I have had always a small list of places I would love to visit. I am not someone that wants to see all the world but I do have a few picks that I want to see once in my life. So I figured out that while I had this opportunity to stay six months in Texas, United States, I should travel and go see some of these places I wanted inside this country, as maybe I won’t have such an opportunity again to stay that long in the USA. I have been to the United States three times before, visiting most of the western National Parks and the west coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles with my family, Atlanta and Boston in a two weeks exchange student program while in high school, and Las Vegas lately. Text & Images : Mickael B. ©
The United States are such a big country, there are so many places to visit, so many cities to go to, that choosing is probably a very difficult task. As a car passionate, my main choices were thus driven by car collections, and events. Starting of course with what is for sure the most important Concours d’Elegance worldwide, held in Pebble Beach, California, and its crazy automotive week, and then I just basically searched for the best automotive museums, collections or events I could find. The Simeone Collection (upcoming report) in Philadelphia is upon my knowledge the only collection that one can visit on the east coast, although Peter Kalikow and Ralph Lauren have their collections as well nearby.
On the west coast, I wanted to visit the Petersen museum, but it is closed for renovations until December 2015. I could thus only plan a visit to the Mullin Automotive Museum, the Nethercutt Collection and the Blackhawk Museum. Other collections upon my knowledge on the west coast include Jay Leno’s, which I am not aware if it is possible to visit. The other museums and events I would highly recommend would be the Auburn and Duesenberg Museum, Detroit for Ford and the Concours d’Elegance of America, Shelby Automotive in Las Vegas and a trip to Colorado for the Pikes Peak. Now you might ask, is there anything special in Miami related to automobiles ?
Well, upon my knowledge, no. But Miami is a place that I wanted to visit, like New York. It is a city full of history. Not history like Paris, Munich, Beijing, or Kyoto, but it has modern history. Miami is a city where famous people used to gather, a city of sea, sex and sun. When came the crucial decision of choosing a hotel, it was quite easy. Something on Miami Beach. And on Miami Beach, there are a myriad of different hotels from which to choose, but I had only eyes for one.
I had only eyes for one hotel in Miami Beach. The Fontainebleau.
The Fontainebleau. This hotel is a legend to itself and deserves completely its reputation. Designed in a revolutionnary way at the time in 1954 by Maurice Lapidus, it has since been the place of choice for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and of course in 1964’s James Bond Goldfinger, with the famous pool scene and villainous Oddjob murders the beautiful Jill Masterton, leaving her covered in gold in one of the rooms. Then it was featured later in Woody Allen’s Banana, Al Pacino’s Scarface, and Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner. I could continue the list, as it was chosen in 2008 as Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show location, Lady Gaga offered a concert there and it is Heidi Klum’s favorite hotel in Miami. The Fontainebleau is the place to stay.
Now when I went to look for a car, I thought: “What car could match such a place ?”. What car could have been just as revolutionnary in the 1950s, and just as legendary even by today standards ? As both an Aston Martin and James Bond enthusiast I would have loved a period 1964 Aston Martin DB5, but sadly I don’t know any rental agencies having such a car in their portfolio, and it would probably be too expensive for my restrained intern student earnings. I would have loved a Spider Ferrari too, in the Miami Vice style, but couldn’t afford one either sadly. And being in the United States, some part of me was telling me to take something american. Corvette being as well very expensive to rent, I went for a 2015 Ford Mustang. Convertible, of course.
I was really willing to drive this new Mustang as I had previously driven a 2013 version in Las Vegas and haven’t had the opportunity to test the new European versions but I hope to do it as soon as I come back. There are so many differences both aesthatically and technically between the MY2012-2014 and the MY2015 that I couldn’t believe it really the first time I saw it. The Mustang since 2005 had gone back to its roots, but the MY2015 adds a certain elegance and refinement to the lot. Plus, it is the first Mustang to finally have independent rear suspension, since, well… Its birth in 1964 !
Some purists might argue that the Mustang has lost a little bit of its DNA, and I won’t turn them wrong. But for everyone’s safety this is surely a good new feature that will ravish the feminin Mustang customers. That was about all the new features I was aware on this new pony car, when I picked it up at the airport. Choice was given between white and grey, and sadly only equipped with the 300ish horsepower 3.6 liter V6, an engine that will never be imported to Europe. We will get the small Ecoboost 4 cylinder engine and the 5 liter V8 only. As a good swiss “cliché”, I went for the grey. It had already had, as any rental car, a tough history, with marks on the front right side, and rear, but they were minimal so I didn’t care. Moreover, I was so excited to be in Miami, I think nothing could have spoiled my joy.
I put my luggage in the boot, which is quite big, even with the roof down, where you should easily fit three medium size luggages. I jumped in, fired up the six cylinder with the start button, as it is a keyless start up, first notable difference with the MY2013. The thing that I was really pleased was that finally the Mustang had flappy paddles ! The new steering wheel is superb, fits perfectly the hand and all buttons to command the media interface are really easily reachable, which was a huge improvement too. It is now as well equipped as standard with USB ports to connect your phone or MP3 Player, a feature I recall my MY2013 didn’t have. Even better it has two of these ports, one just under the center console and the other one in the central armrest, to avoid fights with your passenger about who’s going to choose the next song.
As I had just arrived in Miami, nothing could have spoiled my joy.
As I headed for Miami Beach and discovered this new pony, I was impressed by its dimensions. I had had the same effect in 2013, but these muscle cars are a bit tricky to take in hand with their huge straight long bonnet. Although I am a little bit used to huge front massive engines such as with the V12 Vantage, or Corvettes, the main problem with muscle cars is that the bonnet does not go down regularly, it just drops straight at the end, and it is very hard to judge the distance from the front. From the back, I had some good news as it had rear sensors and a rear view camera, which I had no doubt would turn out very helpful for parking.
The front seats turned out to be good, but not excellent, and especially too soft, as they had probably been designed for american people, which are usually a bit heavier than a 65 kilograms european guy like me, but they offer good lateral protection. Moreover my car had a fake carbon fiber covering interior trim that looked surprisingly good as I don’t like these fake material trims usually. The only thing I was disappointed really was by the very hot weather that would discourage anybody to drop the top down except to melt and get the biggest insolation of your life. I was almost regretting the choice of a convertible but I knew that I would enjoy it later on in the evening when the sun would start to get down a little bit.
The weather was so hot it could have discouraged anyone from driving a convertible.
I started looking for some funnier, curvy roads than the ones I had been used to in Texas, but couldn’t really find some, sadly. I even hoped for an Ocean Drive like there is in California, on the oceanfront, but there is none in Miami. I had two other friends who were staying as well in the city so I figured out it would be the perfect opportunity to test the rear seats of the Mustang. I spent most of the week-end with them, in Little Havana, the Cuban part of Miami, hanging out on Friday night and on Ocean Drive saturday, enjoying the beach. Both were impressed by the general comfort of these back seats, although tall people might feel a bit cramped after some time.
One of the only complains they had, as both of them were quite tall (1.8 meters), on the highway, with the top down, they would get all the wind, because the rear seats are a little bit too high, and their heads were over the windshield. Regarding general comfort, I was globally satisfied although the suspensions setting were calibrated for american roads and I found them too soft, especially for a Sports Coupé like the Mustang. I do hope so that the european models will get something firmer because it could lead to some surprising reactions on a mountain pass otherwise.
Looking at the other interior aspects, the standard sound system is good but not transcendent, sometimes badly coping with high bass. Moreover, the center screen is very small, and although the big buttons surrounding it are clear, a touch screen can even be found today in a 20 grand Citroen. Add to this the awful Microsoft Sync system that Ford uses, and you end up with years, if not decades just to load songs from your phone. Hopefully, the center screen between the two dials is much more helpful and can display a variety of informations regarding your driving, but still, the Mustang does not offer like the Camaro an HUD display. This might sound like a spoiled nerd kid wanting his gadgets but the fact is these features add some practicality to your journey.
Even in a 20 grand Citroen, you can have a touch-screen LCD, but not in a 2015 V6 Ford Mustang
From a driving perspective, I was quite disappointed too. When I had testdrove the Mustang Convertible back in 2013, I remember that I found the engine a little bit lazy. It did not really want to get in the revs, and I was hoping some true changes for this 2015 model. I was hoping for more power and torque, and although it may have both, it didn’t feel like it. Still the gearbox was better, with finally – although not big enough – flappy paddles turning with the steering wheel that allowed you to really take the control easily of the pony. Apart from some slight punches between first and second gear it was nice, and relatively fast, as this is only an automated gearbox. Not a single or dual clutch like any proper real sports car.
There was one thing that I was happy though with this 2015 Mustang. Thanks to new rear independent suspensions, the car felt nimbler, more precise, and less wobbly than its predecessor. Way less wobbly in fact. But the suspensions could have helped some more as I mentionned earlier. One of my big complains as well was that the Sport mode did not affect any of the classic settings you would see on a normal sports car. On a classic sports car, putting your car in the sports mode would increase throttle response, firm up the suspensions, and open the exhaust valves for greater pleasure. The only thing the Mustang did was downshift one gear. How unuseful is that ?
Nightrides in Miami Beach, hairs in the wind, flooring all the energy that the six cylinder engine had was memorable.
I am sure that with its only true engine, the 5 liter V8, and a bit of Shelby magical treatment, the Mustang’s amazing inner character can be brought to the surface, erasing most of its standard defaults, the lazy engine, the too soft seats and suspensions, the missing real sport mode, and so on. Yet I really enjoyed these three days aboard this 2015 Mustang V6. I really love this new look, very classy, yet pure Mustang DNA, perfectly agressive. Moreover as I used this car only for cruising in Miami, enjoying the sun, looking at the other beautiful cars – and there are a lot of them in Miami: Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, Audi R8s -, looking even more to the beautiful girls – and there are even more than beautiful cars, to the point that at I stopped sometimes looking at the cars, which usually never happens to me -, and not hooning it on a track, it did its job perfectly. Nightrides especially in the city and in Miami Beach, hairs in the wind flooring all the energy that the six cylinder engine had after every red light was memorable.