Like a Bullitt

Everyone loves a good car chase scene in the movies, don’t they? Richard Webb gets into character with the 2016 Ford Mustang.

What’s the most famous car chase in movie history? Surely it was The Italian Job, with those red, white and blue Mini Cooper S’s racing through Turin as the hapless Carabinieri in their Alfa Romeo Giulia Supers gave chase?

Or was it Ronin in which a variety of cars, including the Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9, BMW M5 and Audi S8 Quattro, thrilled the audience with an authentic car chase through the streets of Paris?

Right now, I’ve got another car chase scene in mind. It’s the Mustang versus Charger scene in the 1968 classic Bullitt. The Ford Mustang – along with Steve McQueen – defined the movie. McQueen made a point to keep his face visible during the memorable chase scenes so that viewers would be certain it was he, and not a stunt man, behind the wheel.

I’ve been stalking the right-hand drive 2016 Ford Mustang for quite a while now. I first saw a convertible version perched atop Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building – and again at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. But until recently, I’d never driven it.

However, that has all changed. I was able to drive both the 2.3 EcoBoost 4 cylinder convertible and the 5.0 V8 GT Fastback through some of South Africa’s most breathtaking roads on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard.

This is the sixth generation of the American icon, and, I’ve discovered, it’s a perfect car for living out those Bullitt fantasies.

You may be wondering if a four-cylinder engine could actually cut it in the car chase stakes. You bet it can. This 2.3-litre EcoBoost produces 228kW, which boomerangs the car to 100km/h in just 5.5 seconds but uses just 8.0l/100km in the combined cycle, linked to 179 g/km CO² emissions.

Interestingly it’s as powerful as the V8 in the previous-generation car when it launched, so it just goes to show how much more development there has been – and continues to be done – on the combustion engine. The latest 5.0litre V8 produces a mighty 306kW of power, making it the most powerful and fastest accelerating Ford ever sold in South Africa, enabling the Mustang 5.0 V8 GT Fastback Manual to rocket from 0 to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.

The new Mustang is choc-a-block with cool technologies and both the 4 and 8 cylinder versions can be matched to six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, and there’s the option of fastback or convertible body styles.

Judging by the reaction of those who see the car, its clean-sheet design must still evoke the essential character of the original Mustang – and it creates a wave of double takes and exhortation from fans to rev the car mercilessly for their entertainment.

Sinking into the car, it becomes clear Ford has made great strides to bring the car in line with 
European ergonomic standards. It boasts large, easy to read instrumentation, quality materials within its aviation-inspired cockpit, tactile switches and knobs that provide intuitive control.

The twisty bits of tarmac around the Western Cape were handled really well. It is competent and entertaining thanks to a precise electrically assisted steering, which gives a clear idea of 
what the front wheels are up to – while at the back, the Mustang’s independent rear suspension makes the driving experience ever so satisfying.

Over fast, sweeping and some not so smooth bends, the ride is settled and you never seem 
to be bounced off course thanks in part to its wide track, sophisticated rear suspension 
and well-balanced weight distribution. The Mustang, whether you want to hoon around like Steve McQueen or not, is about how it looks, drives and sounds. This visceral experience is linked to the advanced chassis, and it’s designed to meet the expectations of the most demanding driver.

I made sure I fiddled about with the selectable drive modes on twisty back roads – using the toggle switches on the console to quickly adjust steering effort, engine response, and transmission and electronic stability control settings.

To help drivers get the most from the car on track days, track apps can be controlled via the steering wheel and viewed in the instrument panel. McQueen would surely have loved the accelerometer, acceleration timer and brake performance monitors.

However, he really would have loved the launch control system. It holds the engine at a pre-set value between 3000 and 4500 rpm with the accelerator fully depressed. When the clutch is released, torque delivery to the rear wheels is controlled for maximum traction and consistent standing starts. Then there is the electronic line lock system – available for the 5.0-litre V8 – that applies only the front brakes, allowing drivers to warm the rear tyres. In other words, you could create the most outrageous burnouts on the way to the office – or not!

This is a great looking car with all of the Mustang cues you need to keep the DNA firmly unsullied, yet it is modern and strong enough to stand out on its own.

If you can muster the extra running costs, the rumbling, tyre smoking V8 is all Mustang and as much Bullitt persona as most will need, and the pick of the bunch. It has been designed with a passion for the legend that is Mustang – and it’s as good as it gets.

The secret of life is in our DNA – and it seems the same is true with cars. It is almost impossible to talk about where this fabulous new Ford Mustang is going, without seeing where it came from. So I tested a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, with a 302 cubic inch V8, 3-speed auto alongside the 2016 V8 Fastback.

The first-generation Ford Mustang ran from April 1964 until 1973 and its long hood and short deck was wildly popular as a notchback, a convertible and the fastback version.

Early Mustangs are among the most ice-cool cars ever made, so Ford was wise to maintain some key design elements of classic Mustangs, making them recognisable to car fans across the world. That long, sculpted hood and short rear deck, low roof height and wide stance is emblematic of the Pony car.

The full Ford Mustang 
range at launch
2.3 EcoBoost 
Manual Fastback:
 R613 947
2.3 EcoBoost 
Automatic Convertible:
 R684 123
2.3 EcoBoost 
Automatic Fastback:
 R614 491
5.0 V8 GT
Manual Fastback:
 R719 211
5.0 V8 GT 
Automatic Convertible:
 R789 386
5.0 V8 GT 
Automatic Fastback:
 R736 754

For the YouTube video that accompanies this story, search for

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