As Ford prepares to launch the Mustang in Europe for the first time, we head to Germany to test the iconic muscle car
I should feel like Steve McQueen in Bullitt as he races through the streets of San Fransisco, like Nic Cage in Gone in 60 Seconds as he thrashes his treasured Eleanor within an inch of its life but, as so often turns out to be the case, real life is not a like the movies. I certainly don’t recall the scene where Frank Bullitt gets stuck behind a tractor.
My frustration is short-lived though, and soon I’m galloping through rural Germany at the helm of the 2015 Ford Mustang, 413 horse power of V8 engine devouring the kilometres between the picturesque Bavarian town of Rottach-Egern and Munich airport. The route has no doubt been selected by Ford as the perfect place to show off the Mustang’s superb handling and gut-wrenching engine note, the twisting B roads through chocolate-box countryside and the speed-limitless stretches of autobahn allowing us writers to experience what happens when American muscle meets a chassis tuned with something other than bleak interstate in mind.
This will be the first time that the Mustang has officially been on sale in Europe and, when it was announced in right-hand drive during the 2014 Champion’s League Final, the initial 130 UK examples available to pre-order were reserved – within 30 seconds. Ford has since taken 1200 deposits from customers eager to get their own piece of the American dream. It’s important to Ford then that for these customers, some of whom will have waited 50 years for a chance to buy the iconic car, the reality lives up to that dream.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: There’s a reason you don’t see many American cars on European roads. But let’s nip this in the bud early. The engineers have got the handling spot on with this one. It feels like a 1,651kg car, but muscle weighs more than fat and the steering is responsive, especially in sport plus mode. It feels planted and – even in the convertible version – the chassis and suspension are stiff without being unyielding – although I only tried two of the four driving modes, opting for ‘normal’ and ‘sport plus’, while avoiding ‘track’ and ‘snow/wet’.
Driving modes and standard modern safety features aside, this is a car that eschews many of the more advanced driver aids you find in some of its German rivals, but it’s not difficult to drive. You point it where you want it to go and it goes there. In style.
Designed by a Scot, Napier University graduate Moray Callum, the look of this car is classic US muscle. The lines echo the 60s original, creases on the wings leading to broad, raised shoulders coupling with the long nose and short rear deck to give the car that distinctive pony car profile.
The front end has the corporate, Aston-esq, grille to show it’s related to the rest of the Ford family – but you’ll be hard pressed to find a blue oval anywhere on the Mustang. In fact, unless you pop the bonnet, the only Ford branding on this whole car is a discreet badge tucked away beneath the rear-view mirror on the windscreen.
In the cabin, the homage to the 60s original continues and the twin humps on the dash, narrow centre console and aeroplane-style switches will be familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in a classic Mustang.
The leather seats are excellent, particularly the Recaro ones – an option present in the V8 version I drove – and the cabin layout was well planned but for the positioning of the sat-nav. Located low-down on the centre console I had to take my eyes off the road for longer than I was comfortable with to make any sense of the display.
The materials quality is mixed too. Real aluminium accents and switches are a nice touch, as is the leather covering the steering wheel, driver and passenger console and some parts of the door panels.
But many of the plastics feel a little hard and not quite what you’d expect to see in a model being launched in 2015.
While we’re nitpicking, lets get back to that German tractor. The main reason I couldn’t get past it safely was because this car is wide. It’s 46mm wider than the previous US-only generation. This width, coupled with the fact that it’s 30mm lower than its predecessor adds to the Mustang’s menacing air, but if you’re likely to encounter farm machinery with any frequency I’d avoid the soft-top – because you’re going to become over- familiar with the hedgerow lining that country lane.
With 0-62 in 4.8 seconds (a second slower in the EcoBoost version), head-turning good looks and a driving experience to rival many supercars however, it would be churlish to complain too much about width, or that not all the materials in this sub-35k sports car have Bentley levels of quality.
Pricing was always going to be important with a Mustang if its image of a sports car for the working man was going to hold up to scrutiny and Ford has been true to that vision of accessibility. The 2.3l EcoBoost model gives you 310bhp from a mere £28,995 while the V8 can be had from £32,995. That’s more than £30k less than a diesel 6 Series Coupe in M Sport guise.
I was lucky enough to put a good few miles on both models and would be hard pressed to choose between them. The V8 felt like it had enough torque to take off in any gear with no protest from the engine and the sound is simply phenomenal. There’s a constant menace to the V8, it strains at the leash desperate to chew through the miles ahead.
The EcoBoost on the other hand is a different beast, but no less impressive. It’s more refined than the V8 at low speeds, and you can cruise along at 60 and forget all about the power at your disposal if that’s your thing. But put your foot the floor and the twin-scroll turbocharged engine responds instantly with roar that – while not as throaty as that of the V8 – does an excellent job of reminding you what this car is all about. All that while giving you an MPG figure that won’t make your bank manager cry.
So which one would I have? Well Frank Bullitt would undoubtedly go for the V8, the sheer menace generated by that engine noise far more appropriate for chasing homicide suspects and careering through inexplicably arranged cardboard box pyramids. And if Nic Cage was going to make a getaway in a minute flat – incidentally his character was called ‘Memphis’ Raines, but I can’t think of him as anything other than Nic Cage, whatever role he’s meant to be portraying – he would no doubt also choose the big 5.0l.
Me on the other hand? Head would rule over heart and I’d walk away with the 2.3l EcoBoost. That might not be very movie star, but I’d still be living my own little American dream.
FORD MUSTANG GT V8
Engine: 4,951cc V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, limited-slip differential
Power: 413bhp at 6,500rpm
Torque : 391lb ft at4,250rpm
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Economy: 20.9 mpg (combined)
Price: From £32,995
FORD MUSTANG 2.3l EcoBoost
Engine: 4-cyl, 2,300cc, turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power: 310bhp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 317lb ft at 3,000rpm;
Top speed: 145mph
Economy: 34.4mpg (combined);
Price: From £28,995