Ryan Bubear spends a few days drawing far too much attention in the Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback auto...
Not very popular? With anyone? Fear not, we have the solution. It's called the Ford Mustang.
Yes, plonking yourself in the driver's seat of this — the long-awaited right-hand drive version of the archetypal muscle car — apparently instantly ups your coolness co-efficient, rendering you the centre of on-road attention pretty much wherever you go.
Indeed, of the few hundred vehicles we've reviewed over the past few years, precisely zero have garnered this much attention. Over the four-day test, we received countless waves, entertained numerous queries (mostly around pricing), and even had a declaration of love from a pimply teenager in a tank top.
Interestingly, the sixth-generation 'Stang provokes interest from all sorts of people, both young and grey-haired, many of whom seem to think it's older, which suggests Ford's designers have absolutely nailed the styling. And it's this modern yet faithful interpretation of the Mustang's unmistakably old-school lines, along with an automotive nameplate as iconic as they come, that is largely responsible for its astounding ability to turn heads.
So, it certainly draws attention. But what's it like to drive? Well, we managed to lay our grubby paws on a model boasting the flagship 5.0-litre V8 mill, in this case mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This 4951cc engine provides the ill-fated rear rubber with 306kW and 530Nm (the latter at a lofty 4250rpm), which is enough for a 4.8-second scramble to three figures, making it the fastest-accelerating production Ford ever offered in SA.
As has become the norm in high-performance cars, the person at the helm has a variety of driving modes from which to choose, each of which tweaks the throttle response, steering, electronic stability control, and the reactions of the somewhat sluggish automatic transmission. There's also an easy-to-use "line-lock" function, which allows the rear tyres to be warmed (or decimated, depending on your enthusiasm), but strangely no launch control on the auto model.
While the hefty mill makes a purposeful burble at start-up, perhaps a little more could have been done with the exhaust note at higher engine speeds. Still, the few times we surrendered to the constant appeals to rev the engine at traffic lights, those imploring us to do so seemed pleased enough with the resulting assault on their ears. Our apologies to other startled onlookers.
And though the 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (which is worth 233kW and 430Nm) makes oodles more sense from a fuel economy standpoint, the full-fat eight-pot is the one you want — particularly when you find yourself in such a situation. For the record, Ford claims the V8 sips (or should that be "gulps"?) at a combined 12.0 litres per 100km, but we returned a final figure of 15.1.
Thankfully, the 1732kg fastback handles better than a Mustang should, thanks mostly to the new, relatively sophisticated integral-link rear suspension. Furthermore, all models on offer in SA are fitted with a Performance Pack, which includes remarkably effective uprated brakes, heavy-duty front springs, and various body-stiffening measures.
Despite these additions (and the 19-inch alloys), the ride is surprisingly forgiving. And while the chassis and steering (the assistance of the latter manipulated via one of a handful of plasticky driver-controlled toggles) aren't exactly razor-sharp — and pronounced body-roll quickly becomes evident — the long-nosed Mustang nevertheless isn't at all a handful in the corners.
Inside, though, the Michigan-built Mustang disappoints somewhat. The quality of the plastics aren't quite up to scratch for a vehicle of this price, and fit-and-finish is far from impeccable. Still, at least this model is rather well equipped, boasting standard features such as paddle-shifters, a touchscreen system, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless starting, leather upholstery, rear parking sensors (with a reversing camera), rain-sensing wipers, and automatic Xenon headlights.
Safety measures, meanwhile, include six airbags, all the usual three-letter initialisms, tyre pressure monitoring, and IsoFix mounting points in the rear. Since the fastback essentially features a 2+2 seating layout, space back there is severely limited, but we just about managed to squeeze in a child-seat. The luggage compartment, meanwhile, is unexpectedly airy, with an official capacity of 382 litres.
Despite the fact that the original Mustang of 1964 was conceived as an affordable, blue-collar sports-car, this latest iteration is anything but cheap. Indeed, a price-tag of R839 900 puts the 5.0 GT fastback auto derivative squarely in the ring with a number of highly desirable German models, each of which boasts vastly superior build quality.
But while these high-performance German variants tend to draw looks of jealousy and sometimes even glances of resentment from other road-users, the refreshingly honest Mustang has the ability to elicit a mile-wide grin from just about anyone. And it's here that the traditionally staid Germans have no hope of matching the Mustang.
Indeed, at one point during our brief test, we found ourselves being chased by a wide-eyed father and son in a Volkswagen Golf, with the clearly enthralled kid keenly snapping away with his cellphone. Frankly, these days, it's highly unusual to witness a vehicle stirring this sort of excitement in a youngster.
So, is the 'Stang worth the considerable cash outlay? Well, even if you're convinced it is, you'll unfortunately not be able to drive one out of a Ford dealer today (or any time soon, in fact). Yes, with waiting lists seemingly longer than a leisurely read of War and Peace, second-hand versions are already popping up online — at prices as high as R1.3-million — courtesy of speculators.
Ultimately, though, while the Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback certainly has its failings, they're all but forgotten once you're taken in by its obvious charm (which you will be). And it's on this propensity to evoke emotion — rather than on measurable technical ability or indifferent build-quality — that we're inclined to judge the loveable muscle car.
And, from this point of view, the Ford Mustang is virtually impossible to match.
Follow @Ryan_Bubear on Twitter.
See page two for specs and pricing.