9000 miles, 155 hours behind the wheel, 29 days, 23 states and 13 cities. Yup, it’s finally time for us to hand back the keys of the 2016 S550 GT that Andrew loaned us for what probably should go down in history as the craziest, most nonsensical transaction to have ever have taken place.
[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.]
The Focus is looking as beat as ever, and with Andrew looking on (happy his Mustang is back in mostly one piece), it is with a sad silence that Alex and I pack up to head home, our grand US adventure having reached the end.
Despite only showing a travel time of 7 hours, the upcoming drive back to Canada would surely be the most miserable yet. By this point, the air conditioning refrigerant had mostly certainly all leaked out of the Focus, but more depressing than the uncomfortably sweaty ride that we were about to endure was the imminent, looming reality that awaited us back home. Fun time was over and very shortly we’d be stepping back into the real world, the adult world of serious jobs, serious commitments and serious responsibilities – all of which sounds seriously not fun. Alas, the grim world of adulthood does offer us a slim glimpse of hope. For with a real job typically comes a real salary, and it is within this prospect of attaining a proper salary does a sliver of of salvation emerge.
Considering the power and performance you get with the latest gen Mustang GT’s, $35,000-$40,000 for such a muscle car is a steal. Nonetheless, 35k is still 35k, and that is 35k I presently do not have. However, entering the work force should soon solve this problem, and a new Mustang GT will be on the top of my purchase list. And for this reason, I am actually somewhat excited to go back home. Excited to start working, to start earning some money and excited to purchase my own Mustang.
Yep, the car really is that good
After spending the equivalent of 6.5 days (which was 22% of our entire trip) in one of the two front seats, I have only one bone to pick with our Mustang – the side pipes are not ideal for the 9000 miles we drove. The raw sound is great, but 8 hours of it a day would annoy just about anyone. Other than this, the Mustang was a great vehicle to road trip in. In fact, it was better than great. Superb, fantastic, brilliant, splendid, marvelous – I could go on and on.
The two of us, both just over 6’0 tall fit very comfortably in the front. Leg room was never a problem, nor was head room (can’t say the same for the back seat, but we never had to sit there) and even after a full day of driving, we experienced no cramps or muscle tightness. The ergonomics of the interior was great. All controls and buttons were in easy reach of our “relaxed” long-haul driving position (aka, gangster lean) and the SYNC media system worked magnificently with each of our phones. The space in the trunk, combined with the back seat, provided adequate volume to shove all of our gear. Truthfully, I think we actually over packed. We probably could have reduced each of our suitcases by 30%, respectively, and gotten along fine. We also brought along a camping-style portable BBQ. Before departing, we thought it was a great idea and we’d be using it all the time to cook us some killer meals. In reality, we only used it twice. Once in New Orleans to cook these awful frozen burgers we bought from Walmart (our resourcefulness impressed a couple of German girls that were staying at the same hostel), and then I fired it up for the second time in Long Beach, cooking myself a steak. Anyway, with some precision packing, we got everything to fit just fine without ever having to slam the trunk closed. Us and all of our gear were carried in comfort. Pretty impressive for a muscle car.
Then, of course, there is the drive train. The V8 Coyote upfront made cruising effortless, responding with enough grunt even in 6th to make downshifting necessary for only the most aggressive passing. Our MT82 transmission, as previously noted, shifted very smoothly (and with very short throws between the gates) for the most part, with occasional stiffness when the car was first being driven for the day. With 3.73’s turning round in the 8.8 out back, we were turning a hair over 2000 RPM with the cruise control set at 70 MPH in 6th gear. The cruise control programming is sensitive enough that I was able to maintain vehicle separation and manage passing with ease. Rarely did I have to hit the brake or accelerator pedal – using the control keys on the steering wheel worked just fine for the majority of the time. I also particularly liked the “memory” of the cruise control, meaning if I had to disengage it or momentarily change speed for whatever reason, our last programmed speed would remain in memory and it was one touch of a button to resume back to the speed (in comparison, the Focus, after disengaging and re-engaging cruise, needs to be accelerated or decelerated manually to the desired speed and the cruise set again – mind you, it is a 12 year difference in technology).
Fuel economy was routinely between 22-25 mpg for each individual leg of our trip, and over all the entire 9000 miles traveled, we averaged 22.9 miles to the gallon. By no means is this hybrid level fuel economy, but considering most of the time our cruising speed was at or close to 80 (and a capability of running from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds), I feel 22.9 mpg is pretty good, all things considered.
An Exterior that Garners Attention
Of course we had a ton of fun mashing the go pedal, but perhaps the real money maker is the exterior. Painted a Ruby Red, our Mustang was further done up by the boys at Modern Muscle Design (MMD) including full-length quarter panel side scoops, side window louvers, a rear windshield valence, deck lid spoiler and an extended front chin splitter. All combined, it brought a certain uniqueness to our Mustang (which is already a good looking car) that turned heads wherever we went.
It was a pleasure to drive the Mustang, not only for the performance underfoot, but for the conversations it started at the gas stations, for all the thumbs up we got whilst driving, and perhaps most flattering of all, for all the other drivers that wanted to race (we never indulged them, however). It is important to never let an object define your personality, but having the Mustang made for an easy ice-breaker, no matter who we were talking to. Turns out, pretty much everyone knows what a Mustang is, and everyone is happy to talk about them! (those that didn’t, we quickly showed them. i.e: our Irish hitchhiker). Young and old, male or female, people flocked to the car at every stop. The Mustang really is America’s iconic car. Strength and power define this Mustang, but it is also subtly refined, just like the nation that stands behind it.
Road Trip, Round 2?
Are there better cars out there to take on such a trip as we did? There are certainly different cars for different people driving different itineraries. But is there a better car to traverse the country? No. I don’t think there is. Sure, there are many luxury cars out there that are plush, whisper quiet and pack some serious power. However, they lack character. They lack personality. They certainly could get the job done, but they’d simply blend in en masse with all the other corporate big wigs. We’d never meet or talk to half the people we did, which equates to a large part of our entire experience – meeting the many characters that we did. A VP level luxury car just doesn’t have the same appeal, the same pull as a Mustang. The Mustang is a piece of Americana, and it is for this reason I would hop in it again, without batting an eye, for round two. I don’t think there is a car out there that could have given us a better experience than what we had in that 2016 S550. Modern, fast, reliable, comfortable and most of all, attainable for the masses. It is, in my opinion, the best Mustang Ford has made to date.
So, the million dollar question. If we were to do this exact trip again, would we change anything? Not a chance. Actually, that is not true. If we were to do the trip again, I’d make sure to have more money, but, I mean, that is something that can be said for any situation! Oh, actually, on second thought, there is one other change I would make. This entire trip came together very, very fast. Like, two weeks before we actually left fast. Unfortunately, this did not leave Alex and I much time to try and coordinate any events. We were really hoping to have a chance to meet up with a Mustang club and have a cruise whilst we were on the road, but we just weren’t able to make it happen given the short notice. If I were to do this trip again, I’d try and plan a bit more in advance. I’d also stay longer in LA. We passed too quickly through there.
Now, it will be a tough sell to convince Andrew to do something like this again. Surely, by now, it must have clicked just how insane this whole endeavor was. Nonetheless, I have a few other ideas I have been cultivating. I just need to find the best way to present them. However, I am slightly optimistic, because if Andrew is crazy enough to have entertained this first idea, I would imagine his duster brain is willing to hear out a few more of my idiocies.
In hindsight, I do feel however, that loaning him a $250 car was a tad too generous, just a little too easy. It didn’t even break down once. If there is to be a second round, I won’t make that mistake again. I’d have to find him something a little more run down, something less reliable. Perhaps a $100 Ford Focus. Ah, only time will tell. And with that being said, this concludes this ridiculous adventure, this outrageous expedition, this Mustang challenge.
Follow The Series
- Giving away a 2016 Mustang GT
- The trip from Connor’s perspective
- Here’s why Andrew’s giving his 2016 GT away
- Day 1 – Montreal to Philadelphia in the Jalopy Ford Focus
- Day 2 – A Bad Break Lands Two Flat TiresDays
- 3 & 4 – Exploring Nashville, TNDay
- 5-7 – New Orleans SwampingThe Irish Hitchhiker
- Days 8-10 – Texas Forever, Austin TX
- Days 11-12 – A Long Drive to Los Angeles
- Day 13 – Living Large in LA
- Days 13- 16 – Selling Cars and Dealing Cards, Las Vegas
- Days 17-18 – Chasing Steve McQueen in San Fran
- Days 19-21 – Relaxing in Portland
- Days 22-24 – Stood Up in Denver
- Days 25-26 – Pan Pizza and the Cubs – Chicago
- Days 27-28 – American Status: Reached – Columbus, OH