What Happens When a VW Owner and Fan Goes to The Dark Side, Pt I
by, 04-06-2012 at 10:10 PM (2616 Views)
I often hear the term "dark side" when someone who is an enthusiastic owner of a car or brand suddenly changes teams and buys something from another brand. In the VW world, I have often heard this term used in reference to someone who buys something Asian. I think for most rational VW people, Asian cars are an object of respect, but not something to desire, in other words, not something that one can develop an emotional relationship with. And domestic cars? Meh, those are ok, but for the most part, simply not even worth considering, unless you have the coin for a Corvette or CTS-V. But otherwise it would be almost laughable for a VW guy to consider a domestic, at least until very recently.
So this is the first of what will hopefully be a few installments of my own experience with the darkside. I've slowly been flirting with the darkside for some time actually. For about the first 15 years of my driving experience, I drove nothing but VW products---Jettas, lots of Jettas actually, a Fox, a corrado (which I still have, I might add!), and a GTI, which was the first car I bought new. But when I started to make a little money, I started to want to delve outside of the VW world I was so familiar with. My first non-VW was a Chrysler Crossfire.
Here was my car:
It was pretty cool, IMO, even though I realize a lot of "enthusiasts" think it looks like a dog taking a number 2. Thanks Clarkson! It was a decent car though, with Mercedes bones and a Chrysler badge. That Chrysler badge was a foreshadowing of what lay ahead. After a total of 3 years of ownership, I made the decision to not just flirt with the dark side, but to go all in this time. After a series of unfortunate mishaps with the crossfire, which were not the fault of my own nor 100% the fault of the car, I went out and bought a 2012 Ford Mustang GT.
Here it is when I first picked it up at the dealer:
So this blog entry and those following it are focused on my experience with the Mustang. This particular post is more of an introduction to the car and my decisions behind the purchase. Future installements will discuss what it's like to live with the car at various landmark mileages as well as after various modifications. Can a VW guy at heart really be happy with a very American car, like the Mustang? We're going to find out.
So let's go back a bit and discuss the genesis of my decision: why a mustang? As mentioned earlier the primary impetus for this were problems I was having with my Crossfire. But the desire goes back much further than that. I've always been somewhat of a closet Mustang fan. If I was ever going to do American muscle, I knew fairly early on that I would go with a mustang. I always thought that the dimensions of the mustang were smaller than those other pony cars, the closest to a European sports car. The camaro/firebird always looked terrible to me--except the original cars, which actually had a very european sports car look to them. But the 90's cars blew up into these these huge machines that simply lost the grace and yes, elegance, of the original cars. And Chrysler, well, they were pretty much out of the game until recently.
However, despite the attractive packaging of the mustang, I always thought that these cars were literally one-trick ponies. They could go nicely in a straight line, but couldn't hold a candle to even a lowly Golf--not a GTI, a regular Golf---when it comes to turns. So I pretty much always dismissed them. Starting with the 2005 Mustang, I started to realize that the quality of the cars improved significantly and the 3v 4.6L V8 was fantastic fun, but the handling was still mush. Neeeeeext! But then Ford started to get serious with their pony car in 2011. They gave it a killer engine and really worked on getting the chassis to handle well--in stock format. Magazines started to rain praise on the 2011+ mustangs and I have to admit, I was taking notice. Almost over night, I started to become a vocal fan of the car, based on what I was reading. I was quite impressed that a stock mustang GT with the optional brembo brake kit (BBK) could keep up with the far more expensive and far more polished e90 M3 on a racetrack when driven by a professional driver--even if there were rumors that the LSD rear end of the mustang was trashed after the event. The potential was there--the car really seemed like a fairly well rounded vehicle---the kind of vehicle I always prided myself in purchasing or wanting to purchase.
So enter the Crossfire debacle and I was starting to reach the end of my rope with that car. Luckily I was in a position to be able to buy something different at the time. So on a whim, I went out to drive a new 5.0 mustang GT one day when I just so happened to get out of work early. I had been trolling the Ford lots to check out the mustang on previous occasions but never really went so far as to drive one. But this time, it was different, I may legitimately buy something and it was looking like the mustang was on the top of a internal list. So I ended up driving a mustang GT that day. It was a BBK car, manual transmission, and pretty well loaded. I took the car out for about 7 miles that day and the first thing that impressed me was the shifter. It was tight, communicative, and had short throws--it was quite fun to just row through the gears. And then I opened it up a little and realized another part of the car I liked. I did a single 3rd gear pull to 5k rpms on the highway. Yeah, it was fast and it sounded fantastic. I was sold. I probably would have bought something that day if I could have gotten a deal worked out with that dealer. But it gave me some time to think things over and look at other cars. Yeah right! Other cars, that's funny!
I have ALWAYS had a soft spot for the Z's and liked the 350z and current 370z. If anything was going to get me out of the mustang it was the Z. I went to about 3 dealers and none of them would let a base+sport package Z go for less than $3k more than what I could get a mustang for with the options I wanted. I didn't even drive the car because I couldn't get the money situation remotely figured out. Some might be asking about whether I looked at the Camaro and Challenger. No, I didn't even consider them to be honest. I like the look of the current camaro, but I HATE the interior design and seating position. That was was out before it could even be considered. The challenger? Definitely the most aggressive looking modern pony car, but it's a poor value. I liked both the interior and exterior, but for a similar price to the mustang, I'd be in a Challenger R/T that simply couldn't hold a candle to performance of the Mustang, or even the Camaro. If I just wanted a cruiser with a throaty V8 roar, the Challenger would have been my car.
Some might also be wondering if or why I didn't consider something european--maybe an Audi, BMW, or used Porsche of some sort? Especially if I'm the big VW fan that I'm proclaiming. Well the simple answer is value. They all represented a poor value compared with the mustang. Audi offers nothing nearly as compelling, new or used, as the mustang. A TT would be the closest vehicle, but the TT-S (the only Audi I would have considered) was too much $$$$ new or used, and I don't want a DSG transmission. What about a 135 or used 335? I am a big fan of the BMW brand to be honest. But I just don't think I could ever see myself owning a BMW and frankly, they're just too much money, new or used. Again, the current mustang is simply a better value. Porsche, maybe? A used Boxster S did actually cross my mind. I LOVE how the boxster drives, and despite being a convertible, I'm a huge fan. But I simply didn't want to drive any Porsche as a daily or out of warranty (or with an aftermarket one)--I'm sure some will say I'm crazy, but that's ok. This is my story!