The Ford Mustang is available in the UK in right-hand drive for the first time, but does the rest of this American muscle car fit the UK car scene?

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The Ford Mustang, welcome. The original ‘pony’ car, long in hood, short in deck and often vast in engine, has too long lingered in the tall grass of European car culture.

In the US, its fame in Ford’s canon is rivalled only by the impossibly influential Model T and the unimaginably big-selling F-Series trucks.

The Mustang went on sale in 1964 in the US, but this is the first stallion to be made right hand drive

Since its launch in 1964, the Mustang has never been off sale, even if its popularity has waxed and waned. But away from North America, and certainly in the UK, the car’s import status has rarely progressed beyond ultra-low-volume novelty – despite widespread nameplate recognition.

The reasons for this are simple enough. From Ford’s perspective, it did export the Mustang, but it was the idea, not the metalwork, that was dispatched across the Atlantic.

Thus Europe’s cheap-to-build fastback coupé was the wildly successful Ford Capri, followed, inauspiciously, by the charmless Probe, a car we suggested should not make a comeback.

In retrospect, this was no bad thing. Cared-for, impossibly pretty mid-1960s classics and V8-engined, late 1960s Mach 1 muscle cars are the Mustangs most encountered in Britain, ensuring that the badge remains largely unsullied by at least three generations of intervening mediocrity.

Around a decade ago, though, with the fifth generation, the Ford Mustang rediscovered its stride. Moreover, with the European version long dead and the concept of ‘global’ cars suddenly fashionable in Dearborn, the possibility of the model’s expansion overseas was finally on the table.

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The sixth generation, engineered from the outset for right-hand drive, realises that ambition. Offering inimitable space, scale and style, it will be sold in both fastback and convertible guises here, starting at just over £33,000 for one with a turbocharged four-pot petrol engine or, more tantalisingly, a little under £40k for one with a 5.0-litre V8. There is also a couple of tuned Ford Mustang monsters by independent dealer Clive Sutton producing a frankly ludicrous 700bhp and 800bhp from the 5.0-litre V8 - albeit thanks to the addition of new components and improving on what rolled out of the factory.

Guess which one we opted to test?



Ford Mustang Fastback rear

Right-hand drive production may very well make a telling difference to the number of Britons who’d seriously think about owning this all-American muscle car, but it doesn’t instantly make the Mustang a natural fit either for UK roads or for the class of competitors in which it will find itself here.

Nor should it. The car’s fundamental difference is to be celebrated – but not before it’s properly considered. Because even this newly modernised sixth-generation Mustang is a big old lump of Michigan metal. It’s fully 2ft longer than an Audi TT, a good 3in wider than a BMW 2 Series Coupé and, in V8 form, 200-300kg heavier than those like-for-like Germans.

You can spot the official European cars by the daytime running lights integrated into the foglight housings

The car’s biggest outward differentiators from its predecessor are sleeker A-pillars and C-pillars, ‘pillarless’ construction in between, a lower roofline and wider flanks, the rear track in particular having grown by 70mm.

Ford considers the car’s trapezoidal radiator grille, ‘shark-bite’ front bumper and ‘tri-bar’ LED tail-lights to be design hallmarks, and mostly we’d agree. The car looks menacing and seductive in equal measure and will probably appeal to most owners as powerfully for its looks as it will on bang for your buck.

Made of a mix of high-strength steel pressings, ultra-high-strength castings and forgings and steel tube all laser-welded and bonded together, the car’s underbody is 28 percent more rigid than the outgoing version’s. Suspension is via MacPherson struts up front, while an ‘integral link’ multi-link set-up at the rear replaces the unsophisticated live axle that the Mustang has depended on until now.

Official European examples get Ford’s Performance Pack as standard, adding front strut braces, a thicker rear anti-roll bar and stiffer springs to the specification. They also get uprated front brakes, a bigger radiator and an additional oil cooler compared with their non-passport-carrying cousins. In October 2016 Ford's performance division created a range of kits to increase the power of the V8 and 2.3-litre Ecoboost Mustangs. The packs themselves are available in the US, but there is no definite confirmation they are set to arrive in the UK. The Ecoboost Mustang sees its power increase to 335bhp from 310bhp, and gains a 70lb ft leap in torque – with the pack fitted. 

Meanwhile, the 5.0 V8 Mustang GT gets three different performance kits. The mildest of these adds 13bhp and 16lb ft, and the mid-range pack provides 21bhp and 24lb ft. The most potent kit provides a power hike of 37bhp and 5lb ft, and extends the engine's redline to 7,500rpm.

UK sales will be limited to fastback and convertible bodystyles, 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo and 5.0-litre atmospheric V8 petrol engines, and six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. And although the Ecoboost four-pot promises an intriguing combination of sub-6.0sec 0-62mph sprinting and 35mpg-plus touring, it’s still the ‘Coyote’ 5.0-litre, the model we’ve chosen to test, that’s expected to dominate sales.

Using port fuel injection and only just having inherited proper variable camshaft timing, it’s not the most modern V8 in the world and unlikely to surprise anyone with its fuel economy. But then, 410bhp for less than £35k is damned hard to argue with.

Ford's home market naturally benefits from some additional models, which the firm has indicated won't be available in the UK, including an entry-level naturally aspirated 3.0-litre V6 and the potent 518bhp Shelby GT350 and GT350R, however, if you feel the 410bhp that the 5.0-litre V8 Mustang produces isn't enough and modest performance kits don't quite satisfy your demands, then fear not. London-based supercar dealer, Clive Sutton, may just have the answer in the shape of the Sutton CS700 and CS800, which produces an astonishing 700bhp and 800bhp respectively.


Ford Mustang interior

It feels special and not a little surreal to finally be seated in a Mustang with the steering wheel on the correct side.

The model’s half-century of unvarying left-hookerism was unquestionably one of the things that made past versions seem alien and pigheadedly American when driven on British roads.

The Mustang is a stranger to subtlety, if you unlock the car at night , the puddle lights create a large, bright pony on the ground

In making the adjustment, the car seems no less idiosyncratic, but its size and forthright sense of style are somehow easier to assimilate when contemplated from the right-hand side.

Affection for this new mid-Atlantic accent is helped along by a working knowledge of the cabin’s non-negotiables.

To be a proper Mustang, the car requires large, round dials, a symmetrical instrument panel and a tall but unimposing double-brow dashboard. These are all present and correct – and supplemented by Ford’s latest Sync3 infotainment system complete with an 8.0in touchscreen display, nine speaker audio system, DAB radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone integration.

The 8.0in colour touchscreen comes as standard with four shortcut zones for phone, media, climate control and — if you’ve ticked the right box — navigation. The absence of navigation as standard is noticeable on a £30,000 car, but Ford has twinned it with an uprated 12-speaker Shaker sound system as a £795 option bundle, so most Mustangs will be delivered with it on board.

Otherwise the Mustangs are well-equipped, with entry-level 2.3-litre EcoBoost versions getting a limited slip differential, electronic stability control, 19in alloy wheels, xenon headlights, auto wipers and lights, and power-folding mirrors on the outside as standard. Inside there is a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting and electrically adjustable front seats. 

Opt for the 5.0-litre V8, which most Mustangs ordered have been, and you get Brembo brakes, Electronic Line Lock, Launch Control and lots of badging showing you bought the 5.0-litre version and not the EcoBoost. A recent addition to the range is the Shadow Edition, which is only available with a V8 an includes unique bonnet stripes, alloy wheels, paint job and badging, plus rear parking sensors, climate controlled front seats and a Shaker Pro audio system with sat nav.

Think the Mustang is bereft of power then Clive Sutton might have the answer as they will tune and improve all variants of the Mustang. They offer four 'power packages' - the CS350 is designed solely for the 2.3-litre EcoBoost Mustang and includes a cold air intake system and a remapped ECU which helps the 'Stang pump out 313bhp. Got a 5.0-litre V8 Mustang and fancy an upgrade then for £3605 Clive Sutton will add a cold air intake system and give the ECU a remap to help it produce 449bhp, while going to the CS700 pack sees a supercharger, intercooler, quad exhaust and active exhaust system to the big Ford helping it breach the 700bhp mark. Topping the range at an additional £19,185 sees the CS800 get a Stage 2 Whipple Supercharger, high pressure fuel injectors to the package allowing the engine to punch out a scarcely believeable 800bhp.

Our test car had the uprated audio system and, although it isn’t as magnificent-sounding as the latest equivalents being fitted by the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Audi, it makes a powerful enough noise to just about drown out the V8 combustion soundtrack, should you want to. 

The Sync3 touchscreen interface is a bit overcrowded with fiddly buttons and isn’t the liveliest display. But it isn’t hard to follow its control logic, and connecting a smartphone, via Bluetooth or USB, is painless. The standard reversing camera is good enough to make the optional £295 rear parking sensors unnecessary.

There’s a broad beltline of metallic finish and a lot of vinyl, but the conscious mix of old and new isn’t handled particularly flamboyantly. As Ford is fond of saying, the Mustang is designed – not styled.

In the US, this credo helps to keep the car in contact with its blue-collar reputation. The occasional premium touch notwithstanding, the Mustang is still intended as a performance car for the working man, not a delicate or effete sports car.

Arguably, that leaves its finish and straightforward appearance some way short of the upmarket European hot hatch that the same money would buy you – a Volkswagen Golf R or BMW M2 owner would cringe at the rudimentary feel emanating from the Mustang’s toggle switches – but it also furnishes you with a robust sense of space not encountered in more familiar fare.

For those in the front, the model easily competes with any saloon you’d care to think of for scaled-up roominess. Its exterior width translates into an elbow-swallowing panorama of internal broadness and there’s no shortage of head room or comfort, either.

Rear-seat passengers – of which there can assuredly be only two – are progressively less well catered for, yet the Mustang remains a bona fide two-door four-seater in precisely the way a Audi TT, for example, isn’t. Of course, the big Ford’s general dissimilarity to Ingolstadt’s preened coupé is both strength and weakness, as we’re about to discover.


5.0-litre V8 Ford Mustang engine

It probably pays not to look too closely at the standing-start acceleration times on offer here. You can fit launch control if you like – and Ford has, and we used it – but whichever way you look at it, the Mustang is a car that weighs 1745kg, wearing winter tyres and tested on a damp winter’s day.

The bigger wonder is that it reaches 30mph in 3.1sec at all, and it means there’s no shame in its 5.2sec 0-60mph time.

The Mustang’s Electronic Line Lock is nothing more than Ford assisting with tyre-melting burnouts

To get a broader idea of the Mustang’s performance, take a look at the 20mph increments it deals with in fifth gear.

You can select the gear at less than 20mph and it’ll take you all the way to the other side of 140mph, getting there well within a mile, and pulling hard all the way. A naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 is as out of kilter with the times as a print newspaper, but for engaging a gear, planting your foot and rolling with it, there’s still very little like one.

Curiously, though, it comes with fewer fireworks than you might expect if you’re unfamiliar with brawny American V8 metal, as fitted here, or in Chevrolets (and Vauxhall-badged Holdens). Whereas, say, an AMG V8 fires with a rowdy bark redolent of a Nascar paddock, the Mustang’s V8 just turns over with a gentle woofle.

Give it a blip of its lazy throttle and it’ll still rock the car gently, but V8s are such a non-novelty in the US that it seems Ford is content to do without the show and just let the engine get on with its job.

Which, as it turns out, is no bad job at all. It’s strong from idle through to the 6500rpm redline. Throttle response improves the further around the gauge you go but is never searing, and the positive gearshift helps you to drop the Mustang into whatever cog you most fancy. So, no, it’s not the most sensational powertrain, but it is one of the most straightforward and effective.


Ford Mustang hard cornering

The cabin spaciousness alludes early on to what the Mustang will be like on the road, once you’ve slunk down into its seat and shut its long driver’s door. (Think twice about tight car parks.)

With a high window line and an interior and driving position well spaced out, you soon get an idea that this isn’t going to be one of those drives whose characteristics will major on agility.

The Mustang was fitted with winter tyres, which in the wet conditions made it easier and no less fun to involve the rear

Instead, you lift the clutch and woofle away with the 2.6-turn-lock-to-lock steering bringing about secure but moderately paced direction changes.

The rack itself – like the pleasing, round wheel – is well weighted and geared, mind. It’s just that it’s more BMW 5 Series in response than it is, say, Audi TT.

Not that this is a terrible thing in itself. As you cruise away, the Mustang, regardless of what weight you ask its steering to provide (there are a few options), eases down slowish roads with a compliant, nonchalant gait.

A Porsche Cayman would have got the jiggles by now and a 2 Series might have shifted on its springs a little. A Mustang retains that 5 Series-on-base-wheels amble, unaffected by the kinds of surface imperfections we think are big over here but barely register compared with the gaps between concrete slabs they drop into US highways.

You can put the steering wheel on the right side for us, but you can’t disguise the size – and origination – of the Mustang. At lower speeds, and on a road that’s wide enough, this is no bad thing at all.

As you up the ante, the Mustang question starts to become a little more complex. Let’s face it: this is a big car, considerately sprung to the extent that a TT outdoes it for body control.

But although the ’Stang thinks for too long about how to make its body settle over complicated asphalt, there always retains a pleasing honesty to it. It’s well balanced, it settles more quickly than most American sports cars and it doesn’t always retain complete traction. And with all of that comes a sense of clean fun that means you can forgive it a great many things.

The wet track was unavailable when we visited MIRA’s proving ground, but the dry circuit was fairly damp anyway. This and the fact that Ford supplied the Mustang on winter tyres explain why the ’Stang wasn’t as fast as it would usually have been around our circuit.

But that doesn’t matter, because what matters more than speed is fun. And here the Mustang scores. Because it’s front engined (and quite a sizeable engine it is, too), the weight distribution is just over half (54 percent) to the front, which lends the Mustang an inherently stable balance. It’ll understeer a bit if you let it.

But you don’t have to let it. If you keep the brakes gently applied as you turn in, it keeps the nose planted. And from that point onwards, you can call on the rear wheels to help you turn as much as you’d like them to. On winter rubber, grip is low enough to let you feel that balance out on the road.

The Mustang stops pretty well, too. In the dry, and on grippier rubber, track days would give them a workout, but they performed well in these conditions.


Ford Mustang V8 Fastback

In the US, the Mustang is famously cheap and Ford has wisely transferred this key criteria to the UK.

The model, starting at £33,645 for the less charismatic 2.3-litre Ecoboost-engined Fastback, is admittedly not the kind of stupendous bargain that will have Focus ST owners upgrading in droves, but it still registers as plenty of car (and power) for the money.

Limited supply should keep residual values high for the Mustang, with it tracking close by the BMW M240i

The V8 is a different matter. It simply isn’t possible to have more cylinders or output for the £38,095 starting price. And that is the kind of simple equation that compels the right-minded buyer to sit up and take note, whatever the weather.

Outright speed or dynamism, as we’ve noted, is a different subject – and the fact that the same money buys you a Volkswagen Golf R, a BMW M240i or, indeed, a new Focus RS means that the Mustang is never going to be a two-a-penny prospect on British roads, particularly when you take its thirst (an average of 18.9mpg in our hands) into account. Tellingly, it is cheaper than the BMW M2 and the latest Audi RS3.

Its likely scarcity, though, is a good thing. It not only ought to keep used prices buoyant but will also serve to remind its owner that the decision to seek out the Mustang for its clear ability to stand out from the crowd will not have been in vain.

We would take the V8 and twin it to a manual gearbox if you want a true Mustang experience, but its not to say that the EcoBoost engine, automatic gearbox and convertible form don’t deserve their place. 



4 star Ford Mustang Fastback

The sensible thing to do would be to buy an Audi TT or a BMW 2 Series Coupé, wouldn’t it?

You’d more easily be able to park them, they’d use less fuel (even if you drove both of them at once, probably) and they’d prove far more agile on entertaining roads. When it comes to choosing a sports coupé, it would be sensible to forget the Mustang even exists.

Often feels out of its natural habitat in the UK but never runs out of charm

And if you did, that would be a huge shame. Yes, this car does have significant drawbacks in the UK.

Yes, you have to think twice about where you’re going to park it in town, besides next to a far greater number of fuel pumps than your peers, but no other car at this price – or several price points higher – can do what the Mustang does.

Its powertrain brings with it an appeal that engines with fewer cylinders simply cannot, and its inherent chassis balance is absolutely peachy. Sensibleness be damned. If you think you’d consider a Mustang, it’s a car we’d recommend wholeheartedly.

Even so, would it trouble our top five, sadly not. But it is up against some stiff competition and if Ford aim to improve the tone of the interior materials and make the V8 a bit more efficient then the Mustang could certainly cause the downsized Porsche Cayman, Mazda MX-5, Toyota GT86, Lotus Elise and BMW M240i some concern in the future.


Ford Mustang 2015-2023 First drives