A Mustang to Mahabaleshwar
This American muscle car can do what its finer European counterparts can’t: cruise Indian roads without ripping out the underbodybrunch Updated: Jun 16, 2018 23:45 IST
From Mumbai, there are two ways to get to Mahabaleshwar, the popular hill station perched 4,500 feet high in the Western Ghats. The preferred route for most holiday goers is via Pune which, though longer, is an easier drive because the road is a smooth dual carriageway for most of the way. You don’t have the stress of overtaking on a single lane road and dodging oncoming traffic, unlike the other way up to Mahabaleshwar, which is via the Goa highway or NH17. Also, this coastal road is pretty narrow and there are no proper amenities for you to take a break along the way.
But for anyone who loves to drive, NH17 rewards you with undulating terrain that cuts through the picturesque Konkan countryside. The highlight of this scenic route is the last 40km, which is a dash up the Ambenali Ghat after branching off the highway at Poladpur.
There is very little traffic on this road, which makes it an ideal spot to safely put any car through its paces. Over the years I’ve driven all sorts of delectable cars, from Porsches to Lamborghinis on this delectable piece of tarmac. But the one that’s put the biggest smile on my face isn’t a German or Italian exotic but an American muscle car.
The Ford Mustang simply bowled me over with its old-school charm. It doesn’t pretend to have the finesse or build quality of its finely engineered German rivals and in fact, is pretty low tech in comparison. But neither is there anything like the Mustang’s 5-litre engine to stir your soul. This big and brawny V8 engine, which cocks a snook at political correctness in a world that is moving to smaller, eco-friendly engines, is the core of the car’s appeal and, despite a modest power output of 401hp, offers lots to savour.
For starters, the sound of the Ford V8 is fantastic. At low revs it has an angry rumble, which crescendos to a loud, throaty growl in the cool mountain air. Bouncing off the rock cliffs, the exhaust note is amplified and reverberates through the valley like thunder, prompting villagers to come out and see this yellow projectile zipping by. And boy does it zip. Whilst the Mustang is happy to sedately cruise down NH17 like any normal sedan, burying the throttle pedal into the carpet elicits a savage response. Acceleration is pretty intense and this rather long and wide ‘pony car’ can be a bit of a handful on a tight and twisty mountain road. You have to grab it by the scruff of its neck to hurl it through the rapid fire succession of corners before the final approach to Mahabaleshwar.
Drive like a pro
The steering isn’t particularly precise or sharp by today’s sports car standards but the beauty of the Mustang is in how forgiving it is to drive. In fact, you don’t need to be doing silly speeds to pivot the tail out and the ease with which you can balance the Mustang through corners makes you feel like a pro. It’s incredibly comfortable for a sports car too with a well-calibrated suspension that takes bumps and the odd pothole in its stride. If there is one sports car that can cruise the length and breadth of the country without fear of ripping out its underbody, it’s this one.
This car has an angry rumble, which crescendos to a loud, throaty growl in the cool mountain air
The cabin is where Ford has saved a lot of dollars by using scratchy plastics and cheap materials which is at odds with the rest of the car’s enticing character. There’s no stinting on practicality though, and you get a decent sized boot, a large glovebox and lots of cubbyholes. And of course, no American car is complete without XXL size cup holders.
All its foibles aside, the Mustang drips with character and for that charismatic V8 alone it’s worth the relatively modest ~ 75 lakh asking price.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
From HT Brunch, June 17, 2018
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First Published: Jun 16, 2018 21:55 IST