and everyone knows not to mess with them.
But ask the Mustang to navigate a parking garage or throw it into the few tight apexes, and everything starts to unravel. All of a sudden, the macho Mustang isn't so macho anymore as it lurches into corners with the grace of an elephant in a stampede. The nose-heavy nature of the Mustang really shows in these situations, and the heavy clutch, shifter and steering require a lot of work.
This is not an agile car. Its retro driving dynamics make it feel like it's about 15 years behind.
NT: What happened to "drive responsibly"? I'm pretty sure you drilled those two words into my brain all week, yet I'm getting first-hand accounts of you creating plumes of tire smoke and driving like a jerk? Clearly there is a double-standard here! Yet I can't disagree with what you said, Jodi. The Mustang's biggest drawback is its weight. Tipping the scales at 1,634 kg, the Mustang GT is hardly a thoroughbred, and you can feel just how much it leans into a corner if you carry enough speed.
Not only that, the Mustang is very tight inside. The Recaro seats keep you in place but combined with the Mustang's high beltline and thick B- and C-pillars, it's pretty much impossible to check your blind spots or look over your shoulder when reversing. Thankfully, Ford offers a rear-view camera, although it should be standard given the car's size.
Still, it's impossible to not love the Mustang; the retro steering wheel and gauges look fantastic, and although the glass roof didn't open, it definitely helped brighten up the cabin. And you know what? Once you get used to it, the Mustang is a remarkably smooth cruiser.
Rumour has it the next-generation Mustang, which we could see debut as early as Christmas this year, will shed some of its weight. If this holds true, and I certainly hope it does, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find another brash and fast muscle car that is more iconic and sends the young (and young at heart) into giggle fits with each rev.
JL: Giggle fits are pretty much guaranteed in this car, regardless of how it handles corners. I think it's the best-looking out of the pony car trio, but I really wish it was the best-performing, too.
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