In V8 guise, the most sophisticated Mustang yet is almost good enough to match much more expensive rivals, but its low-speed ride needs work

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.

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Its major flaw is low-speed ride comfort. The car bucked and kicked uncomfortably over California's rougher concrete roads, and can be expected to do the same the UK unless extra last-minute tuning – claimed by engineers still to be possible – is carried out.

Inside, the Mustang delivers much greater level of quality and sophistication than any of its predecessors, though it retains the simplicity and ease of operation Mustang buyers have always expected. Design boss Moray Callum says there were many internal debates about how to maintain a Mustang's air of straightforwardness while increasing its quality and capability. The new design, based on two deep-set binnacles ahead of the driver, strikes the balance very well indeed.

On challenging roads the V8 is a very fast car, though it doesn't feel so at first. For all its lovely note the engine seems rather to lack the expected brute torque, but what it is really doing is replacing traditional Detroit-iron bluntness with quick-revving sophistication worthy of a much more expensive car.

The newly tuned suspension has more anti-squat and anti-dive built into its design, so the car stays planted and grip beautifully under serious provocation. On fast canyon roads, the exhaust note bouncing off the rock walls, it steers beautifully, turning in and exiting bends exactly on line. Throttle steering is a particular joy.

The four-cylinder model has most of these virtues, and goes well (0-60mph in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph) but the engine can feel coarse and boomy around 4000rpm, and suffers at times from obvious turbo lag. European Ecoboost engines tend to be better on those scores.

Should I buy one?

Yes, but make it a V8. As chief engineer Dave Pericak put it, the heart of a Mustang is its engine and the best engine offered here is the V8. Then you'll have a car that, at an expected £33,000, seems much better value than most in this performance bracket.

Ford insiders say they set out to build not just the best Mustang ever but a car whose abilities would surprise people. When you drive the latest fastback coupé, there are times you could believe you're in a Jaguar F-Type, roughly double the price. But for this new Mustang truly to be a good all-rounder, the low-speed ride issue absolutely has to be fixed.

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Ford shook our faith a few weeks ago with the indifferent Ford Ecosport SUV. With Mustang, another embodiment of One Ford, they need to show us they’re right back to their best.

Ford Mustang GT

Price £33,000 (est); 0-60mph 4.4sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 22mpg (US city), 31mpg (US highway) CO2 na Kerb weight 1678kg; Engine V8, naturally aspirated, 4951cc; Power 420bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 400lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox six-speed manual

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Add a comment…
alaoor 28 September 2014

Ford Mustang's

Ford Mustang's lovely car but again the price
should do something for the prices
TS7 27 September 2014

Fuel economy.

kiptan wrote:

It's on the Ford USA web site. Autocar has quoted the ecoboost figures, not the V8.

EcoBoost manual Fastback: 22 city/31 hwy*
GT manual Fastback: 15 city/25 hwy*

So using UK gallons (1USG = 0.832674 ImpG):

EcoBoost manual Fastback: 26 city/37 hwy, GT manual Fastback: 18 city/30 hwy.

At least, being EPA figures, they will be achievable. Sloppy journalism from Autocar for not checking.

Having said that the performance pack on both the V8 and EcoBoost bring with them shorter final drive ratios, 3.73:1 in the V8, 3.55:1 for the EcoBoost, compared to 3.31:1 as standard for both (the V6 is longer still as standard at 3.15:1/3.55:1 as an option). Therefore economy is likely to suffer as a result because manufacturer quoted EPA figures use the most beneficial drive ratio. So, perhaps more realistic figures will be 16/26.8 (V8) and 24.5/34.5 (I4) in the UK. Mind, that doesn't factor the wider wheels and tyres that create more drag... Does any of this matter? No, one isn't going to buy a 'Stang on the basis of fuel economy. I hope, although I doubt, that various Ford (USA) Performance parts will be easily available over here. The V8 in particular is very tuneable, not least because it's designed to run on 87 octane fuel.

kiptan 26 September 2014


It's on the Ford USA web site. Autocar has quoted the ecoboost figures, not the V8.

EcoBoost manual Fastback: 22 city/31 hwy*
GT manual Fastback: 15 city/25 hwy*