It’s one of the most talked about cars of the past 12 months – and yeah, sure, we’ve been doing a lot of that talking. However, in the final reckoning, and thrown up against the toughest PCOTY field in living memory, Ford’s Mustang GT simply found itself outgunned in every quarter, despite that wholesome 5.0-litre V8 under the hood. Err, make that bonnet.
Its muscle car-esque stance and languid rear-wheel drivetrain belies surprisingly accurate and feelsome steering. The ’Stang also has a decent enough chassis tune, with a faithful, predictable rear end and loads of front grip in dry conditions. At DECA, its long-throw manual and taller third gear held it in good stead, though the sharp change of direction over the left crest spooked it a bit.
The GT and its Pirellis were unhappy bedfellows at Winton, unfortunately, which pushed it out of favour with more than one judge. There was no way to drill down past the edgy, sketchy top layer of grip to meaningfully access the suppleness of the GT’s chassis tune; and there was a bit of a disconnect between clutch and gearbox action that made power transfer tough. The Mustang suffered as a result.
However, on the mountain loop and in direct comparison with a pair of hardcore, head-kicking rear-drivers in the HSV and the Merc, the Mustang GT showed admirable pluck, thanks to its wall of torque, its long throttle travel and that long gearing. Slot it in third, let physics sort out the whole power delivery thing and work on loading up that front end, and the GT is a willing companion in open, flowing terrain with positive braking, adept steering and great roll control. Although that long wheelbase does see it become less enthusiastic in tighter terrain.
On the long run back to Ford HQ, though, the GT’s touring credentials came into sharper focus. Sure, the interior falls into the trap of chintz disguised as nostalgia, but its achingly good looks and undoubtable connection with a long line of automotive folklore lend the Mustang a romance that isn’t shared by many other cars in this year’s field.
At the end of the days there’s no doubt that this is easily the most driver-centric ’Stang to ever be sold Down Under. Its rock-star popularity with the enduring Ford faithful means that the next, more focused version will be able to improve on a solid PCOTY showing – it finished just half a point behind the HSV and a handful away from the GT-R – in the face of formidable competition.
At the final reckoning, though, this year’s PCOTY field is simply too deeply stacked for the Mustang to scrabble any higher than it did.
0-100km/h: 5.20sec (11th)
0-400m: 13.38sec @ 176.61km/h (11th)
DAVID MORLEY: 9th
I’m a huge admirer of the new ’Stang. Steak comes before sizzle for once.
DYLAN CAMPBELL: 8th
Surprisingly sorted but its genius is more in making you feel good, than making you go ‘wow’.
SCOTT NEWMAN: 12th
Felt overawed in this company, but a terrific modern muscle car.
TIM ROBSON: 9th
Modern muscle car is outpointed in a strong year. Still a cool rig.
JOHN BOWE: 6th
Old style, but by far the best American drivers’ car ever.