What is it?
The acid test for the new Ford Mustang: our first chance to find out how well it copes with life on UK roads. In a left-hand-drive, German-registered V8-form, admittedly, given that the very first right-hand-drive examples are not expected in the country, direct from production at Flat Rock, Michigan, until later this year.
So we’ll have to wait to assess the thoroughness of Ford’s first-ever factory right-hand-drive conversion for the iconic American muscle car. Right-hand drive also imposes a slightly different engine specification than left-hook Mustangs get. Switching the steering rack to the other side of the car means fitting a different exhaust manifold for the 5.0-litre all-aluminium lump, trimming peak power to 410bhp.
‘Just’ 410bhp, then, but for less than £34k (note the cheeky £1000 price increase that Ford of Britain has imposed on the full-house V8 GT since our earlier reviews). Still, it sounds like outstanding bang-for-your-British-buck to us. But what else does your money buy?
What's it like?
A warm, genuine, effusive and enormously likeable thing to drive. Predictably quick, too, although not quite the hot hatchback slayer some may be expecting. And undoubtedly an outstanding driver’s car of a sort, but still emphatically not a sports car – even after Ford’s latest chassis reinvention.
The Mustang conducts itself well enough on British roads, but its size and heft - and ride and handling that’s still lacking in dexterity and precision compared to the best sub-£40k sports cars – make it a car best sampled at a relatively relaxed pace.
The car’s all-independent suspension is alleged to have halved its propensity to squat over its rear wheels under power, to dive under braking and to heave over lumps and bumps. That may be true in as much as the car’s body movements are shorter of wavelength and better controlled than we’re used to from American refugee hotrods. But you can still feel the full effect of the car’s 1720kg in the its ride, its dampers checking its mass heavy-handedly once the road surface calls for it and making the chassis feel unexpectedly firm on a B-road and at urban speeds.
Handling is decently poised and very engaging. There’s a moderate amount of feedback in evidence through a steering system that can be adjusted to your own preference on weight and that feels fluent enough in the less aggressive settings. Lateral grip levels aren’t huge, despite the 19in rims that the car rolls on, but you get dependable feel as it bleeds away from both axles and good balance and adjustability when cornering. Those minded to take advantage of nearly 400lb ft at the rear wheels will find that the stability control can be fully disengaged and that the car takes attitude quite progressively under power. It’s plenty of fun, then.
But guiding a perfect line through a bend will never be the Mustang’s crowning glory. That comes instead from the tuneful old-school V8 engine, whose power is simply delicious to pour onto the road, like warm maple syrup onto pancakes.
Wind it up and the car is quicker than most rivals at the money; our preliminary road test figures suggest 5.0sec to 60mph and under 12 seconds to 100mph. But it’s more enjoyable still just bowling along in touring mode, burbling enigmatically from 2500 to 4000rpm and making ordinary pace extraordinarily special. The car’s manual gearchange is short and heavy and a bit under-defined through its narrow shift gate, perhaps, but still lovely to row back and forth.