Ford Mustang Sallies Forth In The UK
Do you see what I did there? Mustang? Sally? Fair enough; please yourselves. Just as I did in fact when I spent a day with this most iconic example of American Muscle Pony cars courtesy of Ford UK. The legend of the Ford Mustang need not be repeated here except to say that this is a car that British drivers have long lusted after, but unless they were prepared to import a left-hooker from the States could do no more than yearn hopelessly. T'was but a dream.
Not any more. Ford, in their unparalleled and infinitive wisdom, have launched the icon here on these Septic Isles with proper right-hand drive. Even more impressively, they have made it handle well as well. UK buyers have a choice of engines: the hugely desirable 5.0L V8 and the more sensible, more economical 2.3L four-cylinder EcoBoost alternative.
Feed The Pony
Unsurprisingly, 80% of British buyers have opted for the V8. With 415bhp and a big shove of 390lb/ft this car will sprint to 62mph in a scant 4.8 seconds. Ford say that 20mpg is possible but it really isn't. During a run on mixed roads and in frustratingly mixed traffic (that included two pootling Peugeot 308's, one old Hyundai Getz, a caravan and a tentacled piece of agricultural machinery the size of an aircraft carrier) we scraped by with 17mpg and I wonder if buyers truly realise this.
Some say that if you buy a motor like the V8 Ford Mustang then consumption figures like this should be expected; the argument being that if you can afford to buy the car then you can afford to run it. That's true. The trouble is that as the range-topper, like the fully loaded yellow V8 in my images, costs just £35,000 (before options); that's the price of a modest premium saloon or a good quality SUV and well within the reach of many new car buyers or leasers. As long as customers are aware that they will spend more time at the pumps then fair enough.
The alternative then is the aforementioned EcoBoost four-pot. This is not as much of a wimp-out as you might think. 310bhp and 320lb/ft means that this version can crack on in some style whilst returning, say Ford, 35.3mpg. It is undoubtedly the more practical option, and there's not even that much of a performance sacrifice given that the 2.3L takes just one second more to reach the magic number. This powerplant makes a lot of sense but there is an aesthetic downside of which more later.
Saddle The Pony
Behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang, you’ve got complete control over the way the car drives and handles. At the flick of a switch, you can change between four different driving modes: Normal, Sport Plus, Track, and Snow/Wet. Each setting adjusts throttle response, gear shift points (on automatic transmission models), steering effort and stability control calibration. By tuning the car’s set-up to the specific demands of a situation, you can drive with confidence in them all. Normal is fine, but Sport Plus is better, definitely better, and where you need to be unless you are on a track (and why not?) or during poor weather conditions.
Although not unattractive, the dashboard is a bit of a mishmash of retro toggle switches and modern electronics. The Mustang does though come with Ford's latest SYNC2 eight-inch touchscreen which is clear and easy to use. The steering wheel offers many thumb controls but it is all a bit too fussy. A minor issue though.
Everything in the cabin feels robust but you can clearly see where Ford have trimmed back to deliver the car at such a competitive price as some of the trim looks a bit budget conscious. You can't have it both ways, I guess. Build quality seems fine though.
The seats are comfy and supportive as befits such a powerful motor. Maybe you could fit a couple of adults in the back seats for a short trip but mostly there's really only room for the little people. The long body means that boot space is commodious at 408L (332L for the convertible). Space is saved by using a tyre kit rather than a space-saver wheel alas. Overall for a sports car the Ford Mustang is a pretty practical package.
Ride The Pony
In the wide open spaces of the United States of America the roads are long and straight. To an American driver, a discarded match box in the road constitutes a chicane. Thus, sophisticated suspension wasn't as a consequence required historically and the rear end of the Ford Mustang was held up by a solid axle built from old iron sourced from redundant Sherman battle tanks.
British drivers are more fussy. They resolutely insist on taking corners into consideration. They require a car to handle and yet be comfortable as well. Never an easy job for car manufacturers but Ford have achieved an almost perfect compromise. The British Ford Mustang comes with a new sub-frame at its foundation which, when coupled with the coupé's stiffened body structure, helps to reduce roll in corners. Ford insist that they have carefully tuned the double ball-joint front suspension and multi-link independent rear suspension to deliver precision wheel control, sensitive steering feedback and outstanding ride comfort.
I wouldn't go quite that far. Although the electric power steering is very good there isn't much of that illusive feel of which so much is spoken and so little felt in the modern era. That said, as one on the road example, I entered a soft, sweeping S-bend at speed and the car dismissed it with some considerable aplomb. I didn't hear anyone else grumbling about the steering so maybe it's just me. It usually is. Reining everything back in short order are big six-piston Brembo callipers clamping the front discs. It's all overseen by a limited-slip differential (standard on the 5.0L) and ESP, as you would expect.
Don't Smack The Pony
Traditionally, a V8 should deliver a low, dark burble on tick-over and a growling operatic roar when you put your foot down. Ford have ensured that this crucial aspect is delivered. Switch to Track mode for maximum effect especially as the amount of electronic interference is reduced should you fancy a little tail-happy action. The 5.0L Mustang sounds fabulous, just as it should. The 2.3L EcoBoost can't reach the aural heights of its bigger, tougher brother but it sings a song of its own, albeit a somewhat artificial one.
With a slick, short-throw, six-speed manual gearbox combined with a nicely weighted clutch the Ford Mustang is great to drive. It might not be the most sophisticated fast car around but it is the real deal when it comes to driving pleasure. My big regret is that I only experienced it for one day and I've been left wanting more; much more.
It's great to work through the ratios and it is all too easy to hit the rev-limiter in the low gears. Equally, The 'Stang (as we muscle car fans say) will cruise happily in sixth at low speeds when you want to see and be seen. The Line Lock feature may be a gimmick on a road car but if you do want to warm the tyres for a track start then you can lock the front brakes and make smoke. First though open a credit account at your local tyre supplier.
Overall then, the Ford Mustang is big yet manoeuvrable; it impresses in a straight line and is accomplished in the corners. Don't get over-excited though and smack your pony car into a wall like a tail-end Charlie. It can be exciting under the right circumstances yet it is comfortable, roomy – in the front – and offers all the tech, including a reversing camera, that we expect these days. You can nitpick about trim and the bulging bonnet but the fact is this car has character and personality and that's a rare pairing these days. If I had a cap I'd doff it. Driving as it should be. Thanks Ford. Much appreciated.
Author: Geoff Maxted