2019 Ford Mustang GT Premium Fastback: In Which I Lay Into My Favourite Car.
The 2019 Ford Mustang GT never had a chance to get a fair review from me. I knew this the second I hit the ignition button for the first time at the garage. When I heard and felt that roar. When I remembered all those times when I was a kid and dreamt of American Muscle. I dreamt of this.
With that out of the way, let's get into it.
Because there's a whole lot of stuff to unpack with this car. From its odd features to the weird computer actions to the realisation that you somehow managed to drive 1000 miles in three countries during two weeks. Maybe that's why I lay into it as hard as I do. I am much more emotionally invested in the car, which I've come to love. That's maybe why the things I criticise sting as much as they do.
What You Pay For
The 2019 Mustang GT comes with a surprisingly low price tag. The 5.0l V8 I drove for two amazing weeks costs about 50000 Dollars in at my favourite Continental European Garage. Sitting in it the first time, you don't really notice it. The interior is where Ford saved money. Of course, there's a touch screen with Ford's somewhat okay-ish operating system that can be overridden with Android Auto. However, that metal-looking stuff on the dash? That's plastic made up to look like metal. Everything's plastic. If you're after some sort of more luxurious interiors, the base model is not for you.
The first thing you pay for is the engine. The engine on the Mustang GT is fantastic.
By my deeds, I honour him... V8
The 5.0l V8 with 449hp is an absolute beauty. The sound engineering on the engine is also top notch as is the haptic feedback that the engine generates. Many of the 1600km (1000 miles if you measure distance in free refills per second amendment). It roars. It purrs. It has a hypnotic undertone, a steady chug that makes you turn off the average stereo system and just listen to the engine burn gas as you drive along the never-ending roads that you just happen to find when driving a Mustang.
This car looks fantastic.
You also pay for the looks. The Mustang looks great. In fact, it looks exactly the way it sounds. There's a certain beauty in the fact that Ford has managed to create a car that unites looks and sound. This is the exact thing that worries me about the Ford Mustang Mach-E. You need the look. You need the sound and the Mustang GT Premium Fastback gives you both. It's gives you power from the engine and strong lines on the body.
You don't want to stop driving. I found myself patting the car when I parked it in front of my house, halfway apologetic as if to say "Sorry, we'll be on the roads again tomorrow". And we were.
Before you even consider buying the GT Mustang, know one thing: This thing drinks like a mule. Usually, I am not bothered when I have to refuel or even notice it. I notice the bad coffee at German gas stations or the desolation of gas stations on Swiss highways.
Can you feel the sadness? This is in Deitingen, Switzerland.
But I don't notice the gas I pump into the car. However, with the Mustang, I have to refuel three times a week for some strange reason. Okay, the onboard computer is quite insistent on annoying me at around a quarter tank, going on about how I only have 80km left until I run dry, but I hear that warning a lot. That's 49.7 miles if you do distance in Trumps per Athleisure Wear. Of course, I'm driving the Mustang a lot, but I've driven other cars more in shorter periods of time - I have recently done 2000km (1242 miles in street hot dogs per lack of public transport) with a BMW 320d in six days - but the Mustang drinks a lot. A real lot. So that will be expensive. Very expensive. So if fuel efficiency is any kind of even small priority for you, you won't have much fun with the Mustang.
There are also the small things that Ford skipped over. With a bit more time allotted to the conception of the Mustang, its aerodynamics could have been improved. There's a fairly wide gap between the hood and the car's body. Put a bit more work into this and the drag will be smaller, there will be a tiny bit of fuel efficiency gained. And the Mustang can need that. Because I want this car to be more accessible for everyone. Desperately.
While the Mustang boasts five seats, only two are really usable. Nobody wants to sit on the back seat. The fastback curves downward a few centimetres behind the front seats, so if you're over 170cm (That's 5'6" in Stars and Stripes per Cheez-Whiz), you're not having much fun on the back seat. Ever. Have kids? This is not your car. Have more than one friend? Not your car. The two front seats, however, not only have seat heating but also seat air conditioning. Every car should have seat air conditioning.
Weirdly enough, Ford has decided to add features that I don't quite understand why they're there. Such as cruise control. Look, this Mustang is a manual. It's a car for people who know how to drive, who are serious about driving. When you buy the Mustang, you consciously decide to take care of most of everything while on the road. Somehow, cruise control seems to be a pointless addition to the car's system. I'm just baffled as to why it's there and why the operation of it seems so oddly complicated. I tried it once to see how it worked, then never used it again, because the Mustang is not that kind of car. But then again, you don't pay for the removal of things you really don't want from the Mustang's base version.
You don't pay for fuel efficiency. You don't pay for space. You don't pay for luxurious interiors.
You pay for the engine.
You pay for an engine with a car built around it. And that's absolutely okay. But you need to know this going in.
One of the most bizarre things about the Mustang is the onboard computer. So the Mustang is a manual, which lets you do so much on your own. Basically, the Mustang requires you to drive it. You can't just sit in it and chug along the roads on an automatic. In the cities, you're constantly shifting gears, constantly watching the rpms and you're constantly listening to the engine. Somehow, this never gets annoying, especially since there's the occasional little roar when you hit the clutch and shift down. That's never not awesome. Maybe not for the people in the neighbourhood, but for you, this is fun.
There's a particular kind of magic to a manual. Something that forces you to listen to your car, to feel its moods, to think as it thinks. You need to be in tune with the car. You're its driver and it is your mode of transportation. It needs you as much as you need it. The Mustang can't do without you and you can't do without it. So when I sat in the driver's seat for the first time, I told it that «we will be buddies, right?» and gave the steering wheel a pat.
When the door is open, the car doors project a mustang onto the ground. Why? Because it's awesome. That's why!
While the car and I ended up being friends, I still have issues with the onboard computer. Because while it is fairly smart, it interacts with my driving a bit too much for my liking, especially in the lower gears. In the end, I have to conclude that the Mustang's onboard systems as well as the basic setup of the engine hate everything below 80km/h (49.7mph if you're used to measuring in bacon breakfasts per Sunday school).
Once, at a red light, the onboard computer thought it was a smart thing to rev up the engine to 4500rpm. I don't know what caused this. I don't know why. I couldn't reproduce it, but that one time, while not moving at all, the computer decided that I would need mad revs and a lot of noise on my shining path to truth and justice. Why? What? Seriously, Ford, there's some explanation needed here. The same seemingly random behaviour occurs when shifting gears and pushing down the gas pedal. The amount of power the car actually slams into the tarmac differs, even if you're fairly consistent in the application of gas.
Then there's the wildly different interpretation of the gas pedal in relation to the friction point. So when you're in a car with a fairly sophisticated computer system between you and the engine, you're relying on the computer's interference. However, you bank on the fact that it interferes only in the way that the engine won't die from low revs or some other common pitfall. Because once basic mobility is assured, the computer has to shut up and just let you, squishy and fleshy human you are, do your thing. That's why the Mustang is a manual. That's why you have all the fancy switches.
But no, the computer is omnipresent, ever-watching but not all-knowing. In first gear, there's a number of wildly different behaviours to be observed, especially at really low speeds. During the first hour or two of driving, the engine died on me a number of times. It was only after some trial and error that I got the hang of it. While I usually shift gears by engine noise, I can't do this with the Mustang. Shifting gears in low gears is a mixture of engine noise, rumble beneath me and rpms that the engine currently puts out as well as guessing what the computer thinks of this situation.
I want to turn off the computer entirely. Screw the little help it offers when stopping on an incline. Nevermind the fact that the computer refuses to let the engine die when I am stuck in city traffic. I would gladly take care of all these things if the computer wasn't so inconsistent and obtrusive. Now, in a regular automatic, I wouldn't mind it as much, but when there's a manual that was made to be driven by a human, I want to be in control. I expect the same behaviour under the same circumstances and not some random interpretation and minding the minute details of the situation. I want it to be a consistent experience as seen from a human's perspective. During all this time, the computer was my main enemy.
But all this odd behaviour stops once you are on the highway or above second gear when driving in the default mode that Ford thinks you should use when you first start the car. Other drive modes vary slightly.
By My Deeds, I Honour Him... V8
When you drive the Mustang, you feel at peace. When driving from Austria to Zürich, Switzerland, a Seat full of young men pulls level with me. I'm chugging along in sixth gear at 1000rpm with about 120km/h (74mph if you do gun stores per tumblr activism). They have club music blaring and they rev their engine. It's night. The highway is empty.
They want to race.
I do like going fast. I do like challenges. I do like this car. I can handle it, manual transmission and everything. And I have 449 horsepower of nitro-boosted war machine under me. Okay, maybe not the nitro, but you know what I mean. Let's be generous here and assume the lads are driving a 2018 Seat Cupra Leon. They'd be sitting on 4 cylinders and 300hp. They have 1984cc, I have 4951.
This is not a fair race.
I know I will win. In a regular highway race, I will win everything. Because the Mustang is that powerful. It's visibly powerful. Which is why the kids in the Seat thought this race was something that they had to prove themselves with. They think that beating this American Muscle Car that peacefully rumbles along the highway with one relaxed-looking guy behind the wheel would be an achievement. And, yes, it would be. But in their youthful eagerness, they don't know that. They think that they have a chance. This is their mistake.
So I push the clutch down.
Do they know that I'm in a manual with a built-in drag race mode?
I rev the engine.
It makes a hell of a lot of noise. I smile. This noise never gets old.
So they floor their pedal and pull ahead. I stay at 120km/h. Because why bother? All I'd be doing is break traffic rules and risk my license. So I don't bother. I know I'll win. Everyone with half a working brain cell knows I'll win. There are very few things on the roads that will be an actual challenge to the Mustang.
But if it makes them happy... there's now a few young men from Switzerland driving a Seat who will tell everyone about how they beat a mighty Mustang that one night. It even roared at them and they beat it. I hope someone's proud of them for this feat. Because I had a chuckle and drove on.
Fuel efficiency? Who needs it?
Is it arrogance? Is it me getting old? I don't know, but I knew at the point where the Seat Lads pulled up to my side I knew that there was nothing I had to prove to them. There was nothing I could gain when I raced them. I knew that I wouldn't feel better or more accomplished if I let them eat the dust of my 449 horse power of nitro-boosted war machine. Okay, maybe not the nitro, but you know what I mean.
Most of all, it's a quiet sense of peace, of assurance, of calm. I know I'll let most of everything behind me. The Mustang calms me down. I am at peace.
So I let them have their victory. Because they need it more than I do. Apparently. I have nothing to gain here. I am at peace. The steady roar and chug and hum of the engine and the general stability of the car when driving at high speeds... I have nothing to prove.
It's what I do.
So if nothing else, when you look past the specs and the engine and the fuel efficiency and the weird things the computer does, you get an engine. You get a very powerful, very loud engine that just makes you happy when you drive it. After having returned it to the garage, I find myself missing it so very much. Because the Mustang is an emotion more than a car. It's a car made for drivers. For people who like to drive and operate a vehicle.
So go. Get a Mustang. Get a manual. Drive. Enjoy.