Pony Love

by Petrol Mum
Ford Mustang California Special

This is not your traditional love story between a girl and her pony. The girl is my daughter and the Pony is the Ford Mustang. It all started back in 2019 when I first reviewed a Mustang and blossomed in 2020 when my daughter named the Ford Mustang R-Spec as her ‘Car of the Year’.

She repeated the accolade in 2021 for the Mustang Mach 1 and the only reason the Mustang was not her COTY in 2022 was because I didn’t drive one that year. Instead, she gave her COTY to the Ford Ranger Wildtrak ute instead. I was instructed that I had to drive a Mustang this year, and it turned out to be this California Special that was introduced into the 2022 Mustang range. Spoiler alert this will be her COTY in 2023 as well.

This is because my daughter is head-over-heels in love with the Mustang, it’s not just a passing fancy, but rather a love that I feel will last a lifetime. Case in point, the Mustang was sitting in our driveway and she said to me “Mum, just look at it, it’s the most beautiful car in the world.” This was at the end of the week that I had driven the McLaren Artura and Lamborghini Huracán STO mind you. Looks are subjective and we largely can’t control what we love so I completely get this statement from her, even if I don’t completely agree with it. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the look of the Mustang, but just not as much as my daughter does.

My predilection in cars may have changed over the years, but as a young girl the car I loved most of all was the 1978 Corvette Stingray and still to this day, I look at them with misty eyed nostalgia and affection. What has always interested me is why do we fall in love with a particular car? And why haven’t car companies invested millions of dollars into the study of this to find out, so that they can tap into that emotion to create long-term brand loyalty? If a car company could bottle the magic that my daughter sees in the Mustang and spread it about then sales would be almost guaranteed many years into the future.

But enough about love, let’s talk about this Mustang instead. The California Special is the last special edition to be offered for the sixth-generation Mustang before the much anticipated seventh-gen Mustang lobs onto Australian shores in early 2024. It offers only cosmetic changes to the Mustang that imitate the 1968 original California version. These include a unique upper and lower honeycomb grille and GT/CS branded stripes down the side of the body with stylised side scoops. At the rear of the Mustang the GT/CS faux gas cap is instantly recognisable from the rear and differentiates the California Special from other models and the California Special Fastbacks are equipped with a Single Wing Rear Spoiler as well.

This Mustang is a classic rear-wheel drive, V8-powered muscle car with a six-speed manual gearbox. Press the start button and the V8 engine rumbles to life before settling to a gentle hum at idle. The 5.0 litre naturally aspirated V8 engine felt ‘lopey’ after driving the two aforementioned supercars, but it was certainly nice to use my left foot again on the clutch pedal. The engine produces 339kW of power @ 7,000rpm and 556Nm of torque @ 4,600rpm. If you chase the 7,400rpm red line you are rewarded with a great V8 noise from quad exhaust and some wiggle from the rear tyres. The official combined fuel consumption is 13.0L/100km for the manual version of the Mustang and for my weekend of fun I used 14.3L/100km.

There are five drive modes to choose from Normal, Sport+, Track, Drag Strip and Snow/Wet. The ride quality is OK in Normal mode, but a bit rough in Sport+ mode. The Mustang also gives you the option to configure your preferred settings for exhaust, steering and suspension under ‘My Mode’. Once you are happy with your set-up you hold down OK to save it and then you simply select My Mode when you get in the car. Or for quick set-up changes you simply press the Mustang button on the steering wheel to access the set-up options.

The 12” digital driver’s instrument cluster appearance is configurable with many different colours to choose from; my favourite was Race Track with the rpm indicated across the top of the dash and digital speedo. The Mustang also has Track Apps including Acceleration timer, Brake performance, Lap Timer and Start Options these include Auto, Drag Strip with Countdown and Race Track with Countdown.

The sport seats in the California Special Mustang are trimmed in Miko suede with embossed GT/CS branding on the driver and passenger seats. The driver’s seat has power adjustment for forward/back, seat height front and rear and two-way lumbar support and manual recline adjustment and the passenger seat is the same apart from missing out on the two-way lumbar support. Both front seats are heated and cooled, but the latter is noisy when in use.

The California Special retains the same older style 8″ central touch screen found in the standard Mustang and this incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. There is a storage ledge at the front of the centre console for your phone, but this is not very deep, and here there is one USB-A port and one 12V socket. There is an additional USB-A port and 12V socket under the arm rest with another smallish storage cubby. Media sources include AM/FM, DAB, Bluetooth and still a CD player. Voice control is activated by pressing the button on the steering wheel with a masculine looking silhouette on it and this functionality worked well for me when I used it to make phone calls, change the radio station and set a destination on the sat nav.

With my children getting older I now describe 2+2 coupes like the Mustang as a three seater because the passenger seat can be slid forward so there is just enough for a rear passenger to sit behind them. But headroom is very tight thanks to the sloping roofline, so the rear passenger’s head will most likely be touching the rear screen glass or be tilted to the side. There are two ISOFix/two rear tether child seat restraint points, but you would need to carefully select a car seat that fits due to the sculptured nature of the rear seats and the limited height available.  

The boot of the Mustang is a large, but awkwardly shaped for lifting items in and out of. The boot lid has power assisted manual opening and can be opened from the button under the boot lid, on the key fob or in the cabin. There is a tyre repair kit located under the boot floor and the rear seats have a 50:50 split folding mechanism if extra space is required.

The Ford Mustang has a 3-star ANCAP (2017) safety rating with an Adult Occupant Protection score of 27.66 points out of 38 (72%) and a Child Occupant Protection score of 15.79 points out of 49 (32%). Eight airbags are fitted to the Mustang including driver and passenger front, side impact, side curtain and knee.

The Mustang has a Lane Departure Warning System with Lane Keep Assist, standard cruise control, a standard rear-view camera with rear sensors only and autonomous emergency braking. ANCAP tests of the autonomous emergency braking system at highways speeds found this functionality performed well with collisions avoided or mitigated in almost every test speed and scenario. Overall, the ANCAP Safety Assist score for the Mustang is 61%. For convenience you also get auto lights and auto wipers.

All new Ford vehicles sold in Australia receive a 5 years/unlimited kilometre warranty. The service interval for the Mustang is 12 months or every 15,000km, whichever occurs first and the most an eligible customer will pay is $329 for the first four general services for up to 4 years or 60,000kms. By servicing through the Ford dealer network, you also receive 12 months State Auto Club membership and Roadside Assistance.

Ford Mustang California Special sunset

The sun may be setting on the sixth-generation Ford Mustang, but the seventh-generation will be arriving soon in Australia. My daughter has already requested that I book in a new Mustang for her Year 6 formal, so the Mustang love will continue in our family for some time to come. The Ford Mustang California Special in the manual transmission is priced from $67,290 excluding on-road costs. Visit you preferred Ford dealer for more information.

My daughter’s unwavering love for the MustangThe operation of the cooled seats is noisy
The sound of the V8 engineRoom in the rear seats is limited
The customisation of the driver’s dashThree-star ANCAP safety rating

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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