The first time I saw a muscle car I was appalled, I can remember that moment just like it was yesterday, I had just turned 8 and my mother was walking me home from school. A Deep, loud burble echoed from the back of the street. I turned my head around and as soon as the signal turned green, the burble turned into an angry roar which was also accompanied by a whiny blower noise and the chaos some its tyres screeching, blasting through a single-lane road on the peaceful island of Tenerife. It was an S-197 Shelby GT500, and I remember wincing and cursing the car and driver for being a reckless muppet that didn’t care about anyone else’s peace of mind. It was a memory that planted a time stamp and a stereotype deep into the roots of my opinions on cars, which by a very weird turn of events in my personal life, has turned into my bread and butter now.
I have been keeping this vendetta on the “Stang” and it has always made me not want to praise the car, arguing that all that muscle and noise is for posers, or the quality, performance, tech etc. is sub-par to the Europeans. But not anymore.
I drove an S550 Gen Mustang GT, and I liked it! It’s old school, but not analogue.
The S550 gen, which was in production from July 2014, was launched on our shores in July of 2016. This was the first generation to have a completely independent rear suspension and also the first mustang to be sold and marketed globally.
On the inside, it’s been designed to fit Americans. the driver’s seat provides couch-like comfort and is big enough to hold a really large human being in them. The bolsters on the side of the seat provide great support and your passenger seat is rather far away from your shoulder. The steering wheel looks like you’re holding something special too, a Chunky wheel with the pony badge over the horn in the centre and all of your infotainment controls and cruise controls surround the pony. When it comes to the feel of the materials used inside, the plastics and leathers are not to the level of the manufacturers across the Atlantic, and that is justified in the price difference if you ask me. Globally the mustang is known for its bang for the buck when it comes to sports cars and the proposition for the s550 generation is the same. It really does look and feel retro with analogue dials for the tachometer and speedometer and old-school AC vents. And if you had any doubts about which market it was designed to cater to, the large cup holders are definitely a giveaway.
It’s not all old school though. It does have a couple of new school toys.
Standard features for all 2015+ Ford Mustangs include proximity key entry with door-mounted touch sensors and keyless entry, a push-button start system, Ford’s SYNC system with Bluetooth, Traction control, Stability control, the works. But these features don’t dictate your decision of buying the Stang, it’s the animal that lurks below the bonnet that entices you to buy it …
ASMR, Melodrama and burning rubber.
The party starts right when you switch the ignition, the fuel pump makes a rather peculiar click noise upon switching the ignition, followed by the whirring of the fuel being pumped into the block. Switch the engine on, and the starter motor sounds as muscular as the roar and bellow that follow it. The muscle car experience begins the moment you decide to sit in the Mustang.
Coming out of the car park you realize this isn’t a car meant to be driven every day at least in a city like Mumbai, where the roads are narrow, heavily populated and boast of mountains for speed bumps. The dimensions of the mustang are, let’s just say American. Its 15 feet length and the137mm of ground clearance make it even more difficult to tackle the enormous speed bumps and ditches across the city. But when the roads open up and you are ready to play with the pony, that’s where the visceral tendencies of this s550 mustang come out. The particular S550 mustang I drove had a couple of tasty mods that enhanced the feel and experience of the car. An aftermarket air filter from Roush performance, an aftermarket exhaust, a set of DBA Brakes ( which I was very happy about) and a Superchips stage 1 ECU remap. This is enough to change the driving dynamics of the stock car in a straight line (if you can keep it going straight), but in terms of cornering dynamics, the car maintained stock suspension and there were no upgrades to the chassis either. The stock 5.0 Coyote V8 pushes 395 Bhp and 475 Nm of torque, and these upgrades have now pushed the envelope to 435 Bhp and 518 Nm of torque.
What I struggled to understand is the lack of consistency in the response of the throttle pedal; it felt like the pedal had an opinion of its own as to how much throttle input was to be given. This could’ve been an issue with the remap but the delay in response and the difference in response while giving in the same input is very unnerving even for a driver with a larger…. Um, confidence.
While pushing the car, you feel how tall the gears are rationed for you to get the most of that low-end and mid-range through the rev band. However, at lower speeds, if you decide to “drop a gear and disappear” your tires will light up the moment you use the throttle pedal too aggressively. You best believe you’ll disappear in a cloud of smoke and end up slamming onto a barricade. It has a tendency to spin its rear wheels relentlessly even when traction control does kick in. It’s almost like the computer is giving up and you lose the rear very VERY easily. The adrenaline that runs through your body when the car feels like a live animal with emotion, a character and most importantly a temper like the ones of the mustang, amounts to an exhilarating drive that requires you to be on your toes and respect the vehicle at all times. And that is something that enhanced my driving experience with the mustang, and in fact, It is an experience that completely changed my perspective towards these beasts from the land of freedom.
All things considered, the ford mustang, given its epic lineage, is still the same loud bully it was since its inception, but now it has a smartphone and it wears Jordan 1s. Evolutions are inevitable and the fact that even after 58 years the philosophy of the mighty Bullit remains, and that is worthy of high praise.