FORD CAN’T SUPPLY RIGHT-HAND DRIVE MUSTANGS FAST ENOUGH
Ford is muscling into the international sports coupe market with the Mustang, but has the unenviable problem worldwide of not enough cars to meet demand.
The Mustang is available in two engine selections — the 5-litre V8 and 2.3-litre EcoBoost — paired with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and as a coupe or convertible. The 5-litre, V8 produces 306kW and 530Nm of torque with fuel economy figures of 12.6l/100km, while the 2.3-litre EcoBoost produces 233kW of power with 432Nm of torque and fuel consumption figure of 9.3l.
The Mustang is priced in New Zealand from $57,880 for the EcoBoost coupe auto up to $74,880 for the V8 and $5000 more for the convertible version.
Since Ford started production of the iconic Mustang in right-hand at its Flat Rock, Michigan plant, the international demand has been overwhelming.
In Australia, 4000 Mustangs have been pre-sold with a 12-month waiting list for the coupe V8 model, while in New Zealand, 600 Kiwi enthusiasts have ordered the muscle car.
Not surprisingly, 90 per cent of those first orders are for the V8 with just 60 buyers opting for a manual transmission, while 15 per cent of the first orders are for the convertible version.
Just before Christmas the first 35 orders arrived in Auckland from Detroit, a New Plymouth customer being the first Kiwi owner of the right-hand-drive car.
The Ford Mustang 5-litre, V8 coupe has a six-month waiting list.
The remainder of those first pre-orders will be arriving in New Zealand from now until May, but demand is increasing for the vehicle since a few demonstrator models arrived in local dealerships. “If someone went into a dealership this weekend and ordered a Mustang, they’d have to wait until at least June for it to arrive here,” Ford NZ communications manager Tom Clancy told Driven.
Though the first Mustang enthusiasts preferred the V8 GT, Clancy reckons New Zealand will follow the trend of Mustang purchases in Europe, with the EcoBoost picking up volume through the year.
Those buyers will be favouring the more economical Mustang for their everyday drive, he says.
In other right-hand markets, Japan has 500 pre-orders while 2000 British buyers face a year-long wait.
The right-hand-drive Mustangs only make up 5 per cent of the vehicles being built at the Flat Rock factory; Ford is focusing the production line on making left-hand-drive convertibles for the American and European summer.
But it is during our Southern Hemisphere summer that Ford holds the Australasian media launch for the Mustang, testing the vehicles on the roads around Hunter Valley, then a private track in NSW before moving on to the freeway system around Sydney.
Mustang’s new chief engineer, Carl Widmann, has left behind Detroit’s winter to attend the launch and to also gain feedback from Ford Australia and NZ on its backlog of orders.
Widmann tells Driven exclusively that he is reporting back to Ford headquarters on ways to increase RHD production of the Mustang and though the Flat Rock factory is working 22 hours a day, six days a week, it isn’t as simple as adding more shifts.
“We also have to co-ordinate with parts manufacturers to make sure the supply is there for right-hand-drive models,” says Widmann.
The Mustang has just celebrated 50 years, and the all-new version retains a retro look with a muscular long hood, a shark nose grille and slim, wrap around headlights, but Ford is placing emphasis on the power, performance and suspension of the car.
The dash of the Ford Mustang GT
It has kept the styling of the interior simple, but the centre console is clumsy with a large portion of it taken up with the air-con system including heated and cooled seats.
The interior of the Ford Mustang coupe
A downside of the left-hand-converted Mustang is the handbrake is on the passenger side rather than next to the driver, and if the two cupholders are full, you have to manoeuvre past them to use the brake.
The two rear seats are suited to either short adults or kids and as the rear window extends up to the roof, those rear passengers will feel the heat.
The rear seats of the Ford Mustang coupe.
Though many buyers have opted for the 5-litre, V8 engine, Widmann points out that the new 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine actually produces as much power as the previous Mustang’s 4.6-litre, V8 engine.
To compare the motors and transmissions, four models are tested on an inside small track — a V8 auto convertible; V8 manual coupe; an EcoBoost manual coupe; and an EcoBoost auto convertible.
For even testing, all four are driven in sport engine and steering mode.
You may scoff at the EcoBoost but it isn’t until we head to the track to test the Mustangs that the “little engine that could” comes to the fore and is the standout.
The 5-litre, V8 engine of the Ford Mustang GT coupe
The V8 may have the low rumble, but the EcoBoost is no slouch on the 5.1km private track that has inclines and declines with a few tight corners and testing bends.
The EcoBoost quickly moves through the gears in automatic and has sort ratios in manual to get to optimum performance.
Widmann says the 2.3l, four-cylinder is favoured in Europe where it will be extensively driven on motorways.
There is the need “to have the power at the end so 90 per cent of peak torque sits at 1800rpm”.
Moving into the V8 manual and the 5.1km winding track didn’t let the Mustang move out of second gear at 130km/h. Instead the car needs a long stretch to prove its performance.
The Ford Mustang convertible.
So it’s on to the back country roads of Hunter Valley and then on to Sydney’s freeway to let the V8 show its stuff. My co-driver is a local motoring writer who often uses our route out of Cessnock to test his vehicles.
Immediately he says he is impressed with our V8 convertible’s suspension and road handling.
“I’ve tested so many vehicles here and I have to say the Mustang is one of the best on these bumpy roads.”
Car comparisons on the road also highlight the fact that in Australasia the Mustang has no direct competitor in its price bracket.
The best competitor price-wise that Ford NZ can give to the Detroit head office is the Toyota 86 GT. Performance-wise, you’re looking at BMW’s M range, a Mercedes C63 coupe, and Audi’s more expensive RS line-up.
And that’s why there is such a demand for the right-hand-drive Mustang: great price, great performance.