From £33,7058
Ford's new muscle car has landed in Europe with improvements to its ride and steering and a bargain price

What is it?

The new Ford Mustang, which we’re driving here in Europe for the first time. Sometimes, you understand what a car will be like before you drive it. The new Mustang is one of those. 

Yes, it’s new, yes it has independent rear suspension for the first time on a Mustang and yes, because it’s a global car that’ll also be made in right-hand drive, it has been tweaked and tuned all over the world to make it a better vehicle - one to suit all tastes. 

But still, it’s a 5.0-litre V8 coupé with 2+2 seating, rear-wheel drive, a six-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential, and the whole caboodle was envisioned primarily in the US. It’s going to drive in a certain way, right? 

Right. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, you understand. What was once crude American muscle is actually rather tidy these days. The previous-generation Mustang was a likeable thing and the latest Chevrolet Camaro, perhaps because much of it was designed by Holden, feels a great deal more sophisticated than it once would have.

I’m expecting the new Mustang to feel more sophisticated than those, but with that inherent muscly character still bulging through. And that’s how it turns out. 

What's it like?

Slip into the Mustang and you’re greeted by a wide tunnel, accommodating seats, some obviously plastic surfaces and some plastics pretending to be metal. A few soft surfaces abound, too, but as always, if you’re expecting the same as Europe’s best, you’ll come away disappointed.

This, though, should not be a surprise. When it goes on sale in October, a V8 Mustang is going to cost £32,995 in the UK. Which is conspicuously cheap for a 5.0-litre, 415bhp coupé. 

As with the latest Camaro and the Vauxhall VXR8, though, there are only hints at that sort of potency when you fire up the engine. Unlike, say, a Mercedes-AMG or a Jaguar F-Type, which fairly erupt when you thumb the starter, the Mustang emits a relatively muted woofle.

First surprise, though: although the clutch is as positive and weighty as you’d expect, the gearshift is extremely slick. Not light, but short of throw, brilliantly positive and utterly notch-free. The engine pick-up is smooth, and you’re rolling.

Other control weights and actions are mostly as expected: throttle response is leisurely at low revs, the brakes are positive and strong. All UK cars get what’s called a GT Performance Pack as standard, which includes six-piston Brembo front brake calipers, as well as 19in rather than 18in wheels, superior cooling and suspension that has been retuned from standard US cars. 

The suspension settings offered in the pack, though, have changed a bit since we first drove the new Mustang. Then, the low-speed ride was reportedly far too choppy. Now it’s more compliant, albeit still firm over poor urban surfaces.

But the rub is that the Mustang is a 1720kg car. Unless you use adaptive dampers (and they have their drawbacks), to a certain extent you have to compromise, either allowing more compliance or tightening the body control. I reckon the balance is about where the Mustang ought to be.

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Since our first steer, Ford’s engineers have also tweaked the front suspension to make the steering more responsive - to make a wide, long car feel more agile, I suppose. It’s certainly direct now, and well weighted and accurate.

Most of the time it’s quite pleasing, but at autobahn speeds it can prove a little nervy around the straight-ahead. Again, though, the balance isn't bad, the Mustang feeling fairly well poised and planted through the limited number of corners we were able to put it.

What has been set in stone for a while is the nature of the V8 motor, whose initial laziness becomes more alert as it passes 4000rpm and takes on a second wind round to the 7000rpm limiter. Exercise it and the Mustang really gets along – feeling every bit the 4.8sec-to-62mph car it is.

As long as you’re in the first five gears, that is. Sixth is massively overdriven, although it still can’t persuade the 5.0 Mustang to emit any less than 299g/km of CO2 or return more than 20.9mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle. 

If you want better than that, you’ll have to try the turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost model, although for my money that rather defeats the object of having a Mustang. 

Should I buy one?

There have always been compelling reasons for those who have fancied one. This time the case is more appealing than ever. The Mustang is a piece of officially warranted, correct-hand-drive muscle coupé, and while it isn’t without some compromises, few cars have all of its charms. Fewer still do so without asking for considerably more than £32,995.

Ford Mustang Fastback 5.0 V8

Location Germany; On sale October; Price £32,995; Engine V8, 4951cc, petrol; Power 415bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 391lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1720kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.8sec; Economy 20.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 299g/km, 35%

 

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JOHN T SHEA 23 May 2015

NOT THE FIRST MUSTANG WITH IRS.

The 1999 to 2004 Mustang SVT Cobra had independent rear suspension.
jason_recliner 10 May 2015

Focus vs Mustang?

You're kind of missing the point.
JOHN T SHEA 8 May 2015

The only drawback of adaptiver dampers I know of is cost.

The only drawback of adaptive dampers I know of is cost. Ford use them on the GT350 and should offer them as an option on the GT V8 I think.