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Ford Mustang 2021 review: GT Fastback auto

Mustang is still king of the kids for muscle cars. As long as it's a manual.
EXPERT RATING
6.8
The Mustang automatic has not been the critical darling that the manual is. Dithery, sometimes clunky, it's not great in the four-cylinder. But with a few years behind it and an MY21 update, perhaps Ford has ironed out the kinks in the self-shifter's character.

Sometimes it's worth sitting back and thinking about things we thought would never happen. Good things, I mean, not pandemics and a series of presidential elections around the world that are more akin to giving up on sanity than actually electing sentient, sensible humans to important positions.

For most of my car-loving life, I'd have put good money on the Ford Mustang never being built in right-hand drive and offered all over the world, despite the obvious money-printing opportunities. Nor did I think that when it did arrive it would go around corners with reasonable talent, and feature the option of a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine 

Nor that it would ever have an automatic transmission. With 10 whole gears for the electronic brain to choose from. That was a bit of a chin-scratcher from the get-go, because not even Lexus could make one of those work. I've only had the chance to drive the 10-speed Mustang in four-cylinder guise, and I was not impressed. 

With the recent MY21 release, Ford graciously offered me the chance to spend a week in an automatic V8. I was hoping the different characteristics of the engine and a bit more experience with the 10 speed since it launched would yield better results.

Ford Mustang 2021: GT 5.0 V8
Safety rating
Engine Type5.0L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency13L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$51,200

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Starting at $67,390 for the GT Fastback, you're getting the right Mustang. The four-cylinder is fine - I guess - but it's missing that important emotional sound of the V8 that, to be fair, the original release of this bodyshape suffered from,   back in 2015 (when it was less than $50,000 ). This car had the optional automatic, which is a $3000 impost.

In 2021, your money gets you 19-inch alloy wheels, a 12-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, reversing camera, active cruise control, heated and ventilated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights with active high beam, partial leather seats (although the wheel and shifter are leather), 12.0-inch digital dashboard, heated and folding door mirrors, auto wipers and a tyre-repair kit.

  • Up front are auto LED headlights with active high beam. Up front are auto LED headlights with active high beam.
  • The GT wears 19-inch alloy wheels. The GT wears 19-inch alloy wheels.
  • There's a 12.0-inch digital dashboard. There's a 12.0-inch digital dashboard.
  • The Mustang is fitted with a tyre-repair kit. The Mustang is fitted with a tyre-repair kit.

Ford's SYNC3 is housed on an 8.0-inch touchscreen in the dash and has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and 12 speakers to fill the snug cabin with sound/try to overcome the lovely racket of the V8.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen features Ford's SYNC3, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8.0-inch touchscreen features Ford's SYNC3, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Our car was loaded up with $650 stripes, a $750 high-rise spoiler, $3000 Recaro seats (which ditch the heating and cooling) and a vivid yellow optional colour for $650 that I still can see when I close my eyes. Eight of the 10 available colours are an extra $650. You can also option Magneride suspension ($2750) and lightweight forged alloys ($2500).

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Since its MY19 update, where some nips and tucks sharpened up the exterior design, Ford's designers have been sent off to do other things rather than keep tinkering. The first tinker was very successful, so no need to break it. It's a beautifully proportioned car and hits all the right muscle-car cues with a long, low bonnet, cab-rearward stance and big wheels and tyres. I can't recommend this yellow colour unless you have regular power outages and want a free light source. 

The Mustang's exterior has received the nip and tuck treatment. The Mustang's exterior has received the nip and tuck treatment.

The interior remains largely unchanged since 2019 as well. Thankfully that was a big improvement on the 2015 car, which was full of cheap plastics, chintzy switchgear and a distinct whiff of cost-cutting. We get what is known as the "expert" interior, which is probably a typo of "export" because international markets are not as patient with rubbish interiors as  American buyers. 

The interior remains largely unchanged since 2019. The interior remains largely unchanged since 2019.

The digital dash is a highlight, with its various configurable layouts that will suit just about any preference.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

Starting out behind, you have a 408 litre boot with a 50/50 split for longer loads, which is pretty good going for a sports coupe. There aren't many cars of this bearing that can actually take you and your things on a road trip. Or even fit the weekly shop.

  • There's 408 litres of boot space. There's 408 litres of boot space.
  • The 50/50 split rear seats can be folded flat. The 50/50 split rear seats can be folded flat.

The rear seats are pitiful in that you have to be very short, very patient and happy in enclosed spaces to agree to spend time back there. They're fine for an around-the-block trip, I guess, but most of the Mustang's rivals (as far as there are any) sensibly ditch the rear seats.

The rear seats are only fine for an around-the-block trips. The rear seats are only fine for an around-the-block trips.

Up front you have comfortable seats that aren't squidgy as they were in 2015, or the optional Recaros like the car I had. Since I last drove one, I've been on a fitness kick and have subsequently found these seats less comfortable than before. I am not, as the kids say, ripped, but a small increase in the width of my shoulders rendered the seatback too narrow. I repeat - I'm not big, so these seats are for very narrow people. Tall folks will enjoy plenty of space in the Mustang, more so with the standard seats, which are heated and cooled.

The optional Recaro seats cost an extra $3000. The optional Recaro seats cost an extra $3000.

The long doors will take a small bottle each and the tiny centre-console box will take a few odds and ends.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Ford continues to fit the lovely Coyote V8. From its 5.0 litres you get 339kW at 7000rpm and 556Nm at 4600rpm.

This car had the 10-speed automatic, which drives the rear wheels.

The 5.0-litre V8 produces 339kW/556Nm. The 5.0-litre V8 produces 339kW/556Nm.

There is not much in the way of high-tech cleverness, it's a classic Ford V8.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

Ford says you'll get 12.7L/100km running on 98 RON premium through the official combined-cycle tests. I've rarely gone too far over and this week featured a little more than usual highway running. I got an indicated 11.7L/100km during my week with it, which is why I mention the higher-than-usual highway use. So 12.7 seems about right if you don't get too ambitious.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   5/10

You may recall something of a blue a few years ago when ANCAP gave the Mustang just two stars, later updating it to three when Ford added some extra safety features. That happened in 2018 and that rating stands. The list is still pretty skinny when you compare it to Euro-sourced - even Thai-sourced - Fords and remains the subject of debate  to this day.

The Mustang arrives with eight airbags (including knee airbags for driver and front passenger), ABS, stability and traction controls, AEB with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.

The AEB works at high and low-speeds and the pedestrian detection works in low-light conditions and between 5km/h and 80km/h.

There are two top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points for the baby seats.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Ford offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing, the first four services of which come around every 12 months/15,000km.

Each of the first four services is just $299 and includes an extension to state motoring organisation membership for up to seven years for roadside assistance. You can also book a free loan car. All of that together is uncommon,  unless you're a Lexus or Genesis owner.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

There are many things that are fun about a V8 Mustang. For a start, it makes a great noise when you start it. People love to look at it, which I know a lot of people enjoy. And a lot of people will look at you when it's this yellow.

The V8 is a cracker of an engine, smoothly building power all the way to the redline and cheerfully finding itself there with a push of the long throttle pedal. 

I've never really liked the steering much. It feels a bit filtered, or even woolly,  and is quite heavy. But the big steering wheel is part of the Mustang's DNA and it kind of feels right, at least the bit about it being heavy. Step out of a Mustang and into, say, a Focus, and the difference is quite stark, with a lot more effort required for steering, brakes and throttle.

Ya gotta manhandle it, is the long and the short of it. If you're just cruising along, it's very straightforward but when you're out to have some fun, part of that fun is the need to put your back into it. Again, very muscle car.

There are many fun things about a V8 Mustang. There are many fun things about a V8 Mustang.

Not very muscle car is the 10-speed automatic transmission. I was chatting to a friend about it and he likened it to a smorgasboard - everything at once, wracked with indecision. The poor old 10 speed that wasn't very good in the four-cylinder turbo still isn't very good in the V8. It's no worse, but the problems are magnified by the different power delivery.

The automatic is very keen to skip gears and you'll find yourself in an absurdly high gear long before you need it. You can use the paddles to get the gear you want, but you might find yourself having to drop - and I'm not joking - six or seven gears. The response to the paddles is a little on the tardy side, too. It's absolutely no match for the manual, which itself could do with a different set of ratios.

If you're not that interested in having fun and just want to cruise, the automatic will do you fine. Ten gears is excessive, though, and doesn't really deliver a startling improvement in economy that you might expect from four extra gears compared to the manual. I guess I'm telling you not to expect miracles but that the automatic Mustang is fine for cruising.

At highway speeds, the ride is terrific and it is a very comfortable traveller. I remember saying to my wife on a bombing run to the Blue Mountains from Sydney that the V8 climbed the hills in eighth gear without drama and was rock solid in 10th gear on the M4. You could hear the V8 the whole way and that's intrinsic - necessary, even - to the experience. Happily, if it matters, the auto does drop 0.3 seconds from the 0-100km/h time, but it's not so amazing that you'd notice.

Verdict

Once I'd made my peace with the fact that it wasn't nearly as much fun as the manual, I enjoyed the slower pace of this car and just drove. The Mustang's score is badly hurt by the safety rating, lack of more advanced features and I had to mark it down on the automatic, because it's just not worthy of the Mustang. A trip to ZF for the eight-speed might be worth the extra few bucks.

It still needs a better interior and the back seat is what it is. It looks great, though, and the naturally aspirated bellow is second to very, very few. The auto V8 isn't my choice but if you want a bit of noise and muscle-car style without the classic hassles of an ancient Ford or Holden, this is still the car of the moment. And thankfully, if you're willing, the manual is so much better.

Pricing guides

$83,494
Based on 82 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$58,868
Highest Price
$140,000

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.3 Gtdi 2.3L, ULP, 10 SP AUTO $48,600 – 61,490 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 2.3 Gtdi Pricing and Specs
GT 5.0 V8 5.0L, PULP, 10 SP AUTO $60,200 – 76,120 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 GT 5.0 V8 Pricing and Specs
2.3 Gtdi 2.3L, ULP, 10 SP AUTO $42,900 – 54,890 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 2.3 Gtdi Pricing and Specs
GT 5.0 V8 5.0L, PULP, 10 SP AUTO $53,600 – 67,760 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 GT 5.0 V8 Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality6
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Safety5
Ownership8
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$58,868

Lowest price, based on 93 car listings in the last 6 months

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