What's it like?
Very noisy, very fast, very thirsty, very firm; and yet potentially quite usable and livable – if you get your order right.
We were loaned Sutton’s show car for this review: a bright yellow example dolled up for maximum visual impact, with every option fitted to it, and the lowest and most aggressive settings dialed into its suspension.
Discrete, it ain’t. In its noisy mode, that active exhaust makes the kind of racket that could silence a coach-load of teenagers from the opposite side of the motorway, while the naked carbonfibre bonnet doesn’t exactly compliment the bodywork with much in the way of visual subtlety. Those louvres and slots on the latter are functional things, though, preventing excess heat from building up around that 700bhp engine, and also allowing you to peer into the engine bay from behind the steering wheel. And while the sound the car makes may be loutish, it’s also fantastically characterful. The whine of that Whipple blower chimes in like a backing vocal for the V8’s guttural combustion lead instrumental. It’s glorious.
The supercharger’s effect on the engine’s production of torque isn’t as initially mighty or as linear as you might expect, though. Lock the car in an intermediate gear, flex your right foot to a given point on the accelerator’s travel and leave it there; you’ll find the car’s initial rate of gain isn’t actually that savage. But like a big turbo spooling gradually, the supercharger feeds in more and more boost as the revs rise – making the car feel as if it might be being driven forwards by a huge propeller in about six feet of water rather than pistons and compressed air.
Choose an appropriate stretch of tarmac – preferably one without a speed limit – take a long, full-throttle run at the car’s redline, and you’ll be left in no doubt whatsoever that the CS700 is a 700-horsepower car. But it’s a fairly heavy car too, and doesn’t erupt with mid-range torque like an Audi RS6 or a Porsche 911 Turbo S. In other words, if you’re not either brave or daft enough to keep the car pinned between 5000- and 6500rpm, you’re simply not getting your bang-for-the-buck.
Sutton’s suspension makeover does two important things for the CS700 necessary for the enjoyment of the car’s fearsome turn of speed: it creates the traction required to put the car’s power down from low speed, and also the outright lateral grip and stability (on smooth tarmac, at least) needed to carry the huge speed that the car so easily builds. Though it steers with a physically testing, leaden control weight, the car’s handling response is excellent and its roll control first-rate. You might imagine that a 700-horsepower Mustang would always feel like a triumph of power over grip, but in the CS700’s case you’d be surprised.
The inevitable elephant-sized compromise comes with the car’s ride, though – which is short, firm, aggressively damped and wholly unsuited to uneven British roads. As part of its suspension overhaul, Sutton takes a whacking 35mm out of the ride height of the standard Mustang at the front axle, and 25mm at the rear. Part of this is about ‘straightening out’ the natural cruising pitch of the car, and the better balancing of its grip levels. Fair enough. But taking so much travel out of the car’s suspension leaves little room in which the car’s dampers can work, and makes it feel harsh, unsettled and irritable during fast B-road driving. Often a bit unpleasant even on an averagely surfaced dual carriageway, too.
Adding so much tyre footprint and lateral stiffness into the Mustang’s makeup also makes it surrender its grip on the tarmac in less progressive and forgiving fashion than you might expect of a front-engined, rear-driven American muscle car. But the good news both here, and in connection with that uncompromising ride, is that you can tune and tweak the dynamic recipe of your CS700 to your own personal taste during the ordering process. So if you’d rather drift that carve your way through corners, and want to preserve at least some of the long-travel ride compliance of the standard Mustang’s suspension, you just need to say.
Should I buy one?
Sutton Bespoke’s programme of upgrades for the sixth-generation Ford Mustang makes it easy to add as much visual spice, performance clout and dynamic purpose to your car as you can afford – but what the company offers is better considered as a shopping list than the definitive hot Mustang.
The CS700 has a incredible powerplant that gives the Ford searing pace and fearsome performance character – and I can see a case for having the engine conversion done on a car of the right age and condition. But it also proves that you can easily go too far in search of added grip and dynamism from this American icon – which isn’t, and never will be, a true supercar-killer.
I’d wait a few years to buy an out-of-warranty car, and then I’d have the engine conversion, the carbon fibre sills and the spoiler fitted – and either the halfway-house lowered ‘sportline’ springs that Sutton offers, or the KW suspension tuned to my own very carefully decided settings. And even then, I’d be doing it knowing there are quicker and better driver's cars I might be spending the money on, and that I’ll probably end up more enamoured of the burbling, effervescent quality of the Mustang’s performance than its outright quantity.
Ford Mustang Sutton CS700
Location Feltham, Middlesex; On sale now; Price £72,500; Engine V8, 4951cc, supercharged petrol; Power 700bhp; Torque 674lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerbweight circa-1750kg; 0-62mph 5.0sec; Top speed unspecified; Economy unspecified; CO2/tax band unspecified