What is it?
The Ford Mustang has been made in hard and soft top forms for half a century, so the central purpose, mechanical layout and styling direction of this iconic ‘pony-car’ is probably familiar to most in the car world.
There have been five design generations – some more successful than others – but the sixth Mustang version, revealed recently in static form and this week made available for road test, is very different from the rest.
Whereas Mustangs of the past have been targeted only at US buyers, this sixth-generation car is intended to be sold across the world, not only because in 50 years the model has acquired worldwide fame by being featured hundreds of stories, songs and films, but also because it is the embodiment of Alan Mulally's One Ford plan, the company’s new philosophy of building class-leading products and selling them across the world.
This new Mustang may look much like the others – in that it is a modern iteration of the car that attracted 22,000 US dealer orders on its very first day on sale in 1964 – but this time it is seriously intended to generate sales in China and the UK, and practically everywhere else in between.
What's it like?
Lower and wider, for a start. Compared with some of today's cars that offer great leaps forward in construction technology, the new Mustang is a conservative all-steel unitary creation, with a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels. It's slightly heavier than its predecessor as a result of its higher equipment spec (more airbags, better infotainment, bigger electronics package).
For the UK there will be two engines: a quad-cam, 5.0-litre V8 with 420bhp, developed at a stirring 6500rpm, plus 400lb ft of torque at 4250rpm, and a four-cylinder turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder developing 306bhp at 5500rpm and 320lb ft at 3000rpm. The latter engine’s function is to provide a version with lower emissions to make a better case for company car buyers who might like a Mustang.
Both models are very well equipped. In the UK they'll all have what Ford calls a Performance Equipment package (firmer suspension, bigger brakes, sports seats and a system of variable driving modes configurable from the dashboard). The entry-level 2.3 Ecoboost is expected to start at the bargain price of £28,500, while the V8 should cost around £33,000. Given the car's impactful styling and the fact that its equipment is so rich, both models should look like a considerable bargain.
It is clear in the first 100 yards of driving a V8 that Ford has tried harder than ever with a Mustang to deliver inspirational handling. There’s a new precision built in, compared with its predecessors. The engine revs smoothly and easily to its 6500rpm redline, and its dynamism is accompanied by one of the most stirring notes this side of the Jaguar F-Type.
The V8’s six-speed gearbox (you can’t get a V8 automatic) is especially well-matched to the engine’s sporting character, having five close ratios that make the car ideal for quick acceleration (0-60mph in 4.4sec and a top speed of 155mph) plus a cruising sixth cog that lets the car roll along the highway at about 30mph/1000rpm.
The chassis’ biggest new feature is a new multi-link rear suspension which contributes greatly to rear grip, traction and handling balance, introducing a new level of precision and subtle throttle-steering into fast driving.