Mustang mania less obvious to Ford

The first big freshen for the first Mustang to be built in right-hand-drive is landing in April – expect less fan fever for models with more firepower.

BY this time three years ago, Ford New Zealand’s Mustang pre-order count was at an astounding 400 cars … and climbing.

Will we see ‘Mustang mania’ return in the lead-up to the arrival of the first big facelift for the sixth-generation of the fabled Pony Car?

Ford New Zealand’s corporate communications manager says excitement is definitely building and he expects this to lift all the more now that pricing, spec detail and confirmation that MY2018 cars will start rolling in from April.

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard of people ringing in to our dealers asking about when it’s here and all that. They want all the details and some have been in touch almost daily for some weeks now,” asserts Tom Clancy.

All the same, this is a much lower key form of the fever this Ford triggered on its initial arrival back at the end of 2015, he agrees.

“Before we announced the timing, spec or anything of the previous Mustang we had 400 orders on the book.

“It would be pretty difficult to match that.

“But, that said, we have had lots of people very excited about this one and some of them are the same people (who were early converts to the pre-facelift).

“We have allowed dealers to open up for ordering and, of course, with rthe pricing and specs out now you can basically’ buy’ one as of today.

“We will see some very good excitement, some very good pick up … but to match what we did with the very first right-hand-drive? No.”

As of yesterday, all but one of those questions has been answered. Ford NZ has cited the refreshed range will be here in April, but still cannot pin down an exact launch date because it depends on shipping schedules that are still a bit fluid.

However, it has fully sorted the lineup – basically, every trim, body and drivetrain option offered now will be continued – and the pricing, which delivers sticker increases of between $2110 (V8s)  and $3110 (EcoBoost).

To offset the increase in cost, the refreshed Mustang gains a new 10-speed auto, updated styling and technology, and a boost in output for its two continuing engine choices, a 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder and a 5.0-litre normally-aspirated V8.

The latter benefits from the bigger boost in brawn. A new high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection increases power by 33kW and torque by 26Nm, lifting these to a healthier 339kW/556Nm.

The 2.3-litre has also seen a small 9Nm bump in torque to 441Nm, but power drops by 9kW, to 224kW.

Is this enough to rekindle the excitement about the Blue Oval’s most recognised and longest-lived nameplate; a contagion that reached such crescendo back at the original launch that early arriving cars were being onsold to those prepared to pay over the odds to buy into the model’s unbroken 50-year lineage?

Possibly … but probably not. For the first two years of sale, Mustangs were rarely available from the showroom; mostly the process involved orders being placed then fulfilled, depending on the model and spec, some months later. Most months, too, Ford was selling several hundred cars.

Those days are over.

In 2017 Mustang volume dropped to 40-60 units a month; still good enough to keep it as the second-most popular passenger Ford behind the Ranger and old status as the country’s most popular sports car, but a much reduced flow nonetheless.

With two months to go until the new cars arrive, there are still 30 old stock units awaiting a home.

The facelift model was revealed in the United States a year ago, and Ford NZ has previously been cagey about nailing down when it would come, explaining that it knew only that right-hook markets would not be served until North American supply was settled in.

So has it arrived early? “Well, it’s kinda been a moving target, the arrival date,” Clancy explains in respect to the launch timetable.

“When you’re at the far end of the supply chain you can never really count on it until it’s on the boat, and even then you’ve got to wait to see the bill of lading to see what is actually on the boat. That’s how it is.”

Ford NZ expects keen interest in the new auto, which replaces the existing six-speed unit and was co-developed with General Motors, improves responsiveness and performance.

It has no plan to review continuing supply of V8s with the six-speed manual, which has been upgraded including a twin-disc clutch and dual-mass flywheel, regardless that just six percent of current GTs are sold in manual and so far the order bank for the new edition shows less than a five percent stick shift preference.

The GT has been very much the Kiwi preference to date, achieving 80 percent of takeup during the current model’s sales run. Initially, it accounted for 90 percent of GT sales. Clancy  believes the new auto might raise the EcoBoost’s appeal, but has no doubt that most Mustang buyers will always take a traditional eight-cylinder route.

The new model retains the classical current shape but can be identified by a number of styling changes, including a lower bonnet and grille, new all-LED front lights with tri-bar lighting and a new position for the bonnet air intakes.

It gains revised LED tail-lights, a new bumper and fasica, with GT variants also scoring a black rear diffuser.

There are new choices of colour: Orange Fury, Kona Blue and Royal Crimson.

New technology features include a customisable 12.0-inch digital instrument cluster, an active-valve exhaust for GT versions that allows for quiet starts, new shock absorbers and MagneRide adaptive dampers, though these are a cost-extra. The V8’s sportiest performance mode has been retailored to apparently include the line-lock feature, that allows for stationary tyre-warming wheelspinning. Line lock was controversially disabled on the current car because Australia, which shares our spec, was worries it would be viewed as a hoon device.

Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system comes as standard, projected onto an 8.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Driver assistance systems include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, auto-levelling headlights and automatic high beam.

Aside from the dampers, options include Recaro leather seats, a single-wing rear spoiler, 19-inch alloys and ‘Over The Top’ exterior stripes packages.