Mustang Challenge | S550 Review Halfway Through | Connor


Connor’s take on the S550 Mustang, after 4000 miles (half way through).[You’re reading part of the Mustang Challenge series, a loosely bound concept that was created to inspire others to get out and explore the country in their cars. In this Mustang Challenge, two Canadians are touring the USA for the first time, traveling for 26 days through 13 different US cities while traversing over 8,000 miles behind the wheel of a 2016 Mustang GT. This is one post in a series of many. To read the previous articles and to follow the series, jump to the bottom of this page.]

It’s been 14 days since we departed Philadelphia. In that time frame we’ve driven 4236 miles, spent 80 hours behind the wheel, crossed through 9 states (making sure to pick up a Powerball ticket from each one) and pumped roughly 189 gallons of gas through our 5.0L V8 (fuel economy, according to the trip computer, is an average of 22.4 mpg).

How is the Mustang holding up so far? In one word: great. Apart from our initial flat front tire fiasco (both front tires went flat 90 miles outside Philly because the valve stems broke), the ‘Stang has been working flawlessly since.

The only known problem we departed with was, according to Andrew, the bluetooth sync feature with the radio would cut out after a few hours of use, and in order to re-connect, the battery cable would actually have to be disconnected to reset the system. We have been playing music nonstop via our phones (an iPhone and Galaxy, respectively) and have not encountered this issue one time. Thus likely it is an issue with Andrew’s cell phone and not the car or SYNC software.

Otherwise, it’s been a fantastic journey so far. The Mustang has done everything asked of it, and not complained once. With the V8 upfront and the short-shifting MT-82 6speed, every on ramp is met with full throttle. We get thrown back, the car squats and hurtles forward – this exhilarating feeling is something I doubt we will ever tire from. Equipped with the performance package, this 2016 S550 has massive Brembo calipers, and as such, has great braking capability. Used to slower, less sensitive cars, we often find ourselves nose diving in traffic as the brakes react to the slightest touch of the pedal – almost telepathic engagement.

Clutch feel is good. Not too light, nor too heavy. Easy to operate in and out of traffic, but also has enough heft to it to remind you that it is connecting 435 horsepower to the transmission. The 6-speed MT-82 gearbox works pretty well. Shifts are very close together and overall pretty smooth (I think the old T5’s actually are smoother), however occasionally, particularly when cold, there is a notchy feeling when attempting to shift. Back in 2011 when the Coyote and MT-82 were originally released, this was a major complaint, that when cold, the MT-82 was hard to shift. At the time, Ford specified a special additive to get rid of the problem. I would have figured by 2016 it would be completely eradicated, but on several occasions, both Alex and myself have had some trouble getting into first gear when just starting out for the day. After several miles of driving the issue disappeared and shifting went back to normal. Nothing crazy, just mildly inconvenient.

This car was done up by MMD for the 2016 American Muscle car show (it was sitting in the MMD booth) and features mostly aesthetic mods in addition to the exhaust. This car, as equipped by MMD, now sports dual side exit exhaust, spitting out fumes and noise from two rectangular tips (per side) just aft of each door. This system is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it sounds absolutely phenomenal. Thunderous sound when accelerating in conjunction with vicious popping and crackling on decel makes everyone turn their heads and give us a thumbs up. On the other hand, even at highway speed (turning 2000-2400 RPM) the droning burble can become tiresome, especially given the long hours we sit behind the wheel. As such, we have developed a simple solution. In the city, windows down, no A/C. Soon as we hit the freeway though, windows go up and A/C is engaged. In a perfect world, I’d prefer something a little quieter for all the long hauls that we are doing.

Aesthetically, our Mustang has been decked out with quarter panel side scoops, a trunk lid spoiler, trunk face blackout kit, a GT350 front splitter and grille inserts and some additional finds on the rear valence. All together, it makes this particular Mustang look very sinister, a consensus derived from all the public feedback we get. It is nearly impossible to escape any of the gas stations we stop at without at least one person complimenting and coming over to us to discuss the car. It certainly draws attention, both visually and acoustically.

Then there are the street racers. We get revved and hollered at all the time to light up the tires. Often times it’s a Challenger wanting us to give them a run, but we’ve had a few turbo Genesis’ (ha, good luck) attempt to goad us into a race too, even a P71 Crown Vic attempted to roll out when we pulled even with him on the interstate (nice try, officer). We are certainly flattered by all this attention but nonetheless, we always politely decline these ticketable situations. Street racing is very un-Canadian.

Spending countless days in the cabin, we are both cosy up front. The cloth bucket seats, with their considerable bolster, are occasionally annoying when we want to sprawl out, but for the most part are very comfortable. I’m easily able to snooze in them. The driving layout is great for us too. With the seat all the way back, the armrests are in the perfect position for us to relax, with the shifter and wheel easy to hold and manipulate one handed. The backseat is full of day stuff (things we need access to every day), and the trunk holds the rest (it too is completely full). Not much room to spare, but this is a muscle car – they aren’t intended to be luxurious long range cruisers (which is exactly what we’re using it for, makes total sense, right?! If we didn’t use objects outside of their intended use, how could we complain about them?).

Overall, it’s a great car. Pretty comfortable to cruise in, offers adequate space, and the Coyote upfront just lopes, eating mile after mile as if it were no big deal. The Mustang is presently due for an oil change, and this is something we unfortunately will have to stretch until we get to Los Angeles, a hefty 20 hour drive away. My Focus wagon can definitely accommodate more luggage, but I think that is the only advantage it has over this S550 (oh, and fuel efficiency, but a 10+ second 0-60mph is no fun). Otherwise, I think Alex and I would be considerably worse off had we taken that rust bucket. So cheers to Andrew for thinking a Mustang-Focus swap would be a great idea. It certainly was for us. Poor sop must be miserable by now.

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