First drive: 2017 Ford Mustang GT California Special in the UAE

The current Ford Mustang GT is quite possibly the best all-rounder sports coupe to come out of America ever. And while it’s still pretty fresh, having hit the GCC only in 2015, there is a facelift on the way for 2018. However, the 2017 iteration has a few upgrades of its own that are worthy of attention.

California Special Package

First off, our test car has the California Special package that debuted in 2016, and adds 19-inch black-painted machined-aluminium wheels; hood and side stripes; a taller black rear spoiler; darkened taillight trim; and black-painted mirrors and bonnet vents. There are also a unique grille up front and a different central badge on the boot.


Inside, the California Special features black leather and microsuede upholstery with red contrast stitching, and the seatback leather, door-panel inserts, dashboard plaque, and strut-tower brace also get GT/CS branding.

One major item that many may miss is that the upper door panels in the CS are hard plastic, while they were soft-touch padded in the 50th Anniversary GT Premium we drove in 2015. Apparently, nicer door skins only come with an optional Premium Pack.

However, the Mustang is now available with the all-new SYNC 3 multimedia touchscreen which finally addresses general useability issues. We first used this new system in the Lincoln Continental, and it will be available on all Fords this year.


Ford Mustang tech

Ford says SYNC 3 was designed after listening to thousands of consumer comments, and it shows. The screen now responds to the lightest touch, the icons are larger, and the basic layout mimics Chrysler’s well-received UConnect system that’s found in everything from the Dodge Neon to the Maserati Quattroporte.

There are still physical a/c and stereo buttons thankfully, but in keeping with the expectations of the smartphone generation, there is swipe functionality, voice controls even in Arabic, Apply CarPlay integration with the ability to use Siri, and pinch-to-zoom for the excellent navigation system that is finally part of SYNC 3 rather than an aftermarket unit. While Android Auto is oddly still not available for the Middle East in general, Ford is probably the first carmaker ever to provide free navigation map updates for five years.

Beyond the tech, the Mustang GT is unchanged. The 5.0-litre V8 (GSO-rated at 435 hp for the GCC) makes good power but does not kick as hard at lower revs as a turbo engine, preferring to dole out its juice linearly.


It handles very well, offering excellent grip when used in conjunction with a well-controlled right foot around corners, but may not offer the ultimate confidence that a Porsche 911 would, as the standard GT’s suspension is also tuned for a rather comfortable ride as well, making it more of the grand tourer that the GT name implies.

There are no performance upgrades with the CS pack, so it drives exactly like the standard GT we drove earlier. A suspension upgrade is available as part of a performance pack, but the local dealer does not typically order it as far as we know.

The current Mustang is truly the best evolution of the pony-badged Ford that turned the world on its head more than 50 years ago. With SYNC 3, Ford finally addresses the last complaint that potential buyers had with the car (not counting the cramped rear seats).

For prices and specs, visit the Ford buyer guide.

Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.

What do you think?



  1. Was shocked to read this today morning. This car has 2 star safety rating, even Toyota 86, Mazda MX5, and Hyundai Veloster has 5 star crash ratings.

    • Author

      Actually, it’s a bit misleading. Having read the results in detail, the Mustang was tested under more stringent 2015 standards, and even then it lost points on things like rear seat child-protection (the seats are just for limited use), active safety features (electronic nannies) and pedestrian safety (when a guy comes in front of you), rather than actual body integrity. It’s not exactly collapsing like a Chinese car.

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