Bullitt rides again
BULLITT was the 1968 celluloid story of an all-guts, no glory San Francisco cop named Frank Bullitt (played by Steve McQueen) but the truth is that the car chase, still regarded as unequalled to this day by many film pundits, is the reason Bullitt remains unforgotten.
Filming took place in the era of American muscle cars and the chasing car was a Ford Mustang Fastback — as any film buff will tell you.
Racing along to 2015, icon is one of the most over-used words in the English language, especially when applied to the car world, but let’s declare at the outset that the Ford Mustang is deserving of such status. Now, the latest generation , the sixth, has arrived in southern Africa, the first region on the planet to receive RHD production from the Michigan factory
We were on the recent launch held in the Western Cape and got to sample two Fastback iterations, the 5.0 GT auto and the 2.3 EcoBoost manual. The full range is made up of six models, including convertibles, and will doubtless do much to keep the Mustang brand out front as the world’s best-selling sports car.
Unusually, the launch route in the Cape Peninsula involved very little open road driving but rather more stop/start stuff and the chance to attack a few sinuous mountain climbs which tested the underpinnings rather well!
Our whiter-than-white 5.0 GT Fastback was nicely trimmed in all-black relieved with aluminium-look inserts dotted around the cabin. The large, very nicely-shaped leather-swathed seats proved softer than most and offered excellent comfort and support plus loads of adjustability. Unusually for a Ford, the analogue instruments are big, albeit rather fussily marked, and the central info screen is of much larger proportions than the puny examples found in less sporty Fords.
A row of chrome-plated switches situated in the lower central area of the dash needs close scrutiny to find the one you want and stupidly, the hazard switch is in placed here as well when it should be in splendid isolation in line of sight.
All this is minor stuff though when the dynamics of this Ford were about to be tested. Happily, that switchgear allows the driver to toggle through a multitude of driving modes which affect engine, gearbox, steering and ride responsiveness.
Given the presence of a twisting mountain pass, Sport Plus was selected and the quicker responses were quickly appreciated, albeit that the generally-smooth 6-speed SelectShift auto, complete with paddle shifters, wanted to do its own thing too often or was occasionally slow to downshift when requested.
Certainly, the double ball-joint front end and all-new integral link rear end, aided and abetted by a standard-fit Performance Pack which includes 6-pot Brembo brakes (V8 model) and 19-inch wheels provided surprising traction and grip but the uncertain auto and the sheer mass of the 5.0GT meant that the driver had to work a bit to maximise the undeniable talents hidden under the classic Mustang shape.
Obviously, the 306kW/530Nm injected V8 adds to the overall mass notwithstanding that it is positioned well back in the long engine bay, but be under no illusions that its intoxicating V8 bellow offers lots of substance as the 0-100km/h time of 4.8s proves.
For sure, the 5.0GT and its sophisticated underpinnings telegraphed that a lot of inputs have been provided by Ford Germany, but the truth is that the bigger-engined model is more of a Grand Tourer than a sports car. Indeed, the only 2.3 EcoBoost-engined launch model equipped with a 6-speed manual box fell into our hands for the return journey and the lighter mass soon became evident.
Turn-in is sharper as are steering responses but it was the greater overall wieldiness of the 2.3, together with the greater driver control offered by the manual shift, that made this the better mount for variable terrain use.
In the lower speed ranges, the more economical EcoBoost motor doesn’t feel that much slower than the V8, even if it adds a second to the 100 km/h dash, but on long ascents, there’s no doubting the added muscle of the bigger engine.
In everyday use though, the 233kW/430Nm EcoBoost is more than adequate and makes rather appealing combustion sounds while it’s doing its work. It’s said to consume 8.0l/100km albeit that we got nowhere near that figure owing to energetic use of the throttle!
Surprisingly, the 5.0GT is also offered with a 6-speed manual (not on launch).
That in the 2.3 model shifted with a nice deliberate action, albeit that the clutch pedal felt decidedly heavy and suggests that a pre-purchase test might be advisable for anyone considering this transmission, especially with the 5.0GT.
Comfortable, well-appointed with all mod cons and now with thoroughly modern underpinnings, the new Mustang makes a convincing case for itself. Some have suggested that pricing is on the high side but given the excellent standard equipment listing, I think the value proposition is good in the current environment. It also didn’t escape my notice that aside from offering an enticing range of new colours, the Michigan plant has done a fine job as far as assembly standards are concerned.
Panel fits are precise and the gloss and smoothness of the paintwork is top notch. The buying public obviously agrees as they’ll have to join a queue with early production sold out but South African buyers can go to https://ford.co.za/mustang/kmi to see if that queue can be beaten. Zimbabweans keen to re-live Bullitt moments should pay a visit to Duly’s to get the low down on the local situation.
For information, the SA model range is as follows:
Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback Manual
Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback Auto
Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Convertible Auto
Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback Manual
Mustang 5.0 GT Fastback Auto
Mustang 5.0 GT Convertible Auto
Another year has flown by and I do hope you’ve enjoyed your weekly dose of Top Gear musings in which we’ve endeavoured to bring you the most up-to-date , hands-on car reports available in any newspaper in Zimbabwe.
May I wish all of you a wonderful Festive Season and a New Year filled with prospects for better times ahead.
If you’re travelling over the holiday period, please remember that fatigue, alcohol and low tyre pressures are not good companions so take care and remember your car might also enjoy a wash and polish for Christmas!
We’ll be back in business on January 7, 2016.
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