Measuring a smidge under 4.8 metres in length and 2.08 metres in width, you’re certainly conscious of the Mustang’s on-road footprint - more so in tight inner-city environments. It’s relatively heavy, too, weighing in at 1743kg with the six-speed manual and 1756kg with the optional ten-speed auto.
Then there’s the engine, and what an engine it is. Naturally aspirated V8s are a fast-dying breed, and those few that are still available should be savoured. At anything below about 3500rpm, it’s a lethargic and laid back powerplant that burbles away with a soundtrack that’s not too dissimilar from the rumble of distant thunder. Prod the throttle in too high a gear and you’ll find you won’t be heading anywhere too quickly. It’s an engine that requires a fair amount of manual labour on your part; you need to be on the ball with your shifts if you plan on making any progress. Thankfully, the six-speed manual is short in its throw, well-weighted and precise enough for the task of keeping the crank spinning at its optimal level.
Get it right and the engine’s cruisy character changes into one that’s far more savage. Throttle response feels almost immediate and when you do bury your right foot, you’ll find you reach the national speed limit in an alarmingly short amount of time. Almost as alarming is the engine note, which transforms from that deep, baritone burble into a spine-tingling roar as you reach the upper climbs of the rev band. It’s not quite as raucous as, say, Jaguar Land Rover’s supercharged 5.0-litre V8, but it’s certainly no less appealing to this tester’s inner child - particularly with the active exhaust set to its loudest, most anti-social setting.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that we also had the chance to sample the smaller, more socially conscious 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with the 10-speed auto. While it can’t hold a candle to its bigger, brasher V8 brother in terms of character, it doesn’t give the impression it’s lacking in power. There’s 286bhp and 325lb ft on tap, which allows for a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds. Thanks to its twin-scroll turbocharger, that torque is available from 3000rpm, so it’s a bit more accessible than in the V8. The automatic does a good job of swapping cogs smoothly, and will drop down a handful of ratios when you engage kick-down. Paddleshifters allow you to take full control of the transmission, and our only complaint here is that it can be a bit sluggish on the upchange when you’re accelerating hard.
Handling-wise, the Mustang has suitably heavy steering, which weights up depending on the drive mode you’re in - either Normal, Sport+, Race. There’s not a great amount of feel to be extracted from the rack, but it’s quick without being razor-sharp and is well-suited to the car’s larger, muscular character. The MagneRide dampers contain the Mustang’s portly body well through bends, without being so firm as to compromise its ride. Sure, it’s a touch jittery at low speeds, but it’s far from uncomfortable. There’s a commendable amount of grip, too, although the back end will still step out if you fancy driving like a bit of a wally. It’s definitely more of a sledgehammer than a laser-guided tool of unparalleled precision, but we mean that in the best way possible.
Cabin-wise, the Mustang doesn’t quite occupy the same sphere of material quality as a £40,000 BMW might, but it’s far from disappointing. The new digital instrument display is sharp in its resolution and fluid in its animation, although the SYNC3 infotainment screen does catch the sun and its location in a recess in the central dash can make it difficult to read. The bolstering on the optional Recaro seats can get in the way when changing gears, too.
Those small gripes aside, though, the Mustang is plenty comfortable; wind noise is minimal, and although there’s a bit of road roar from the 19-inch alloys, it still makes for an excellent long-distance cruiser.