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Mustang returns

Ford flyer: The Mustang's conservative lines belie its impressive performance potential.

Ford brings the "Pony Car" back to our shores, accompanied by the roar of a big V8

12 Feb 2001

THE Mustang, one of the most powerful car icons of the 1960s, is back. And Ford Australia is happy.

Converted to right-hand drive by Tickford in Broadmeadows and distributed through specialist FTE Ford dealerships around Australia, the new pony car goes on sale from the end of February.

The pricing fits with early Ford indications, at $85,000 for the two-door coupe version and $89,000 for the convertible.

This is the first time in more than 30 years that a new, right-hand drive Mustang has been available in Australia.

Ford SVO business development manager Rick Nayler believes the Mustang delivers on what its looks and specifications - and its name - promise.

"The car is a 'halo' brand for Ford," he says.

The culmination of a $4 million plan hatched three years ago, the hot twosome will add punch to the company's sagging image by demonstrating that it is no longer a purveyor of what Ford Australia president Geoff Polites calls "vanilla" cars.

With an annual sales target set at 250 cars to be processed by the Tickford facility, the Mustang will sell to buyers in the 45-plus age bracket, Mr Nayler says.

A modern interpretation of the themes that established the original 1960s Mustang as one of the most popular cars ever launched in the US, the current model was introduced there in 1994.

A four-seater of sorts, in both convertible and coupe form, the car uses a front engine, rear-drive configuration with a Falcon-style independent multi-link rear suspension.

The engine is part of a modular family of various capacities and cylinder head configurations.

The modular family includes a massive V10 - one of which has been put by Ford Australia under the bonnet of a one-off car to create what is affectionately known as the "burnout Mustang".

Only slightly less spectacular, the 4.6-litre aluminium V8 used in the local Mustang winds out a strong 240kW as well as a 430Nm serve of torque. This makes it the highest-powered new Ford car in Australia.

The use of only the one transmission - a five-speed manual - is indicative of Ford's buyer perceptions for the Mustang.

The car's styling is claimed to feature original Mustang influences, including the long bonnet, short boot look. But it is quite compact with a tight wheelbase and a short rear overhang.

The frontal length comes from increasing the overhang - not a good thing for kerb clearance.

Dummy side scoops also mirror original Mustang themes and of course there is the familiar flying horse set into the front air duct above the bumpers.

Anti-lock brakes, traction control, alloy wheels and a fully trimmed interior including dual airbags, leather seats (power adjusted at the front), air-conditioning, CD stacker, cruise control and remote central locking are standard.

The convertible roof raises or lowers electrically and incorporates a glass rear window. Coupes are fitted with a standard spoiler.

Drive impressions: THERE is one overriding impression of the new Mustang that makes itself known from the moment the ignition key is turned.

This is one of the most omnipresent, captivating V8 engines available in a new car today.

How Ford got its way around Australian design rules on drive-by noise levels is puzzling. Surely no car should be allowed to sound this good.

The Mustang blasts off the line with a sharp, spine-tingling roar that combines the characteristic V8 thump with an efficient, free-breathing top-end scream.

And the sound is backed up by the car's abilities.

The car is good for slamming driver and passengers back in their seats as it arrows from one corner to the next.

The Brembo front disc brakes haul it up securely, while steering and suspension work well together to induce feelings of security.

The powered rack and pinion steering goes from lock to lock in just 2.8 turns and points the car with reassuring accuracy.

Signs of a slight understeer are there, but the 245/45ZR17 tyres do a solid job of keeping the car pointed where the driver wants.

The ride quality is very good considering the flat cornering stance and the grip of the car.

The downsides are a very notchy manual gearshift that will hopefully free up with more kilometres, a steering column that sometimes intrudes on the driver's legs and non-intuitive driver's seat controls that create a slightly awkward driving position.

The seats felt comfortable and supportive over a relatively short drive, with plenty of legroom.

Fit and finish are fine by US standards but probably a little below local expectations.

Ford could definitely have a winner with this one.

Let's hope the company directs sufficient support funds to telling people it's out there.

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