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June 22, 2024

First Drive: 2024 Ford Mustang GT Premium

Of late, Ford’s been playing it safe in the Philippines. With a vast majority—roughly 60 percent—of its sales brought on by the Ranger, you could argue that they could re-brand themselves as the “Ranger Motor Company.” And while that’s great for the bottom line and all, it’s not doing enthusiasts much favors. That is, until a flash in the pan moment somewhere up the corporate ladder has given us this: the seventh-generation Mustang and the first-ever Bronco for the local market.

In Part 1, we’re tackling the seventh-generation Ford Mustang and in Part 2, we’re going for an off-road ride in the Ford Bronco.

The Mustang needs little introduction for Filipino enthusiasts; after all, it’s been around since the fifth-gen model was available roughly 12 years ago. Our close affinity to the Mustang has also made it a household name to the point that it’s now the generic term for muscle cars—like Xerox is to photocopiers. With the advent of social media, however, its reputation has also spread in a not-so-good way. A quick Google search on “Cars and Coffee Fails” will have you seeing videos of Mustangs peeling off only to spin helplessly out of control, hitting a curb or ruining someone’s mullet in the process.

That was before. Today, the Mustang has changed its character. Yes, it’s still lightning fast in a straight line, but its DNA has now evolved—it can go through corners too! Admittedly, there was a bit of hesitation on my part as I was climbing aboard an Iconic Silver GT Premium fitted with optional racing stripes.

My first impression: it’s a huge car; there’s no way in hell it’ll be nimble around the Clark International Speedway. At 4,811 mm in length, it’s roughly the same size as a mid-sized sedan, and at 1,738 kilograms, it’s as heavy as one too. Outside, it’s a clear evolution of the Mustang bloodline and this definitely pleases purists. However, I’m not so sold about the interior and its not-so sporty vibe. Generally, I have no qualms about free standing screens that serve as instrument clusters and all, but call me old-fashioned, but they still seem out of place in a sportscar. The same goes with the switchgear which are the same chunky buttons you’d find in the Bronco. The electronic parking brake, fashioned like a traditional hard brake is cool, but ultimately is a novelty. Like most Recaro seats offered as OE, the front thrones on the Mustang are manually adjustable, but they offer just the right amount of bolster.

All my preconceptions though melt away the moment the Mustang gets on the move. Without a doubt, the main draw here remains the 5.0-liter V8 and opening up the soundtrack using the Active Valve Exhaust system makes it really come to life. If I were overly critical, I’d say it sounds best at partial throttle than at full throttle, but regardless, it’s enough to make grown men cry. With the car set at “Track” mode where Traction Control intervention is minimized, it puts the MagneRide damping system on the spotlight.

Geeking out for a bit, MagneRide is different from other adaptive suspension systems in that there are no mechanical valves or moving parts that can wear. Instead, it uses magnetized iron particles suspended in oil. Electromagnetic coils inside the dampers rearrange the iron particles effectively changing the viscosity of the fluid. If the onboard sensors sense any body roll, the ECU will instantaneously magnetize the appropriate dampers stiffening the car up.

Now, if all this sounds like rocket science, the simple truth is that it works. It makes the Mustang feel like a much smaller car than it is. It feels planted with almost zero body roll and high levels of grip. This creates a big gap between the visual and visceral experiences. On one hand, you’re behind the wheel of a 4.8-meter long, 1.8-ton cruiser, but you’re experiencing what’s essentially a bantamweight sportscar. It takes two-thirds of a lap just to have your body adjust to what you’re seeing and what you’re experiencing. Once you do, it’s quite the experience. It doesn’t dance through a corner with the same grace as a Nissan Z would. Instead, it’s all about being a scalpel in the vein as a Toyota GR Supra. Floor it at the straight-finish straight, and the needle will quickly sail past 200 km/h. Good thing the Brembo brakes can scrub off all that speed before the first corner.

At this point, you’re probably pondering if the seventh-generation Mustang feels too digitalized or computerized for its own good. With its adaptive dampers and active exhaust trickery, maybe. I drove up in a MX-5 which you could say is the opposite of the Mustang in terms of packaging and design ethos. With zero active this or adaptive that, the Mazda relies on natural chassis balance to communicate its intentions to the driver. It uses body roll to tell you that you’re taking a corner too fast or if you’re breaking the speed limit on the expressway. Of course, it also means that the MX-5 will never reach the levels of performance the Mustang will be capable of.

Using electronics to trim off the Mustang’s manic behavior has tamed its inner beast in many ways. It may have lesser driver involvement than other “old-school” sportscars, but the seventh-gen Mustang is still heaps of fun. It’s still not idiot-proof, but it should make it safer and more approachable be on the road or track. With its chief competitors all biting the dust, Ford is writing a new chapter for the all-new Mustang.

No longer is the Mustang the butt of Cars and Coffee jokes, rather it’s a player in the world stage for sportscars. The underlying formula is as American as apple pie, but because it’s gone global for quite some time now, it’s managed to get a more global view. And by applying a new trick or two in that way, it makes this the best Mustang made yet.

1 comment:

  1. With this move, seems like the Mustang is getting ready to be electrified soon.


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