What’s it like?
Remarkably good. One of the most stand-out features - for the European driver, at least - is that fact that the Mustang still has a beam axle. When we’re talking about that axle having to deal with a meaty V8, it’s easy to dismiss the Mustang as a new-world crudity.
In fact, this Ford Mustang handles and rides like something of a thoroughbred. On the winding and dipping country roads above Los Angeles, the Mustang was impressively accurate and controlled.
It’s a very stable and level-riding car, with an impressive ride but the big surprise was the steering, which is very accurate indeed and makes the car very easy to place on the road, so reeling off a series of switchbacks is an undemanding, though satisfying, task. Adding to the ease of rapid progress is the excellent, closely-spaced, six-speed manual box.
The body control, steering accuracy and unflappable poise in bends provide an intriguing contrast to the sheer exuberance of the V8 engine in full-flow. This is a very quick car, but also one that delivers a classic, no-substitute-for-cubic-inches, sense of thrust. Although refined at part-throttle, the engine’s max-attack noise is now channelled directly to the cabin from the engine’s intake, and the driver gets an in-cabin soundtrack that you’d swear was sampled straight from Bullitt.
What really lifted this particular car as a driver’s device was the optional Brembo brake package (which comes as part of the Premium Package, including leather trim and a rear-view camera). These brakes were first-rate, picking up as soon as the driver touched the pedal and proving to be superbly controllable, making it easy to take the braking force right up to the point they were likely to lock. This might not strike you as immediately useful, but the sense of finely-tuned control offered by the Brembo brakes were a large part of making the Mustang such an impressive cross-country machine.
The only downsides were the crazy mix of instrument graphics (old-school, dowdy and blue dot-matrix) and the uninspired cockpit styling, It felt well-made, though.
Should I buy one?
Even at £25k in the UK, this car would be worthy of serious consideration. But the chance of Ford ever producing a right-hand drive Mustang is very small. Understandably, the company probably thinks that European enthusiasts will not be able to look beyond the received wisdom about American performance cars: all grunt and not much finesse. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.
The 2011 Mustang combines the raw edge (and aggressive performance) of an old-fashioned muscle car with a surprising degree of refinement and poise. It delivers the satisfying feel of a classic with the refinements and control of a modern machine.
Ford Mustang GT (2011)
Price: From £19,695, Price as tested: £25,850; Top speed: 155mph (limit); 0-60mph: 4.9sec; Economy: 33.6mpg (highway); CO2: n/a; Kerb weight: 1655kg; Engine: 8 cyls, 4951cc, petrol; Power: 412bhp at 6500rpm; Torque: 390lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual.