From £31,9108
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

Our Verdict

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Steve Cropley Autocar
24 September 2014

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.

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.

Ford shook our faith a few weeks ago with the indifferent 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

24 September 2014
think the V8 will be £33k, in your dreams, the basic Mustang will be over £30k.

25 September 2014
Really desireable car. So much more presence and character than anything the Germans are offering right now. Hope it is a success in Europe.

3

25 September 2014
I suspect any automotive engineer worth their salt could fix the low speed harshness problem in one easy move. Swap the low profile rubber-band covered alloys for smaller diameter wheels with thicker rubber. Done. Bye-bye crashing and tramlining.

Sadly, hardly anybody would buy them with that option...

25 September 2014
@zadseer: A smaller wheel diameter may not be possible without reducing the size of the brake discs..

 

25 September 2014
Really want one. If those prices are right then its a bargain. Much better looking than those German boxes. I hope its a success in the UK.

25 September 2014
' you can’t get a V8 automatic'. Really !
I expect that will change soon.

25 September 2014
GT manual Fastback: 15 city/25 hwy

25 September 2014
Our gallons are larger than yours, so these figures are a direct conversion of your numbers!

25 September 2014
I'm sure this will be good value, but 33k for the V8 is stretching the imagination. I also believe the standard US bargain feel will still be evident in comparison to Euro rivals. However, this is the sort of car that is 'cool' in a way that most other cars aren't - that will be its biggest selling feature. Look forward to seeing one in the flesh.

25 September 2014
I can't see those prices in the uk either. More like £33k for the 2.3 and £43k for the 5.0. Very cool car though.

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