When you think of great driving destinations, Uttar Pradesh is probably the last place to cross the mind. Anyone who has been to this quintessentially Indian state would probably know that even in a taxi it can be a frustrating experience; the traffic is deadly, the pot-holed roads are deadlier, all the honking is like a symphony that reaches a rhythmic climax as you approach busy junctions and worst of all, the traffic cops, more often than not, are royally ignored.
So what better car to drive from Varanasi to the capital city Lucknow than the truly iconic Ford Mustang. Yes, the traffic was bad at times and yes, the roads were too broken for any sensible human to want to drive this long-nose, low-slung muscle car (we did, anyway). All said and done, it was a lot of fun… and who said we were sensible?
One look at the Mustang is all it takes to comprehend why it’s such a celebrated piece of motoring the world over. Even though it borrows from its classic look of the 1960s, the Mustang totally nails it when it comes to preserving that classic coupe stance and merging it with modern-day design cues. The proportions are spot on and so it the homage to the original Pony car, with signature Mustang elements like the long bonnet, the unmistakable shark-bite grille and those triple-strip taillights.
Inside, Ford has gone ahead with a look that clearly nods to the past, marrying an old-school dash design with plenty of modern materials and metallic accents. The air vents and the dials, for instance, look pretty much the same as ones in the earlier Mustangs. Sadly, there are some hard surfaces and plasticky bits that take gloss off the overall appeal – details such as the steering wheel buttons and plastic toggles on the center console cannot disguise the Mustang’s blue-collar roots.
What’s made the Mustang so appealing isn’t its tire-shredding performance, but its broad range of capabilities. Having driven it on the BIC last year, we have established that it’s great on a race track (you can read about it here). Now to see if it’s as good a road car on our 300-odd km drive from Varanasi to Lucknow.
It’s five in the morning and I have beaten the alarm. However, it’s well after 7pm that we get to grips with the Mustang and leave for Lucknow. Heading out of Varanasi, driving through the outskirts is pretty uneventful as the elevation is flat and the roads are properly dusty. There are plenty of diversions and roads under constant construction.
About an hour into the drive, things start to get prettier. Dusty roads make way for some typical countryside vistas flanked by decades-old farm houses and fields of yellow. The road to National Highway 19 which felt narrow before, tightens even further. I was initially skeptical about the Mustang’s mettle for the task before it: too wide, too low with simply too much power for these single lane roads. To my surprise, the Mustang felt at home within minutes after getting behind the wheel. First off, the driving position is simply great and there is vastly better visibility than what I was foreseeing.
The V8 motor, of course, is the definitive charm of the Mustang GT and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The 5-litre Coyote V8, in fact, fires up with purpose before burbling away on light to medium throttle. It picks up revs relatively cleanly, building speed gradually as you head towards its 6,500rpm peak power. What becomes exceedingly apparent is that the Mustang is one machine that can get you into trouble easily. Despite the strong top-end grunt, it picks up speed in a surprisingly linear manner. You don’t realize how fast you are going until you glance at the speedo or notice the vehicles shrinking rather quickly in the rearview mirror. We never felt the need for more straight-line grunt for sure. That said, we would certainly like more volume out of those exhaust tips – on light to medium throttle, the Mustang is surprisingly quiet though it is at its songful best when properly floored.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the compliance with which the Mustang muscled through the shockingly bad roads we encountered throughout the drive. The ride quality in fact was eminently comfortable despite the low profile tyres and the stiff suspension. The Mustang rides on non-adjustable dampers, so even though we switched between various drive modes (Normal, Sport+ and Track) to alter engine and gearbox response, we couldn’t firm up or soften the suspension.
Complaints? Hardly. It may not be as sharp to drive or as well put together as its European rivals but the fact remains that the Mustang offers cracking value. And as we eventually figured after driving it over broken roads all day without fatigue, the Mustang impresses as a bona fide grand tourer as well.
Pictures by: Ameya Dandekar