Yesterday jumped in the Mustang with my brother and embarked on a pretty epic road trip from Wodonga down to the Mornington peninsular. The primary goal of the trip was to evaluate the Ford Mustang as a vessel for a great road trip. After traveling close to 800km in a single day, its now time to reflect on the car.
While you can only drive one car at a time, ultimately you want a car to be able to adapt to the situation you find yourself in. Cruising down the highway, you want the car to be relaxed and forgiving of your inputs, making it easy to control and less taxing on you mentally. Then there are times where you need to call on performance when you need to overtake slower vehicles. There’s also the times where you may want more of an active and engaged driving experience where the car feels connected to the road like it’s on rails at speed through the corners. Basically, you need a transformer and the Mustang’s drive modes and configurable steering modes combine to deliver just that.
With a flip of the airplane-style mode toggle switch, the car moves between Normal, Sports+, Track and Snow modes. On the road trip, Normal mode was used for the longer, less interesting parts, while Sports+ was engaged for the exciting bits. This ability to be multiple cars in one is a real asset to the Mustang as a great road trip vehicle.
Embarking on a long drive means you and your passenger(s) need to be entertained. The Mustang comes with the Blackberry QNX-based SYNC3 platform which as a default is a passable option, but features plenty of limitations. One of the biggest limitations is the inbuilt navigation. Voice instructions still require you to use a structured command list, rather than the natural language processing we expect from a modern voice assistant. The other issue is the lack of live traffic data or connection to online services.
Thankfully Ford, like many other automakers have allowed your mobile phone to power the experience through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
These mobile auto platforms allow the phone to take over the car’s display and connect with the voice control button on the steering wheel, as well as the microphones in the car, enabling voice control over your experience. The apps you have installed now determine your available experience, this included Spotfiy, TuneIn Radio, PocketCasts and more. Wirelessly you can take advantage of the typical Bluetooth options, but to get the full experience, you need to connect your phone to one of the 2 USB ports in the Mustang.
Twice during the trip, we were alerted about traffic upcoming congestion and offered an alternative route thanks to Google Maps. We accepted. At least one of these diversions saved us 10-15 minutes which demonstrated how useful connection navigation is compared to a simple point A-to-B route.
Given the distance we were traveling, no FM station was going to cut it and I couldn’t be bothered retuning on the fly. With a decent part of my 12GB monthly mobile data allowance available, streaming was definitely going to the playlist for the day. We tried Triple M’s countdown which was supposed to take the place of Triple J’s politicised Hottest 100 countdown, but as someone who loves new music, the trip down memory lane didn’t really appeal. Instead, Spotfiy’s Top 50 Australia and Global playlists were a perfect background to conversations while cruising down to Mornington. After dropping my brother off on the way home, I fired up This Week in Google on Pockcasts, all commanded via voice and worked great save a few places where mobile reception dropped out.
During the trip, I was also able to see alerts from Facebook Messenger in a toast notification on the display. Tapping on the notification offered the ability to have the message from my wife read to me, and the ability to reply via voice. This went a long way towards my dream of having a connected drive experience and avoiding the dreaded to-do-list the second you get out of the car from a long offline drive.
There’s nothing particularly unique the Mustang does better than other vehicles here, but as an entertainment package for a road trip, it certainly delivers. If I had one wish, it’d be that the occasional picture image was able to be shown from Facebook messenger. I realise this is a difficult line to walk with driver distraction, your attention should be on the road, but when you’re conversing about which stroller to buy, it meant pulling over to see photos.
We had multiple pitstops along the way, mostly for the humans, not for the Pony. The ability to facilitate drinks in the Mustang was well done, with the variable sized cupholders securing drinks in place and never spilling their contents under acceleration or through the corners. This included medium and large coffees, 600ml Powerade bottles and even the more challenging, thinner 250ml can of V Energy Drink.
The bigger issue was when it came to food in the form of snacks. There just isn’t anywhere to store them. The center console may be the obvious choice, but if you’re stocked up, there’s not a much space, the same is true for the slim glovebox opening. There’s also no door pockets to tuck away rubbish. This is definitely one area where the Mustang is not a great car for road trips.
If you’re expecting modern cars to drive themselves down the road, then the Mustang isn’t for you. There’s really no driver assists to speak of in terms of vehicle control. There’s no lane guidance available, nor is the adaptive cruise control, a couple of big features you could easily find elsewhere at this price point. In many ways, this car is unapologetically for the person who still wants to drive, those who’ll let the computers take over. Powered by a big naturally aspirated 5.0L V8, it’s also the last of a dying breed in terms of how it makes its power, but when the power comes on, hold on, cause its got plenty.
There are a couple of creature comforts that let you focus on the road, things like automatic headlights and a light-adjusting mirror which means its two fewer things you have to think about, they just happen.
Depending on your view of the world, the driver assists, or lack thereof, are a massive asset to this car, or a big omission. I knew what I was up for, what I wanted from the day and that was a driver’s car for the road trip and on that level, through the mountains and windy roads, it delivered in spades, albeit slightly obstructed by a slow log truck. Pausing for an impromptu photo session solved that problem.
If this was your daily driver and you commuted in the city, it’d be a hard sell, particularly that adaptive cruise which should be a standard feature by now and there to use if you chose.
Travelling from Wodonga down to the Mornington Peninsular and back in a day meant almost 800kms were clocked up. This mixed mode of driving provided a great opportunity to see how many kms the car would do per tank. This is important given most of us do fuel cost calculations before committing to a road trip and the efficiency may well determine the location we choose, or if we choose to go at all.
The Mustang managed 10.4L/100km (combined) and when full is good for 516km of range. The refueling costs obviously depend on the price on the day, but we spent $84.97 refueling with 51.53L at $1.64 per litre for 98 octane.
For the amount of fun on offer here, I think that represents good value. Those vehicles that push for outright economy may manage up to double the efficiency numbers but don’t have a mighty 306kW, 530Nm V8 under the bonnet, capable of roaring to life at any moment you decide to mash the right foot.
The manufacturer list price for the Mustang Fastback GT 5.0 V8 is:
- $57,490 for the 6 Speed Manual
- $59990 for the 6 Speed Automatic
If you can stomach the cost, you should also have the capacity to fill it too.
Going for a long drive, you want to be comfortable. The black leather seats are heavily bolstered to hold you in place and provide a real sense of control of the vehicle. They don’t, however, suit larger form factor humans. Generally, the seats are really comfortable when you first jump in, but much like the be computer chair, if you’re in it for hours, it’ll feel a little hard on your body. Regular breaks are always a good idea to refresh.
Both front seats feature electronic adjustments for height and positioning of the seat, which delivers the driver to the steering wheel and pedals, ensuring you are positioned perfectly for controlling the vehicle. Something noteworthy is that the passenger seat lacks the lumber adjustment of the driver’s seat. This appears to be a cost saving that makes sense for a regular solo driver but does impact the car as a road tripper, there’s no point in you the driver being comfortable if your passengers are not.
Now for the biggest issue with comfort. Technically the car is a 4 seater, but the back seats are like many sports car, not practical for humans. Realistically those that buy a Mustang will peer through the rear vision mirror to make sure their groceries are ok, not passengers, there’s just not the room back there. While the rear seats have ISOfix mounts for car seats, there’s no way your next road trip is going to be a fun family outing (particularly with regular stops) with awkward access to the rear of a 2-door car.
One nice creature comfort is heat-venting windows. After reaching Mornington, my brother and I ventured down the street for lunch, a quick paddle in the water at the beach and an ice cream on the street for dessert. During the 1-2hours we were parked, the car heated up.
Approaching the car, I unlocked it, then held the unlock button on the remote for 5 seconds which puts the windows down to allow the hot air to vent from the vehicle, making it more comfortable when you jump back in. This is a really smart feature that I wish more cars had and one that helped cement the final decision on the Mustang as a road tripper. The other methods to keep you comfortable is heated and cooled front seats as well as a single ‘Max auto’ button for the air conditioner. Both combine to rapidly cool you down on a hot day and the seats, in particular, were a very efficient way to keep your body temperature regulated.
All things considered, there’s many pros and a few cons, but when I reached home last night, I reflected on the day and how the car performed on our Australia Day road trip. I think the Mustang is a great car (for the right people) for a road trip like ours. The car proved itself to be fun when you want through its transformer-like drive modes, plenty of power, an amazingly addictive exhaust note that turns heads and enough on offer to make you smile, made bigger as you roll into your garage and see the projected pony convenience lighting on your concrete floor.