Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Ford Mustang

Ford's Mustang is a better than ever treat even after 60 years

By Jim Bray
June 27, 2024

Muscle cars are getting hard to find these days as government regulation and some short-sighted auto companies continue to drop cars in favour of the flavours of the decade, the EV, the SUV and/or crossover.

But if you want a muscle car, the original one can still be found, and after a week spent in the 2024 version of the Mustang GT, I can safely tell you it's still a blast.

And the one I had was saddled with a damn 10-speed automatic transmission!

Click here for images.

To my eyes, the current, seventh generation of the Mustang is the best looking one ever, even nicer than my usual favourite version the 1967-68 model that became so famous when Steve McQueen caused a comparable Dodge Charger to blow its doors – and everything else, really – off. After 1970, the Mustang kind of lost its way stylistically, and with the Mustang II it lost its way technologically, too.

Fortunately, that was then and in the 2000's Ford brought the Mustang back to attractiveness with the retro styling that's still kind of the basis of the car today. More recently, they also changed the rear suspension from something the Amish might like for their buggies to a real, independent one that helps the car handle nicely in more than a straight line.

I loved it!

Naturally, being a pony car means the Mustang is a four-seater with front engine and rear wheel drive.

Ford makes the Mustang available with two main engine choices, an EcoBoost four banger that's probably adequate (I haven't driven it) and the venerable five litre V8 of the sample I had. That V8 is not only what a Mustang should have, it sounds fantastic and its stable of horses (should they be called ponies in a Mustang?) are rarin' to go at the prod of the gas pedal.

Ford says the V8 now puts out 480 horses and 486 ft.-lbs. of torque, and while you can get hundreds more of either spec in other vehicles on the market (and higher end Mustangs), this is still stupendous power for most folks and it offers as much acceleration as you could want. Well, unless you're Tim "The Toolman" Taylor and his ongoing wish for "more power!".

I kind of lean toward the "Taylor treatment," yet had an absolute blast driving the Mustang GT for my week of seat time and never felt it needed more power. It's a raw experience, not subtle in the least, and that's just the way a muscle car like this should be.

Well, it could be better. Ford's sample was saddled with the 10-speed automatic transmission instead of the really nice six-speed I remember from the last Mustang I drove. It really deserves the manual, but I can understand why Ford offers the slushbox: most people can't or won't drive manuals any more. I'd bet that a lot of Mustang customers would opt for the stick if given the chance, though. The automatic is okay, but like other 10 speeds I've driven it's programmed to do its upshifts quickly to save gas consumption.

That's thanks to governments pressuring car makers to focus on fuel economy in their fleets, which is ridiculous, but at least they're not forcing Ford to make the Mustang electric, which would undoubtedly kill it. Sure, there's the Mock E Mustang EV SUV, but that's a MINO, a Mustang in Name Only.

The GT is a real Mustang and it deserves to be left alone. I mean, who in his/her/its right mind buys a Mustang to save gas? They're cars that are meant to be experienced, to be fun. That's why the Mustang was created by Lee Iacocca some 60 years ago (well, that and profitability!).  Back then, it was basically a Falcon sedan wearing new clothes, and its success from day one proved that ol' Lee was a pretty smart cookie.

Anyway, one thing I did find interesting about the automatic is that in manual mode you can pretty well run it up to the red line and it'll just keep on keeping on until you shift it yourself. I discovered this by accident, actually, when I accelerated away from an intersection and noticed that the lovely V8 rumble was starting to approach the noise of a screaming banshee – then I noticed I'd shifted the selector leader into manual unknowingly (and clumsily, I daresay).

Ford Mustang

That said, the "manual" shifts can be pretty jerky, too. I had the most enjoymen keeping it, reluctantly, in automatic mode and using the paddles as necessary.

Another reason to opt for the stick shift: the automatic adds $1750 to the price, which (with other options) in the case of Ford's sample raised the tally to $64,890!

The GT is easy to drive (even, as I remember, with the six-speed stick), and comfortable to be in as long as you're not in the back seat. That rear bench is pretty tight, as is getting in and out of it, but it was adequate for my six and 10-year-old grandsons when I crammed them into it.

Ford gives you a variety of driving modes, including a custom one you can set yourself, there's the "pointless in a muscle car ECO setting", and there are a few sporty ones, as well. As is usual with me, I set it to emphasize sportiness and saved it in the Custom setting. The only downside here is that you have to choose your mode every time you start up the car.

This may be configurable if you let the car cajole you into signing into an account, but since I only had the car for a few days (and am a bit of a privacy curmudgeon) I didn't bother.

The driving position is great, and Ford has given the Mustang a new, all digital dashboard that appears to be two big LCD screen mounted side by side to give you a big instrument panel and a big "centre stack" display to its right. It's very configurable and flexible, probably more so than you might need. But since when does "need" enter into one's thoughts about a muscle car?

I complain regularly about the complexity of today's car interiors, and this one is just as sophisticated as most, yet Ford's designers have done such a great job of it that there was little to no learning curve getting into it. This is rare among the cars I've driven in recent years and I applaud Ford for realizing that the user experience is as important as the tech being offered. I hope other manufacturers are paying attention.

Not only that, but this is the first new car in years that hasn't made me want to yell at it in frustration. This is due to the safety nannies being "shutoffable" and then staying off. In fact, someone who'd driven the Mustang before me must have shut them all off and forgotten to reset the car before I got it (for which I'll be grateful eternally, or at least for a couple more weeks) - so, when I got into it, there were no warning bings, no electronic hands trying to fight me for control, none of that annoying crap.

It still had the blind spot monitor and rear camera/cross traffic alert activated, however, and that's okay with me. To me, the rear camera/cross traffic alert is about the only one of these "safety nannies" that's worth paying for (though you pay for them all anyway).

I would also be remiss not to mention the Bang & Olufsen audio system Ford puts into the Mustang. B&O is well-known as a high-end Danish audio company, and the system here really rocks! I wish there'd been a high-resolution audio disc player, but it's pretty rare to find any kind of disc player in any car any more. It makes me sad.

I had such a good time with this Mustang that - even though I'd never buy one – I was reluctant to take it back at the end of my allotted week. Mustang is the only muscle car I'd have ever considered through my driving life and in fact I thought about purchasing a brand new one back in 1973. Instead, I got married…

It may be a clear comparison of apples and oranges, but the Ford Mustang kind of reminds me of Porsche's legendary 911. They aren't very alike at all, except that they're both classic "fun cars" that have been around for 60 years or more and, over that time, their respective companies have refined them and kept them up to date and relevant without losing their original appeal.  

Hats off to Ford for doing it right!

Copyright 2024 Jim Bray

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