Tuesday, September 23, 2014
09/14 Dragon Run: Mustang, One And Done?
This was the first road trip for my Mustang: a bit under 1600 miles, including 400 miles to, from, and on the Tail of the Dragon. I had reservations about the Mustang there: weight and size. It turned out to be fun.
The steering feel improves closer to the limit and I enjoyed winding lock in and out on the switchbacks. It's fun to use the torque in a rear-driver to rotate the car. And it's a fine Lazy Man's Car: my passes were entirely in 2nd gear. There's enough grunt at 2500 r.p.m. to pull strongly out of low speed corners. And 2nd tops out a bit over 70 m.p.h.: plenty enough for the few short straights. The Dragon is more enjoyable in a convertible, especially when you get held up. Just relax and enjoy the scenery.
The downsides are what you might imagine: weight and suspension. The car felt as heavy as it is. After a couple of passes I no longer noticed nose-dive under braking. But lack of agility and body roll are never far out-of-mind. On southbound passes, in tight banked corners that quickly flattened into an uphill, I heard the limited-slip go "cht-cht-cht" as the clutches tried to make sense of the rapidly changing available grip. That never happens in normal road use. (And the Torsen l.s.d. in my Civic Si just locks up and goes until you back out of the gas.)
Surprisingly, the Mustang's large size was not off-putting. I had no trouble keeping it in my lane and even hugging the white line to avoid the heavy oncoming traffic. Again, props to the steering feel when lock is cranked in. I wasn't pressing as hard as when I'm in the Si. It did feel like all that weight could get away from me if I did.
The biggest disappointment was the Mustang as a road trip car. To put it the other way, I've been taking the Si for granted. The Mustang's ride is harsh and clunky, not firm and controlled like the Si's. (I would willingly put up with harshness if it delivered killer handling, but it doesn't.) The harsh ride made the trunk spring squeak. On Interstates the Mustang wanders if you don't hold it in-lane. Take your eyes off the road for a few seconds in the Si, and it's still where you'd placed it when you look up again. The 'Stang has found a white line on one side of the lane or the other.
The Mustang's ergonomics could be a lot better. I've grown accustomed to the Si's digital speedometer display almost in your field of view as you look ahead. The Si's tach is centered behind the steering wheel. In the Mustang, you need to take your eyes off the road to read the speedo. The Civic has good-sized door pockets and cubbyholes in the center stack. You're never at a loss for places to put your sunglasses, camera, pen and pad, cigarettes, lighter, and coins. The Mustang's driver door pocket is full when you've put sunglasses and tissues there. The audio and ventilation controls consume the center stack, and you must take your eyes off the road longer and further to adjust them than in the Civic. The Mustang's center stack bumps my right knee. Maneuvering a CD into the changer past the radar detector power cord is near-impossible. The power outlet in the Si is below the center stack and offset: no problem. Most of these gripes are a result of Ford giving the Mustang a "retro look" dashboard (the styling of which I do like).
There isn't much to choose between noise levels, which is high in both cars. In the Mustang, you get road and wind noise; in the Si, engine noise. The seats in both are uncomfortable after several hours behind the wheel--but in different ways. Nor is there much to choose between them in gas mileage: the Mustang gets 25-27 and the Si gets 28-30. The Mustang's mileage is impressive for a 4.6 liter engine, and the lovely V-8 and excellent Tremec 5-speed behind it remain my favorite features of the car.
I'm glad I took the Mustang to the Dragon. But the Si is more fun in hard passes.