‘Cool car.” It’s not often I hear that, even when this job allows me to drive some fairly exotic fare, but for a week recently I heard it everywhere I went. Everyone from primary school kids to 20-something mountain bikers and middle-aged women in Honda Jazzes smiled, waved or gave a thumbs up. It seems that everyone loves a big ol’ muscle car.
Even if I wasn’t such a shameless show-off, there was certainly no chance of slipping by unnoticed. The Mustang in general is not a subtle car but this one in particular stood out. Bright Competition Orange paintwork, a folding roof and a 5.0-litre V8 meant that everywhere I went people stopped and stared.
And rightly so as it’s a striking machine, modern but with plenty of little cues calling back to the classic early Mustang. Externally, the whole car echoes the early models, from its long, broad bonnet and trapezoidal grille along the high-waisted, low-roofed profile back to the vertically arranged ‘tri-bar’ triple tail-lights. Inside, two huge aluminium-clad circles house the speedo and rev counter, aping those of the original along with the aviation-style rocker switches.
The interior clearly shares some switchgear with other Fords but there are enough model-specific elements – including the console-dominating climate controls – that it still feels a step removed from a Focus or Mondeo. It’s well put together and of generally good quality but it’s not going to give the folks at Audi or Mercedes any sleepless nights.
For years the overriding criticism of American muscle cars was that they were fine until you tried to stop or go round a corner. Ford insist this Mustang is different. With double ball-joint MacPherson struts up front and an all-new integral-link independent rear suspension system, plus uprated brakes, Ford says this is a car tuned to suit to European roads.
Dynamically, it’s a bit deceptive. It is a big car – it’s 4.7m long and feels every millimetre of its 2m width. It’s also heavy, tipping the scales at 1,792kg. Whenever you drive it you are aware of that size and weight yet it hustles along nicely, gradually building your confidence in its abilities.
There’s a little bit of roll you probably won’t find in European rivals but there’s also plenty of grip and it responds to steering inputs far quicker than its bulk would lead you to expect. It’ll never be the best choice for some of our tightest and twistiest B roads but show it a winding, well-sighted stretch of rural A road and the Mustang settles into a sweet, smooth flowing rhythm, soaking up bumps well and blasting between corners in a wall of V8 woofle.
Ah yes, that V8. After the European launch, my colleague, Steven, said he’d chose the 2.3-litre EcoBoost model. He’s mad. Yes, it’s cheaper to buy and run but if you’re going to have an attention-grabbing American muscle car then you might as well have it with the additional drama of that unmistakable V8 growl.
It’s a fantastic noise. Especially from cold, it’s full of menace and as the revs climb you’re surrounding by a deep bass growl. My only complaint is that our car’s auto ’box kept wanting to shift up while I wanted to ponce around town in second gear making a racket.
And there’s more than just noise from the engine. A healthy 415bhp and 391lb/ft of torque get the big beasty up to 60mph in 5 seconds and will push it on to 155mph. The surge as it accelerates is heady and allied to the old-school roar as the revs rise it’s an absolute blast. Not such a blast is the 17mpg average I saw over a week.
To get the most out of that power and the new chassis and suspension there are a choice of driving modes – Normal, Sport+, Track and Wet/Snow. To be honest, once you’ve tried Sport+ you’ll find Normal a bit too, well, normal. I tried several times to use it for a whole drive but the lure of better throttle response, sharper steering and faster gearshifts was too much to resist.
Track, however, is definitely best left for the track. Even with traction control fully on the V8 is capable of loosening the rear tyres with just a little provocation so switching it off on the public highway is probably not advisable.
If you can resist the urge to behave like a yobbo then the Mustang makes a great long-distance cruiser as well as back-road blaster.
With the roof up it’s quiet and Normal drive mode and comfort steering settings make for effortless wafting. The big supportive leather seats (heated and cooled) are supremely comfortable and, as long as there’s just two of you, there’s loads of space. The rear seats are a token gesture but leg and shoulder room up front is excellent and the boot is a generous 332 litres, more than enough for a couple of weekend bags.
Our car’s optional Shaker stereo system added enough Watts to drown out the engine, if you so wish, but also featured satnav, those climate-controlled seats and rear parking sensors. Every Mustang gets leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, and Ford’s strong Sync 2 media system. Plus there are track apps featuring line lock, launch control and an acceleration timer,
One of the big talking points of the Mustang is that you can pick up a V8 model for as little as £35,000, a fraction of what you’d pay for a similarly-powered coupe from most rival manufacturers. This specced-up convertible model is a chunk more – at £41,580 – but still undercuts comparable offerings by some margin. You can have a BMW M4 for the same price but it’s a weedy 252bhp 4-cylinder unit. For a straight-six M4 you’re talking £63,000. A V8 Mercedes C63 coupe is £60,000+. Similarly a Lexus RCF with its 470bhp 5.0 V8 will set you back £60,000, and you can’t have a drop-top. Even a 330bhp 3.0-litre Audi S5 weighs in at £47,000.
Okay, so the Mustang won’t match any of these in term in terms of flash interior or ultimate driving dynamism but as nice as the BMW’s interior might be I’m not sure it’s £20k nicer. And, unless you’re on track, I’m not sure how often you’ll be able to take advantage of its superior high-speed performance – the Ford is certainly no slouch.
I suspect most Mustang buyers won’t care too much about such things anyway. If you want a hunk of American- made V8 muscle and the 50 years of heritage that the galloping horse badge carries with it then a ruthlessly effective Germanic ’bahn-stormer isn’t likely to float your boat.
Besides which, how many people do you think will ask for a selfie with your regulation black M4?
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol producing 415bhp, 391lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic driving the rear wheels
Performance: Top speed 155mph, 0-62mph in 5 seconds (approx)
Emissions: 289g/km of CO2